It was an electric game. The Cleveland Cavaliers dramatically toppled the red-hot Washington Wizards to end their 17-game home winning streak last night. It had the atmosphere of a decisive playoff game, and it took a magical shot by LeBron James to keep Cleveland alive and force overtime.
For Washington, there were plenty of positives to take from this loss and the team’s form in general. They absolutely look like they can challenge the top teams in the Eastern Conference, thanks to the efforts of their star backcourt: John Wall and Bradley Beal. But a great backcourt alone is not enough to be successful in the NBA (see: the Portland Trail Blazers), and at the heart of their success has been Otto Porter Jr.
Porter had a great night against the Cavaliers, in a game that typified his performance all season. He had 25 points on 8-11 shooting, including 5-7 from beyond the arc. His simple yet deadly role as a catch-and-shoot scorer has made him the most effective three-point shooter in the league; he’s making 46.7 percent of his shots from outside.
Otto Porter Jr.’s Play Deserves Recognition
The 23-year-old forward is only the fourth offensive option on the Wizards – he takes fewer shots per game than Wall, Beal, and Markieff Morris – yet he is chipping in with more than 14 points per game, all with ruthless efficiency. In addition to his league-leading three-point shooting, he has made over 53 percent of his field goal attempts.
Porter’s offensive game is based on knowing and fulfilling his role. He moves well off the ball to find his spots on the three-point line. But those spots aren’t always easier corner threes; less than 40 percent of Porter’s three-point attempts come from the corner. Porter is actually more successful with the harder shots from above the break.
He uses only 15 percent of the Wizards’ plays and boasts a minuscule turnover rate. And don’t be fooled by his low assist numbers – when Porter receives the ball, it’s rarely his job to create for others. When called upon to pass, he produced two excellent assists off drives against the Cavs. But more often, when Porter catches it, he shoots, and he shoots it well.
Only Klay Thompson, Kevin Love, and Eric Gordon have more catch-and-shoot points than Porter. Only Stephen Curry and Goran Dragic are more efficient on such attempts. Porter has vaulted himself into the upper echelon of shooters in the NBA this season. His steady improvement in his all-around game has put him in contention for the Most Improved Player award.
Great Work Ethic
Beyond his obvious offensive qualities, Porter has displayed a willingness to do the little things right for the Wizards. He scraps hard every night to claim rebounds and has averaged 6.6 per game this season. Porter is also among the top 15 in distance covered per game, further emphasising his energy and fitness.
Against the Cavs, he had the thankless task of containing an inspired LeBron James and even stopped him in transition. There are very few players who are willing and capable of stopping James when he attacks, but on that play, Porter was one of them. It didn’t even count as a steal, but it represented the wider picture: Porter and the Wizards are willing to go toe-to-toe with the best teams in the NBA.
So what’s next for Otto Porter and his Washington Wizards? If they play with the confidence that they’ve shown over the last couple of months (and stay healthy), there’s no reason they can’t make a deep playoff run. Beyond that, Porter is a restricted free agent this summer, so expect him to get a big payday from the Wizards. He thoroughly deserves it.