Writer’s note: This is the fourth of a five-part series breaking down the potential targets for the Cavaliers with the no. 1 pick. The final one will appear next Monday leading up to the draft. Previous profiles: Victor Oladipo, Ben McLemore, Alex Len
I don’t think there’s any other player in this draft who is more prepared to come in on day one and contribute than Otto Porter out of Georgetown. He’s 6’8”, 200 lbs., does everything that you want out of a basketball player…and he’s only 20 years old.
Full disclosure, I probably watched more of Porter than I did of any other player in this draft. With that said, I love this guy. I think he’s great. He’s not a flashy athlete who plays above the rim and makes jaw-dropping plays. He’s a far cry from the highlight producing machine that is Nerlens Noel. What Porter does is much more subtle and nuanced and may not be identifiable to the average basketball fan.
Porter’s greatest asset may be his basketball IQ. The intelligence of how the game of basketball works is seldom possessed by a player of Porter’s age. But what he showed in his sophomore season at Georgetown is the ability to control and affect a game without needing the ball in his hands all the time. He’s an unselfish player who understands when to set screens, when and where to cut, where the open man is, how to make the pass that sets up a pass that creates a shot. And by the way, he doesn’t turn the ball over (only 1.7 TOs per 40 minutes).
All reports are that Porter is a tireless worker. His Georgetown coach John Thompson III has done nothing but rave about Porter as a player, including calling him the best player in the draft “by far”. Naturally coaches will go to bat for their guys, but Thompson has gone over the top in praise of Porter. His work ethic can be seen in the fact that he drastically improved as a shooter in just two years in college. His freshmen season he shot only 22.6% from three and his mechanics were all over the place. Last season, however, he improved to 42.2% and demonstrated consistent, sound mechanics. He doesn’t have a silky smooth stroke like Ben McLemore but he did actually hit on a slightly higher percentage. And hey, Reggie Miller is one of the greatest shooters of all time, and his jump shot was pretty ugly. So form and style aren’t everything. As long as it goes in that’s all that matters.
While Porter is not a break-you-down-with-the-dribble player he is more than capable of handling the ball. He is also very good at shooting off the dribble, a much underrated skill. Porter possesses a solid post and mid-range game that is seldom seen of players at this level in their development. He understands how to operate on all areas of the court and has great vision and is able to pass out of all spots. He really is a jack-of-all-trades player.
Porter’s hard work, effort, and intelligence are not only evident on the offensive end but also are readily on display on the defensive end as well. What he lacks in sheer athletic ability he makes up for with his hustle, long arms, and just general knowledge of how to play defense. Again, this is an area that most guys really struggle at this stage in their development. But not Porter. Chad Ford has even gone as far as to say that he’s an “elite defender”. Not only are his arms super long (7’2” wingspan, 8’10” standing reach) but they also have quick hands attached on the end of them which allows Porter to get steals (2.1 per 40 minutes) and challenge shots. He needs to add a little bulk to his frame so he can guard the bigger small forwards in the post but that shouldn’t hamper him too much on the defensive end.
The knocks on Porter begin with him being only a “role player” in the NBA. It’s tough to take a guy no. 1 in the draft if you can’t project him as a franchise guy. This is a fair criticism. There’s a certain level of expectation that comes with going in that top spot. Porter doesn’t fit the bill. He’ll be a great player on a competing team without a doubt. But if he’s your best player your ceiling as a team is considerably lower. Ideally you’d like for Porter to be your second or third best player.
Another knock on him is that he isn’t a typical ball-dominant player who creates offense with the dribble. This is both a good and bad thing. It’s often pointed out that there’s only one basketball and that two ball handlers can’t both have it at the same time, so in that respect Porter’s ability to play off the ball and make the offense function is a wonderful asset. But because he isn’t a guy who you can throw the ball to at the top of the circle and say “get us a bucket” that just further plays into the narrative that he’s not “worthy” of going no. 1.
The final criticism is about Porter’s lack of elite athleticism. He did not test super great at the combine. If you were to put his numbers up against the likes of McLemore and Victor Oladipo it wouldn’t look good for Porter. However, compare these two players:
|Height||Wingspan||Standing Reach||Body Fat||No Step Vert||Max Vert||Bench Press||Lane Agility||¾ Court Sprint|
Now I wouldn’t make the case that Porter is as good of an athlete as our mystery player. However, there are some similarities in that their max vert and lane agility measurements weren’t great. This led people to criticize both players’ athletic potential at the next level and wonder if they’d make the cut. Our mystery player in James Harden, who went no. 3 in 2009 to the Thunder after Blake Griffin and Hasheem Thabeet. Now, many people criticized the Grizzlies selection of Thabeet at that time and in retrospect it looks pretty bad. But many people also questioned the Harden pick as well, taking him ahead of Tyreke Evens (better athlete), Ricky Rubio (thought to be a potentially transcendent player), and Stephen Curry (college star and supremely gifted shooter). People wondered if Harden would ever be anything more than a sixth man in the NBA. Looking bad now, it’s hard to argue with the choice. The Thunder recognized that there were special things in Harden’s game that went beyond physical athletic measurements. While the Grizzlies front office was getting caught up in Thabeet’s measurables the Thunder were enamored by an un-athletic ball-dominant guard who didn’t make flashy plays in college. Ultimately Harden ended up being the perfect piece for the Thunder and was a key cog in getting them to the Finals last season. Now he’s anything but a role player Houston where he’s developed into a star capable of carrying his team to the playoffs.
Porter isn’t the same kind of player at Harden. He’s not a ball-dominant player who only shoots lay-ups and 3’s. But the point is that sometimes, and probably oftentimes, we get too carried away with measurements and forget to look at what a player does on the floor. Porter posted a PER of 27.8 last season with 1.06 points per play and a true shooting percentage of 0.59. Harden, also a two-year college player had a PER of 29.2, scored 1.01 points per play, and had a 0.61 TS%. I’m not saying that Porter is going to be as good of an NBA player as Harden. But what I am saying is that if you look at the production on the court it’s hard to argue against the comparison of them as successful players.
Porter would be a perfect fit in Cleveland to play alongside Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. As has been noted numerous times, Porter doesn’t need the ball in his hands all the time to be an effective player like is typically the case with Kyrie and Dion. The Cavs are in desperate need of a SF and Porter would fill that role swimmingly. He’d also have less pressure on him given the role he’d have in the Cleveland offense which would allow him to develop at a more appropriate pace. I guarantee Mike Brown would absolutely love Porter’s motor and defensive ability. There was part of me that watched the Draft Lottery and was hoping for the Cavs to stay at no. 3 so the choice of Porter would be a lot easier. But the Cavs ended up with the no. 1 pick and somehow this makes drafting Porter impossible.
I think there’s a good chance (not a great chance, but a “good” one) that Porter could end up being the best player in this draft. No one is even close to possessing the versatility of his offensive game and coupled with his defensive ability he’s easily the most well rounded player at the top of the draft. For people like me who love Porter we can take solice in the fact that Chris Grant has proven that he won’t just make the “conventional” pick and that he’s been more than willing to “reach” for the player he believes is best at the spot where he’s drafting. And his results have been pretty good in such cases. Grant, along with Coach Brown, might look at Porter and see a special player who is worthy in their minds of being the no. 1 pick.Follow @ClevelandFlack