Deep Thoughts: Otto Porter Jr.

Disclaimer: I started writing this series because I couldn’t find enough content relevant to my favorite league, which is a 20 team dynasty. Each week I’ll profile one or two young, high upside players who are currently owned in less than one percent of ESPN leagues. While some may break out this season, most will need a little more time, and I’m sure I’ll have my share of whiffs as well. Last week I reviewed Quincy Miller, and this week I focused on Otto Porter, Jr. I’ve also included smaller sections on JaKarr Sampson, Robert Sacre, Jordan Clarkson, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Dennis Schrӧder. Please note that many of the statistics I cite in this article are subject to small sample size concerns.

Otto Porter Jr. SF Washington Wizards

Otto PorterThe Washington Wizards took Otto Porter, Jr. third overall in the 2013 draft, and the trouble started almost immediately. As a rookie Porter struggled with a hip injury, missed most of the preseason, and never looked comfortable on his way to just 319 minutes. Since then his stock has begun to rise. He teamed up with Glen Rice, Jr. to dominate summer league[1] and has played meaningful (albeit inconsistent) minutes. Rasual Butler has cooled off recently after a torrid start to the season, and his playing time has dwindled as a result. Martell Webster has been disappointing as well, and I expect the Wizards to give Porter every chance to win the role as Paul Pierce’s primary backup. He’s averaging 11.7 points with 2.4 threes in 24.7 minutes per game over the Wizards’ last three, while Butler and Webster have averaged 13.6 combined. Pierce is playing only 27 minutes per game and has struggled with nagging injuries, so there’s plenty of opportunity if Porter can hold on to the job.

Porter lacks the lateral quickness and explosiveness of a prototypical small forward, but he mitigates those limitations with excellent length, quick hands, and a consistent motor. Those same attributes should make him a quality wing defender—for both the Wizards and fantasy teams—in the Tayshaun Prince/Trevor Ariza mold. Similar to those two, Porter’s able to back off of ball-handlers while still pressuring the ball, disrupting passing lanes, and altering shots. He’s currently averaging 0.9 steals and 0.9 blocks per 36 minutes, and I expect those figures (especially the former) to rise with experience, as he starts to think less and react more. He needs to add strength to defend the post, and I expect Washington to reduce his minutes against wings who can exploit him down low. On a similar vein, he’s below average as a defensive rebounder. His 12.2 percent defensive rebound rate is tied for 40th out of 67 qualified small forwards, and he’s vulnerable to being forced out of position.

Porter’s a bit of a mixed bag on offense. He hit 42.2 percent from deep as a sophomore at Georgetown and entered the draft with the reputation of a quality shooter but doesn’t have textbook mechanics. He was expected to have to work to extend his range to NBA three point line, and that played out last season, when he hit just 19.0 percent—albeit on 21 attempts. This year he’s been respectable, shooting 35.7 percent on 42 attempts, but has only taken 2.0 attempts per 36 minutes. Playing John Wall, Nene, and Marcin Gortat together puts pressure on Washington’s wings to spread the floor, and establishing himself as a consistent long range threat is crucial to Porter’s bid for an increased role. He takes too many long twos and doesn’t make them at a high enough clip,[2] a problem he shares with young wing-mate Bradley Beal. This is at least in part a product of the Wizards’ offensive system. In a league moving toward a threes-and-dunks philosophy, Coach Randy Wittman abides by the old school notion that a “good” shot is an “open” shot, which means the Wizards’ shot charts are often the mirror image of more stat-minded teams such as the Rockets. While this has worked out well for some,[3] it’s fair to wonder whether a more “new-age” approach would benefit Porter, who does his best work from behind the arc and under the basket. His length enables him to shoot a high percentage at the rim (75.6 percent within 0-3 feet) despite the fact that he lacks the strength and explosiveness typically associated with elite finishers.

Of course, part of the issue with changing his shot chart is the fact that he has not yet shown the skill nor the creativity needed to consistently break down a defense or generate shots for himself at the NBA level. As a result, 74.2 percent of his baskets were assisted, and he’s averaging only 1.9 assists per 36 minutes despite being a solid and willing passer. While that’s not necessarily a problem for the Wizards, who are presumably happy to let Wall dominate the ball, it does cap Porter’s fantasy potential.[4] Fortunately, he’s flashed the ability to get himself easy buckets by crashing the boards[5] and making smart cuts. Particularly for a player whose offensive output depends so heavily on his teammates, picking up two “garbage” buckets a night can make the difference between a poor scoring night and an average one. The ability to play well off the ball bodes well for his future in Washington and ties into a larger picture statement about his basketball IQ. By all accounts Porter is a very smart, high-character player, and while those qualities may not directly impact his fantasy value, owners will be thrilled if they lead to more minutes.

Though I don’t see Porter becoming a star, I do expect him to have a long, productive career as an ace wing defender and corner-three threat. The most common comparison is Tayshaun Prince, but I see him as more of a Trevor Ariza/Khris Middleton type.[6] Paul Pierce has a player option for next year, which I expect him to exercise, but Porter should be able to make an impact in standard leagues by the 2016-2017 season.

Musings:[7]

JaKarr Sampson: SF/PF Philadelphia 76ers

Those of you who listen to the Red Rock podcast already know that Sampson does not have an NBA-caliber skill set. He’s the poor man’s Jerami Grant, and since the man who owns Jerami Grant lives in a van down by the river, I wouldn’t get too excited. As a non-shooter who also can’t post up, handle the ball, or pass, he’s a major offensive liability.[8] He is, however, an NBA-caliber athlete, and it would appear that (at least for the moment) he has a role that will make him fantasy-relevant. I’m skeptical that he can hold off KJ McDaniels and Jerami Grant in the long term, but he did put up solid 13 points, 8 blocks, 2 steals, 2 blocks, and 2 threes in just 24 minutes Wednesday. Sampson is a little undersized for a power forward, but he’s a long, explosive athlete who should be able to rebound, block shots, and pick up steals. Unfortunately he has yet to show that he can do any of those things consistently, though it’s possible that he develops into a more disruptive defender as his role increases. I’m not adding him just yet, but he might be worth keeping an eye on.

Robert Sacre: C LA Lakers

Better known for his towel-waving exploits than on-court performance, Sacre has probably been the most entertaining part of the Lakers viewing experience over the last couple years. He does, however, have a couple strengths as an NBA player. Those strengths of course begin with being seven feet tall and end with the rumors that he’s been spotted walking and chewing gum at the same time. He’s got adequate length and above-average strength, which allows him to stand his ground in the post and occasionally overpower smaller defenders. He can’t run, jump, or shoot, but he’s here because he’s started the Lakers’ last two games and has been shockingly productive, averaging 7.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, and 1.0 steals in 29.5 minutes. For reasons I don’t completely understand, the Canadian big man has been putrid on the glass,[9] but the Lakers’ front court situation is wide open. If he can maintain his recent improvement (8 RPG in 26.5 MPG over the last four games) and hold on to his current role, I could see him approaching 9 points, 9 rebounds, and 1 block per game. Having played two solid games in a row, he’s probably worth a flier in most deep leagues, but if his rebound rate regresses, don’t hesitate to cut bait.

Jordan Clarkson: PG LA Lakers

I’m a little late to the party here, but I figured I’d give my thoughts on Clarkson anyway. I see the Lakers’ rookie as a generic 6th man/combo guard—he’s got enough size, quickness, and ballhandling ability to penetrate and create shots for himself, but whether he can consistently make plays for his teammates is an open question. He’s more Dion Waiters than Jamal Crawford, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I expect Clarkson to put up solid numbers this year as the Lakers’ primary ballhandler, but I have long-term concerns and view him as more of a trade asset than a building block in dynasty leagues.

Spencer Dinwiddie: PG Detroit Pistons

Following the Brandon Jennings injury, Dinwiddie’s name was bandied about as a potential deep league sleeper, and while I understand the appeal, I’m not excited about picking him up. The biggest problem is a lack of quickness, which limits his ability to break down defenses off the bounce. When he does manage to penetrate, he struggles as a finisher[10] due to poor upper body strength. That said, his size, shooting stroke, ballhandling, passing, and basketball IQ all rate as average and above, so he has his merits. Dinwiddie’s only one year removed from a devastating ACL injury, and those often take a while to heal, so there’s reason to believe his explosiveness may yet improve. I wouldn’t fault anyone for taking a flier on him, but I personally won’t be making a move just yet.

Dennis Schrӧder: PG Atlanta Hawks

Playing behind Jeff Teague means that Schrӧder has the toughest road to playing time of anyone on this list, but he might also be the most talented. Frankly, I can’t tell you much that hasn’t already been covered by Grantland’s Zach Lowe, but I’ll try to give you the highlights. The young German is learning to harness his elite speed, quickness, and change-of-direction ability and the result has been fun to watch. He’s showing penetration skills, promising court vision, and advanced understanding of opposing defenses which make him a dangerous catalyst for the Hawks’ second unit, and his biggest weakness (shooting) is minimized by the team’s incredible spacing. This last point is a bit of a double-edged sword—Atlanta’s spacing is a big part of why he’s been so successful, but he likely won’t have a chance to play starter’s minutes there. The Baby Rondo comparisons are a bit misleading—the two share physical attributes, but Schrӧder’s already a much better scorer than Rondo, and there’s no indication that he’ll torpedo your percentages in the same way. Owners patient enough to let Schrӧder develop and find the right role could be rewarded with a dynamic young star two or three years down the road.

I don’t have Twitter, but feel free to contact me at ranewbrough@loyola.edu with questions, comments, or players you’d like me to write about next week.

[1] Not that summer league is a great indicator—the Wizards recently waived Rice.

[2] 34.3% and 39.7% respectively

[3] 37% of Kris Humphries’ shots are long twos, and he’s made 44.0% of them. Nene and Gortat take fewer shots from that range but have converted them at nearly the same rate.

[4] At least in the short term. It’s worth noting that Georgetown did run their offense though him at times, as did the Wizards’ summer team, so there could be untapped potential here once he becomes more assertive.

[5] He ranks 12th among qualified small forwards in offensive rebound rate.

[6] More specifically, I expect him to approach 15 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 threes, 1 steal, and 1 block per 36 minutes.

[7] Please note that these were written prior to this weekend’s games.

[8] One-third of Sampson’s shots are threes, and he converts just 28.3 percent. His assist-to-turnover ratio is .88. His only positive offensive indicator is that he finishes 66.7% of his shots at the rim.

[9] His 11.6 total rebound rate ranks 58th out of 60 qualified centers. Numbers 59 and 60 are Boris Diaw and Matt Bonnar respectively.

[10] He’s shooting 45.5% from 0-3 feet. Also, get your mind out of the gutter.

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