The inconsistent play of the Wizards' bench has forced Scott Brooks to roll out three-guard lineups, and a beneficiary of that move appears to be fourth-year forward Otto Porter.
Porter's set a new career-high Wednesday with 34 points and tied career-highs with 14 rebounds and three blocked shots in a 118-93 destruction of the Boston Celtics. And he did all of that without committing a turnover.
Porter has been the Wizards' best two-way player this season, but was this a fluke or is he a legtimate option for them going forward ... fact or fiction?
11:00-10:51: John Wall’s dribble penetration allows Porter, who is completely ignored, to shift around the arc to offer a passing angle and gets a wide open three. No resistance. Jaylen Brown ball watches so much from the weakside, Porter grabs jersey of Bradley Beal for a soft split to lose the defense – knowing that Avery Bradley would track him every step of the way. Bradley looks back at Beal to make sure he’s accounted for and sleeps on Porter on the open 3 that’s good.
8:57-8:44: The dribble handoff creates this mismatch that leads indirectly to a basket. Wall makes his move and Porter slices into the paint, brushing his man (Brown) off Wall who effectively works as a screener. This forces Boston to switch the 5-7 Isaiah Thomas onto the 6-8 Porter. He loses his dribble and has to kick it out but the switch stays. Easy putback on the offensive rebound by Porter.
9:45-9:34: On defense, Porter is matched up with Kelly Olynyk as a stretch 4. He has to switch with Tomas Satornasky on Marcus Smart after he comes over a ball screen by Olynyk. Porter doesn’t let him turn fully into his shoulder to get up the shot and swats it out of bounds. Porter used his left hand to take away the first angle as he held a superior position shoulder-to-shoulder and blocked it with his right. He absords the contact, stays big, stays vertical and trusts his position and greater reach.
6:52-6:39: Porter sticks to the original principle of keeping size in front of Isaiah Thomas on the screen-roll action with Jonas Jerebko. And Marcin Gortat is there to support Porter from the ball being lobbed over the top. This forces Thomas to make a dangerous skip pass to Bradley and the ball gets reversed again. Wall denies Thomas the handoff from Amir Johnson and forces Thomas into his help. Porter is fronting Jerebko in the post, but he doesn’t clear the area as Jerekbo runs to the opposite block. Porter snuffs out the play between Thomas and Johnson and is there to stop Thomas. Wall gets the block from behind. Porter, who is the player farthest back when the transition starts, beats multiple defenders down floor, fills the lane and gets the and-1 layup aftera nice touch pass from Beal.
[RELATED: Beal questionable vs. Cavs after MRI results]
11:05-10:50: Porter screens for Satoransky to get the ball on the weakside. He then goes to set a screen for Marcus Thornton, but Boston takes away that by ice action on the pick-and-roll with Bradley stepping over to send the ball baseline to Jerebko. Thornton quickly moves it out of danger to Porter who is popping instead at the arc. Gerald Green stunts towards him, but Porter keeps his focus on the mismatch with Jerebko at the four spot. He uses an escape dribble to his right that crosses up Jerebko's feet on the recovery for the mid-range jumper.
10:10-9:57: This is why weakside action creates so much offense. Trey Burke slips and Porter sets a screen for Thornton to come up to get the ball. Johnson, the starting power forward matched up with Porter, is watching the strongside action. Look at the lane in frot of him and behind Jereko and Thomas. Porter makes the right read and the cut to make himself available for Jason Smith’s entry pass. There’s so much space between him and the defender, this fading jumper is basically a layup. This leads to the next possession for the Celtics as Porter’s presence in the paint helps force Thomas’ hand to kick the ball out on the drive, then when Green attacks the rim by getting Thornton off his feet, Porter stops his progress to force the ball out of the middle. Green gets it back and Porter runs out to contest his three. This is two-way basketball and the kind of multiple efforts he makes defensively time and again.
7:05-6:55: This is how Porter sees the floor, improvises and attacks the open space. Wall is going to take a low-percentage jumper in a low shot clock. Porter, who sank deep in the corner while Thornton lifts, can attack that area behind Green and in front of Smart. But as Wall goes to his right, Porter comes up to screen on Green, who now is at the four as Boston goes smaller, in case he passes it to Thornton who could get an open shot. Instead, Wall rises for the jumper, so Porter times his curl into the lane, beats Green to the front of the rim and gets the putback. He works off the ball for himself and gave multiple teammates options.
3:44-3:34: Gortat has the ball in a spot that he won’t possibly shoot it 20 feet from the basket. But the defense is hawking him anyway. All eyes on following the ball, which a lot of coaches teach. That’s a good thing. But if Porter stands in the far corner, that’s an impossible angle to complete a skip pass and even if he gets it he’ll be trapped when the defense recovers. So he curls and finds his sweet spot in front of Brown, who is now at the four, and steps back for the easy deuce.
After struggling with Kris Humphries and Jared Dudley as starting stretch fours last season under Randy Wittman, the Wizards finally found their small-ball answer ... fact or fiction?
They had one all along last season when Porter had what was a career-high 28 points then when he played as a stretch four in an emergency role because of injuries. Porter is a versatile enough defender that when opponents downsize at the spot, he can cover. And he has such a brilliant defensive IQ, he can compensate for size disavantages with bigger fours.
Brooks is not using him to as a safety valve to cover for Wall and Beal when they attack and stand around the arc for threes. He's active. Give Porter the spacing to operate, he can create his own luck and play more like a No. 3 overall pick. Get him moving, and Porter is a better shooter. And he's as good a team defender as he is individually.