SAN FRANCISCO – Fingers are crossed throughout Chase Center about the availability of two Warriors, and one of them is Andrew Wiggins, whose vaccine-hesitancy has been keeping his name in the news.
The other is Otto Porter Jr. He’s fully vaccinated, but his recent injury history -- he has missed more games than he has played since 2017-18 -- is enough to justify concern.
If Porter, 28, is healthy, the Warriors will have the most dangerous trio of deep shooters they have had at any time in franchise history.
And, no, we did not forget four-time scoring champ Kevin Durant.
Only 10 active players with more than 200 games of NBA experience have made a higher percentage of 3-point shots than Porter’s 40.2, and two of them are Stephen Curry (43.3) and Klay Thompson (41.9). Statistically, Porter is the best 3-point shooter to play alongside Curry and Thompson. (Durant shoots 38.4 percent for his career).
“Watching him in practice, he shoots it from all over,” coach Steve Kerr said of Porter. “He can be a pick-and-pop guy at the top of the key. He could space the floor from the corner and catch and shoot from there.”
At 6-foot-8, 228 pounds, with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, Porter is a combo forward with the length to play the four (power forward) and the agility to play the three (small forward). Moreover, he historically has shot well from beyond the arc.
Porter is a 44.2-percent shooter from the right corner, 42.8 percent from the right wing, 39.1 from the top of the arc, 39.0 from the left wing -- all well above the league average. His 36.0-percent shooting from the left corner is slightly below NBA average.
Though he has spent most of his eight-year career as a wing, Kerr visualizes him spending considerable time at the four.
“That would be ideal,” Kerr said. “That’s to be determined, but I think that would be his best position in the modern NBA game. He’s really big. When you meet him up close, you see the size and length that’s really impressive.”
Power forward surely would be Porter’s best offensive position on the Warriors, particularly with starting power forward Draymond Green spending so much time at the top of the arc serving as the team’s primary facilitator. A Wiggins-Porter-Green frontcourt is short -- no one taller than 6-foot-8 -- but all three have wingspans of at least 7 feet.
And, besides, if Curry and Thompson are in the backcourt, the Warriors will have four above-average 3-point shooters on the floor at once.
Porter, looking forward to the spacing, seems to welcome that role.
“With this team, and all the shooters we have in multiple sizes, it will wear on the defense,” he said. “And being able to defensively switch when the game is on the line, playing that position allows us to expand our defense, throw different lineups out there and make it hard for the opposing team to match up with us.”
So where does 7-foot James Wiseman fit into this? The only natural center on the roster, he has a nice shooting touch, which indicates stretch-five potential, but he also can slip inside and provide valuable vertical spacing.
“When people talk about small-ball,” Kerr said, “what it really refers to, in my mind, is the four-man, not the five man.”
Porter‘s shooting gives the coaching staff a new toy. His presence, like that of Curry and Thompson, equal better spacing. And Wiggins, who last season shot a very solid 38.0 percent from deep, also would have more room to work.
For the Warriors to bring their best offense, Porter’s availability is crucial.
“Coming back from the injury, he looks really good shooting the ball,” Kerr said. “He looks pretty fluid. Says he feels good.
“But he’s been banged up the last couple years. What we have to do is give him a few weeks to get his legs underneath him and see where we can put him out there.”
If the Warriors can get 70 games or so from Porter, at 40 percent shooting from distance, it could mean a bump in seeding. It also could mean homecourt advantage in at least the first round of the postseason.
For the superstitious, that’s enough reason to keep those fingers crossed.