The NBA dropped the Comeback Player of the Year award more than 30 years ago, so Otto Porter Jr. doesn’t have that trophy to chase.
He’ll have to settle for chasing the stature of player he once was, which is what the Warriors are hoping after signing the 6-foot-8 wing last week.
After missing more than 100 games over the past three seasons, Porter tumbled into a space where he can be described as a reclamation project, available for cheap. The Warriors are making a low-risk investment in a high-character 28-year-old with skills.
Asked if he thinks of this as a chance to remind the league of his ability, Porter didn’t pause.
“Absolutely,” he said in a video news conference Monday afternoon. “And not even what I can do, but what I can do for this team.”
The Warriors, who signed Porter for the $2.4 million veteran minimum, want him to do four things: 1) Stay healthy; 2) shoot efficiently, particularly from beyond the arc; 3) effectively defend at least three positions; and 4) Stay healthy.
“I’m feeling really good,” Porter said. “The body is in good condition. I’m able to actually get in the gym and put in work; it’s been tough to do that the last couple years because of COVID. But this year, as soon as the season was over with, actually before the season was over with, I was getting my body in tip-top shape.”
The emphasis on health is significant because long is the list of Porter’s injuries over last three seasons. He missed the final seven weeks of last season in Orlando with a bruised left foot. During midseason, with the Bulls, he missed a month with a lower back strain.
He missed four months the previous season with a small fracture in his left foot. In the spring of 2018, he underwent a procedure on his lower left leg.
Put another way, Porter’s body has been through a lot since the summer of 2017, when he seemed on the verge of stardom and received from the Wizards a four-year contract worth $106.5 million.
With that behind him, Porter enters next season as a walking caveat.
But a hearty Porter is a starter-quality player who projects to come off the bench for Golden State. If not early in the season, then certainly after Klay Thompson is cleared and reinserted into the starting lineup. Getting 25-30 minutes a night out of Porter is a big ask – with potentially huge rewards if he can stay on the floor, which is all he wants.
“I’m a nine-year vet. I’ve been a starter. I’ve come off the bench. It doesn’t matter to me at this point,” he said. “I just want to play wherever coach plays me. I’m at the stage of my career where starting doesn’t matter.”
Porter averaged double-figure scoring in five consecutive seasons – 2015-16 to 2019-20. In 441 games over nine seasons, he is a 40.2-percent shooter from distance. In 2018-19, his last semi-healthy season, he shot 40.6 percent. The season before, starting 77 of 82 games for the Wizards, he hit a career-high 44.1, slightly better than his 43.4 percent mark in 80 starts in 2016-17.
The Warriors seemed to have made clear what they’re seeking from Porter.
“Space the floor, knock down my corner 3s, knock down the 3-ball, move off the ball as well,” he said. “And then defend. Bring that presence to the team. Use my length and athleticism, being versatile on the wing position.”
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With Porter joining incumbent small forward Andrew Wiggins, rookies Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, as well as 17-year veteran Andre Iguodala (who has agreed to rejoin the Warriors but has yet to sign), the competition for wing minutes will be heavy.
Bringing in Porter is another example of the Warriors betting on a player with something to prove, a strategy that generally has served them well.
If they win that bet, Porter could turn out to be the best value on the 2021 market.
If they lose, the Warriors will be out only $2.4 million.