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Offensive freedom allows Otto Porter to break out


Offensive freedom allows Otto Porter to break out

Otto Porter didn't exactly pick up where he left off. When he last appeared in a game for the Wizards, he'd shot a compiled 7-for-26 in three consecutive losses to the Atlanta Hawks which led to playoff elimination. Tuesday, he looked like the No. 3 overall selection in the NBA draft. 

The projected starting small forward coming into the season and one of the Wizards' better performers in training camp, Porter made 8 of 10 shots, including all four of his three-pointers, for a game-high 22 points in a 129-95 preseason opening win vs. the Philadelphia 76ers. And he did it in just 24 minutes of play. 

"It was just John (Wall) finding me. Being in great position where I can catch and shoot, knockdowns, cut to the basket or whatever," Porter said. "I have the freedom to do that now. It feels good.

"We got a lot of playmakers on the team. With the new offense, running out in transition it opens up the floor. It gives you enough time if the defense is closing out you can shoot it or drive by them. You just got a lot of options now, just flowing and moving the ball."

The Wizards are playing more in flow, bypassing play calls and running a glut of pick-and-rolls and drive-kick plays. It's pressure offense that puts the defense on its heels and makes the Wizards less predictable. They have the pieces to run it, though Kelly Oubre, Jared Dudley and Alan Anderson sat out with injuries.

"Otto had, start to finish, as good as a game you can play," coach Randy Wittman said of the third-year player who is expected to fill the void left by Paul Pierce's departure. "Activity, hands on balls, forget about the shots he made. Being in position, his knack for being in the right place at the right time whether it's offensively or defensively, his reads and cuts to the basket."


Marcin Gortat was out of sync. He has to find a way to fit in the new offense, but Porter's performance blew him away.

"He looked good," Gortat said. "There's no pressure. We play freely and try to use our chances and he was outstanding today. He was aggressive. He was attacking. He was having fun cutting, shooting the ball well."

Garrett Temple had seven points, nine rebounds and seven assists. This style of offense suits him, too. 

"You just push the ball and wherever you end up make sure you get to the right spots and just play from there, whether it's a pick-and-roll or attack into a drive-and-kick game. I think we did a good job of executing especially that being our first game."

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: KZ Okpala

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: KZ Okpala

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: KZ Okpala

School: Stanford
Position: Forward
Age: 20
Height: 6-10
Weight: 210
Wingspan: 7-2
Max vertical: 37 in.

2018/19 stats: 16.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.5 bpg, 46.3 FG% (5.9/12.7), 36.8 3PT% (1.1/3.0), 67.1 FT%

Player comparison: Kyle Kuzma, Gerald Green

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 25th, NBADraft.net 23rd, Bleacher Report 27th, Sports Illustrated 29th, Ringer 41st

5 things to know:

*Okpala is a tall, lanky wing who loves to drive from the perimeter to the rim. He made the All-Pac-12 team this past season after improving his scoring average from 10.0 points as a freshman to 16.8 points as a sophomore. He also increased his rebounds per game average from 3.7 to 5.7.

*He is arguably one of the most athletic players in this class. At 6-foot-10 in shoes, he has great size for a wing player and measured at the NBA combine with a 7-2 wingspan. He also has an impressive vertical leap of 37 inches which would be good even for a point guard. He is also fast in the open court. Teams will be enticed with his ceiling on both ends of the floor.

*Okpala scored a lot in college but has a raw offensive game. He isn't fully there as a ball-handler and has an improving, but still inconsistent outside shot. The fact he made a leap from his freshman to sophomore year as a three-point shooter was a very good sign. His 36.8 three-point percentage on three attempts per game is encouraging but does not offer any guarantees that he can stretch the floor at the next level. His 67.1 free throw percentage doesn't help his cause.

*He is just the third player from Stanford to leave for the NBA before his junior season, joining the Lopez twins, Brook and Robin, who were first round picks in 2010.

*Okpala is the son of two Nigerian immigrants. He had a 4.4 GPA in high school.

Fit with Wizards: Okpala would fill a need for the Wizards in that he is a forward and they don't have many of those under contract for next season. He would also give them a young player with high upside, something they currently lack.

But Okpala also seems to offer decent bust potential. Ever since Kevin Durant came into the league, there have been a lot of players like Okpala to come along, ones that are tall enough to play inside but prefer to work on the perimeter.

Sometimes that can work, like with Giannis Antetokounmpo or Brandon Ingram (sort of). But for every success story, there seem to be a lot of guys like Perry Jones and Thon Maker.

Okpala seems very much like boom or bust, and the Wizards may not be able to afford taking a chance like that.

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Neil Olshey signs extension with Trail Blazers, off the table for Wizards job

Neil Olshey signs extension with Trail Blazers, off the table for Wizards job

After Tim Connelly decided to re-join the Nuggets rather than take the Wizards' vacant front-office position, Washington has been forced back to the drawing board.

The Wizards have interviewed Thunder assistant general manager Troy Weaver, former Hawks general manager Danny Ferry and Wizards interim team president Tommy Sheppard.

In addition to those names, NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig reported the team could have interest in Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey. 

That option was eliminated Friday when Olshey signed an extension to remain with Portland. 

With Connelly and Olshey off the table, there are fewer high-profile candidates left for the Wizards to consider as replacements for Ernie Grunfeld. 

Standig noted that Warriors assistant general manager Larry Harris could also draw interest from Washington. 

The franchise is running out of time to find their new front-office leader with less than a month remaining before the NBA Draft.