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Porter keeps good company while maturing into future starter

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Porter keeps good company while maturing into future starter

The Otto Porter performance growth chart showed another noticeable jump with the forward's work in Game 2. With John Wall possibly out for the remainder of the series, Porter and the other Wizards will need to tick up their efforts even more.

Playing with confidence and aggression, Porter stuffed the stat sheet with 15 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals. According to Basketball-Reference, Porter, who turns 22 on June 3, is third youngest player since 1985 to post at least those numbers in a playoff game*. The only two younger? Kobe Bryant in 1999 and LeBron James in 2006.

"He's developed," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said of Porter following Thursday's practice. "I've told you I liked his development, it's just now, for him, it was his mental frame of being aggressive, staying aggressive, not worrying about stepping on your toe. Playing the way he's capable of playing. And the confidence goes with that. And so as the season wore on, I saw that. So am I surprised he's been able to do it now? No. I've come to expect it. And that's a good thing, both for him and me."

The constant question asked about the former Georgetown star these days is what flipped the switched from the regular season version that at times appeared passive and uncertain to one who now plays like he belongs. Porter provided a reason after generating 11 points, eight rebounds and two clutch 3-pointers in a Game 3 win against the Raptors during Washington's 4-0 series sweep. 

"NBA playoffs. YEAH," the usually soft-spoken Porter exclaimed. "I used to watch it as a little kid. Just the excitement and just wanting to be here and be a part of it. It's amazing."

We should also note he's now a regular piece of the main rotation and more than than, is often playing with the starters.

The best part of Porter's game right now is being the fill-in-the-blank guy. Need a one-on-one wing defender? Use Otto. Need someone to crash the boards? Send Otto. Need someone to help break any form of backcourt pressure? Use Otto. Need a player to wait patiently for a shot attempt, yet be focused and grudge-less when the ball swings his way? Use Otto. These are not always attributes always found in star players, which is why using five Alpha-male types at the same time isn't ideal.

At this point, Porter is complementary player, but one who is playing at a high level. That works with take-charge guys like Pierce, Gortat, Beal and Wall on the court. Porter's constant movement and nose for the ball blends perfectly with that quartet. Opposing defenders are focused elsewhere, allowing the slender, yet tough forward to slide into position as desired for that moment.  

Those attributes, however, are far less effective when paired with other second-unit players who are not go-to offensive threats. That's often where Porter received minutes during the regular season. That's now changed with Wittman using a tighter rotation and more small-lineup looks.

That Porter played with confidence even without the John Wall security blanket in Game 2 is certainly a positive sign. Keeping statistical company with James and Bryant is as well.

Of course, in terms of pure talent and upside, nobody should put Porter in the same discussion with either of those legendary talents. That doesn't mean we can't imagine future leaps and continue noting the second-year forward's sharp improvement since the playoff lights turned on. The Wizards have their backcourt of the future. Now there is growing confidence Porter is truly part of the big picture at small forward.

"We've been certain of that in terms of him," Wittman said. "This is really his first year, in terms of having an opportunity to play, so you can't ever judge anything, whether it's good or bad, on a year or two. Especially young guys, the development of young guys. Sometimes it takes a little longer."

(* h/t @BulletsForever)

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Nickeil Walker-Alexander

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Nickeil Walker-Alexander

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: Nickeil Alexander-Walker

School: Virginia Tech
Position: Guard
Age: 20 (turns 21 in September)
Height: 6-6
Weight: 204
Wingspan: 6-10
Max vertical: N/A

2018/19 stats: 16.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.0 apg, 1.9 spg, 0.5 bpg, 47.4 FG% (5.6/11.8), 37.4 3PT% (1.7/4.6), 77.8 FT%

Player comparison: Shai-Gilgeous Alexander, Tomas Satoransky

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 19th, NBADraft.net 14th, Bleacher Report 18th, Sports Illustrated 20th, Ringer 16th

5 things to know:

*Alexander-Walker is a big guard known for his offensive skillset. He can handle the ball, pass and score in a variety of ways. He can play both point guard and shooting guard and affect games with his passing at either spot. 

*He was an excellent three-point shooter in college. As a freshman, he shot 39.2 percent from long range on 4.5 attempts per game. His percentage dipped as a sophomore to 37.4 percent, but that was still impressive given he attempted 4.6 shots per game. 

*Alexander-Walker has a plus wingspan, which he uses to his advantage on defense. He averaged 1.9 steals per game this past season in Blacksburg and his highlight reels are flooded with open court dunks off turnovers. He appears to have strong instincts as a perimeter defender, but could struggle initially at the NBA level against quicker and stronger guards.

*Though he has great size and length for a guard, Alexander-Walker is not considered a premier athlete for the position. He does not have elite quickness or the ability to play consistently above the rim. Because of that, some wonder how high his ceiling will be in the NBA. He may, however, have a high floor given his well-rounded game and basketball IQ.

*Alexander-Walker is from Canada. He has played for the national team as a junior and is part of a new wave of players from the country in the NBA. Alexander-Walker was a high school teammate of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who just enjoyed a strong rookie season with the L.A. Clippers.

Fit with Wizards: The Wizards need help at just about every position, so even a guard can't be ruled out. Alexander-Walker would give them more backcourt depth and that is needed long-term, even after John Wall returns from injury.

If Alexander-Walker can develop into an above average perimeter defender, he could be very useful for the Wizards. They need to improve at stopping dribble penetration and three-point shooters. They could use more players with Alexander-Walker's length and ability to force turnovers. Also, he would help spread the floor with his shooting.

All that said, the Wizards could probably find a player with more upside than Alexander-Walker with the ninth overall pick. He would be more in line with their decision to take Troy Brown Jr. last June.

Like Brown, he is smart and a safe bet to carve out a long NBA career. But could Alexander-Walker become an elite player at his position? He seems like a better option if they trade down into the teens and acquire more picks.

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Are the Wizards waiting too long to choose a new team president?

Are the Wizards waiting too long to choose a new team president?

The Washington Wizards have operated throughout their search for a new team president with patience and for a while it appeared that approach had paid off, as they got close to filling the position over the weekend before Tim Connelly returned to Denver. That patience, though, could be put to the test very soon.

The NBA Combine is already in the books. So, unless they decide to promote interim president Tommy Sheppard, the person who will ultimately be making the call with the ninth overall pick on draft night will have been absent from the face-to-face interviews they conducted in Chicago, IL. It is not ideal, but by waiting this long clearly the Wizards have made peace with that.

They still have some time between now and the Wizards' pre-draft workouts which are not scheduled to begin until the first week of June. The draft is still about a month away and the deadline to extend qualifying offers to their restricted free agents is June 30. 

Whomever leads this team will need to decide on guys like Tomas Satoransky, Thomas Bryant and Bobby Portis. But still, there is time. 

What could throw the biggest wrench into the Wizards' timeline is the impending announcement of All-NBA teams. If Bradley Beal makes All-NBA, which the ballots that have been made public already suggest he has a very good chance to do so, he will be eligible for a supermax contract. 

That would present the Wizards with a complicated situation, one that wouldn't need to be settled overnight but would instantly become the most important story surrounding the team. 

A supermax for Beal is projected to be worth $194 million over four years and would start in the 2021-22 season. With John Wall already signed to a supermax contract, it would be difficult to afford both and still fill out the rest of a competitive roster. Two players would make 70-plus percent of the cap.

If the Wizards determine they can't pay both Beal and Wall long-term, something will have to give. It could lead to a trade.

Deciding on Beal's future, one could argue, may end up being one of the most important calls the Wizards' next team president will have to make in their entire career in Washington. And they would be faced with it as soon as they take the job.

Depending on the timing, the question could even define their introductory press conference. The new president and owner Ted Leonsis would certainly be asked about it.

That is all not to mention how the job could be viewed if Beal makes All-NBA before the position is filled. Anyone who takes the Wizards job will already be doing so with an understanding that it may take time to build a contender given Wall's contract and the fact he is coming off Achilles surgery.

On top of all that, there would be questions about whether the Wizards would offer Beal the contract and, if they offered it, whether he would take it. Beal already raised some doubt about whether he would accept the money, given he has already made plenty in his career and wants to win. 

That standoff could lead to a barrage of trade rumors, which can overshadow just about anything in today's NBA. Just ask the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Beal decision technically would not have to be made for months. If he makes All-NBA, he won't be able to sign the supermax until July 6, when the free agency moratorium ends. They can sign Beal to an extension all the way up until the day before the 2019-20 regular season begins.

But it could become a pressing issue very soon and before the Wizards' next team architect even takes the job.

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