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)