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Raptors praise Porter: 'He's been the difference'

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Raptors praise Porter: 'He's been the difference'

"The difference" is too clunky for a nickname, though Otto Porter could use a catchy moniker to spice up his image. Porter is the difference-maker through three games of the Wizards-Raptors series. Just ask Toronto.

"He's been the difference with his energy," Raptors guard Greivis Vasquez said shortly after losing Game 3 106-99 on Friday night.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey before Saturday's practice: "I think the biggest difference in their smaller unit -- everybody's attention is on Pierce, but it's Otto Porter."

In what ways is Porter making a difference?

Defense

Even those passionate backers of the decision essentially to swap Trevor Ariza for Paul Pierce last summer recognized that whatever the Wizards would gain in playmaking, experience and chutzpah they would lose in wing defense. Pierce is willing and capable, but Ariza is one of the league's best.

Though the 6-foot-8 Porter has Ariza's length and similar wiry frame, the former Georgetown star had yet to establish himself as any type of heralded defensive stopper. Three games isn't enough of a sample size to start campaigning for next year's all-defensive teams, but this performance over 82 games gets him into the conversation.

Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan scored 20 points in the first quarter of Game 3, sinking 8 of his 10 shots including three 3-pointers. He then proceeded to miss 10 straight field goal attempts, not recording his next basket until the second half. DeRozan finished 11 of 29 from the field for 32 points.

“I just missed shots,” DeRozan said about the dip in his shot making. “They didn’t do nothing at all. Every shot I took felt good, or I rushed it a little bit. They just didn’t do nothing.”

Anybody watching knows that's not the case. Inside the final minute of the second quarter, DeRozan waved off teammates as he called for a clear-0ut high on the right wing. Unable to gain separation from Porter off the dribble, DeRozan ends up taking a fadeaway 3-pointer that found nothing but air.

This wasn't just a one-game phenomenon. BulletsForever.com put together a nice chart that shows DeRozan's shooting struggles (5 of 21) when Porter is the closest defender compared to other Wizards.

Asked about Porter's length before Saturday's practice, Casey said, "It's huge. Long. He's athletic. He's really improved. From when he played at the beginning of the year until now, he's a different person. They've done a heck of a job developing him. Him working himself and getting better.

"His 3-point shooting is improved, but most importantly his defense. He's unbelievable. His length. It's not like he's doing it with strength. He's doing it with length. He's in the right place. He's disruptive more than anything else." 

Breaking up the Alpha's

My colleague J. Michael wrote about Nene's willingness to take on a newer role for the playoffs, one more focused on rebounding and defense than shot making. It's also one that takes him off the court when the Wizards use Pierce and Porter at the forwards. This smaller look is easily Washington's best lineup against the Raptors as evidenced in all kinds of statistical ways.

What it does on a rather human level is break up the starting five that loaded with leading men types and add in a key supporting player. Scoring points is important, no doubt, but if everybody is thinking buckets and not setting screens or crashing the boards or defending, then the system breaks down. 

Porter's instinct-rich game and ego-less approach, one that doesn't fret about having plays called for him, has provided this element for the Wizards against Toronto.

"He's the guy that's made big plays," Casey continued. "Not only shots, but made big plays, winning plays, rebounding, defending. What that does is it gives Wall more room to attack. We have to do some things in that situation."

The stat-stuffing forward is averaging 10.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals while shooting 63 percent from the field 50 percent from beyond the arc. The slender forward is also tied for second on the team with eight offensive rebounds.

Vasquez: "The way he plays. He plays hard. For some reason he gets second chances for them. He's been the difference."

Porter flashed all of these elements at times this season, though not so loudly and without consistency. The real difference Porter can make for the Wizards is keeping this going.

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Wizards' assistant Sidney Lowe leaves to join Dwane Casey's staff with Detroit Pistons

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Associated Press

Wizards' assistant Sidney Lowe leaves to join Dwane Casey's staff with Detroit Pistons

The Washington Wizards have an opening on their coaching staff, as assistant Sidney Lowe has left the team to join the Detroit Pistons.

Lowe, according to ESPN, will be the top assistant on new Pistons coach Dwane Casey's staff. 

Lowe spent two seasons under head coach Scott Brooks in Washington. A D.C. native, Lowe starred at DeMatha High School before playing at NC State and then in the NBA.

Lowe was the head coach at his alma mater for five years from 2006 through 2011, but has otherwise been an NBA lifer. He served as head coach of the Timberwolves in 1993-94 and head coach of the Grizzlies from 2000 to 2002.

The Wizards have several coaching hires to make now. They have a new G-League team set to take the court in the fall and will need to hire a staff sometime this summer. 

With Lowe gone, they could choose to promote from within or go outside the organization.

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Little information out there about Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon

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Little information out there about Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon

Wizards fans will know a lot more about 2018 second round pick Issuf Sanon once he takes the floor next month in the Las Vegas Summer League, but for now the 18-year-old point guard remains a bit of a mystery.

There are limited highlights on YouTube and stats available to evaluate him. Most who have an opinion on the player are operating on little information. 

For now, what we have are some video compilations and quotes from the team. Team president Ernie Grunfeld described Sanon on Thursday night and says he's a player who could someday play both guard positions at the NBA level.

"[He’s a] very talented point guard, combo guard who is very athletic and he has real good upside," Grunfeld said. "Very athletic [and] very talented. [He] makes plays, he has a nice shot and he’s playing very tough competition.”

Grunfeld mentioned Sanon's athleticism many times. The Wizards saw Sanon at the NBA's international combine and love his combination of size and speed. He is 6-foot-4 and 1/2 and noticeably faster than those he competes against in the Premier A Slovenian League. 

Grunfeld likened Sanon's size and speed to Tomas Satoransky, a point guard currently on the Wizards' roster.

"He's a good ball-hander, very competitive and a lot like Tomas. We drafted Tomas at an earlier age, he went overseas [and] he played at the highest level and it got him ready for the NBA.”," Grunfeld said.

The highlights available of Sanon show a guy who clearly stands out above his competition. He has a knack for getting to the rim and can finish in a variety of ways. There are also many clips of him blocking shots, sometimes in the post and often from behind on the fastbreak.

NBA.com has an interesting breakdown of Sanon's most recent season in the Slovenian league from an advanced stats perspective. They applauded his defense and the numbers suggest he puts that unique athleticism to use on the defensive end of the floor.

Had a remarkable year defensively for his age. Gets in a stance and competes to help make up for his lack of experience. Pressures the ball with quick hands, but lacks a degree of anticipation to stay in front of elite athletes. Still figuring out how to handle ball screens without overthinking things, but held his own anyways for the most part. Allowed only 0.471 points per Isolation possession [92nd percentile]. A bit foul prone, but forces turnovers at an impressive rate. Has a good work ethic defensively which should serve him well as he gains experience.

Sports Illustrated raved about Sanon's motor on the court and his hard-nosed approach, two things that would seem to bode well combined with his explosive athleticism:

Rangy, athletic combo guard who plays both ends of the floor. Puts pressure on the rim. Likes to get downhill and attack the basket. Shows flashes in transition. Lots of natural talent.

Sanon spoke with Wizards reporters soon after he was drafted on Thursday night and said Russell Westbrook is a guy he models his game after. He plays at a much lower level of professional basketball, but there are similarities with Westbrook in Sanon's size and knack for scoring at the rim.

The stats only tell so much of the story, as he was going up against lower competition. It is worth noting, however, that his shooting percentage was low pretty much across the board. In 22 games during the 2017-18 season, Sanon shot 29.3 percent from three and 40 percent from the free throw line.

The Wizards have realistic expectations for Sanon, knowing it could take years before he even plays in the NBA. Many second round picks never make it at all.

Grunfeld pointed to Satoransky's career path as a possible timeline for Sanon, meaning the Wizards may not bring him over until he's in his 20s. He won't be able to help at backup point guard right away, but someday perhaps he can put his athleticism to use and actually help the Wizards.

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE:

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