Otto Porter turned 22 Wednesday, the age matching his Wizards jersey number.
The former Georgetown star transformed into a building block during the playoffs, the production beginning to match his lofty draft status.
Criticism over the bulk of his first two NBA seasons turned his teammate and coaches into crowing boosters when the small forward came up big against the Raptors and Hawks.
"A lot of people, the media, and the fans say Otto’s not good, Otto’s not this elite player," Wizards guard Bradley Beal said after the season. "But he’s the player we need him to be, he’s the player he’s going to be."
Late this season, that player snuck inside for rebounds despite his wispy frame and provided unyielding defense against opposing wing scorers like Toronto's DeMar DeRozan. Blessed with magnets for hands, loose balls seemingly follow his relentless activity. Clutch 3-point shooting was a playoff add-on.
Typically it takes high-scoring games or highlight-worthy plays to elicit gasps and raves from the NBA world. That's not Porter's bag, not now. His subtle style includes off-the-ball work with healthy doses of productive, mindful hustle.
With John Wall running the attack, Bradley Beal sinking bombs, Marcin Gortat rolling to the rim and Paul Pierce calling game, Porter filled in the gaps during the playoffs and then some.
"It's an old saying: Pressure busts pipes or makes diamonds," veteran swingman Rasual Butler quipped. "I think [Otto] just responded to the intensity and pressure of the playoffs. ... We wouldn't have had the opportunity to win without Otto. He was everywhere."
Last postseason Porter was nowhere. He played six total minutes in 11 games. Other than for the sake of experience, nobody should have argued he deserved more. A right hip injury suffered during the offseason and passive play made for a slow transition to the NBA game.
There were signs of growth late in the 2014-15 regular season of Porter establishing a new normal after a promising, yet inconsistent sophomore campaign. The postseason is a different animal. Under that intense spotlight, some players roar, others cower. In his role, the No. 3 overall pick from Georgetown in 2013 delivered. Porter averaged 10.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 33 minutes. Other production simply isn't quantifiable.
His head coach showed faith even as playoff rotations shrunk.
"Coming down the stretch, he was playing good," Randy Wittman said to reporters. "I told you guys last year at this time, if I had to put him in the Indiana series, I felt great confidence he improved. He works at it. That's the No. 1 thing why you've seen him continue to have success."
The job isn't done. Most of Porter's playoff points came in part because defenses focused elsewhere. He only made 32 percent of his 3-point shots in the series loss against Atlanta and a Shaq-ian 48 percent from the free throw line overall in the playoffs. His slender frame is helpful navigating through crowded airports, but gets pushed around against powerful NBA big men.
Ultimately, Porter's game requires effort and oomph. With that plus experience and an enhanced ego, the Wizards will intend have another building block and Verizon Center fans will continue to loudly chant "Ot-to Por-ter!"
"If he just stays with an aggressive mentality, the sky's the limit for him," Wittman said. "He can't be a guy that's just out there. That was the biggest difference in Otto. He took advantage of that, learned how to play without worrying about stepping on anybody's toes. That was a big lift for him and for our team, and moving forward, to have a young guy like that."