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After 7 years, Washington was more than just place of business for Otto Porter

After 7 years, Washington was more than just place of business for Otto Porter

The first time Otto Porter flew on a plane came in 2011.

The high school basketball standout from Sikeston, Mo., a rural town of approximately 16,000 located in the southeast part of the state, was headed to Washington, D.C. Specifically, Georgetown University for a recruiting trip.

“I was basically going to a whole new life,” Porter said in 2017. “Leaving home, leaving my comfort zone and pursuing a dream that I had.”

In terms of the area, he never left.

Porter starred for two seasons with the Hoyas and played the next five-plus seasons with the Wizards, who selected the 6-foot-8 forward with an efficient game and quiet demeanor third overall in the 2013 NBA Draft.

Though never on the same plane as Washington’s two headliners, John Wall and Bradley Beal, Porter’s addition and subsequent hefty contract extension signaled plans for a heralded trio.

The Wizards jettisoned those plans Wednesday night in the name of financial flexibility. Porter no longer calls the DMV his work home.

This stunning deal – Porter to the Chicago Bulls for forwards Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis, plus a 2023 second-round pick – emerged quickly to address a long-standing issue while ending the established plan.

Washington, with only five players under contract, exceeded the projected $109 million contract for next season primarily because of commitments to Wall, Beal, and Porter. Maybe the front office cobbles together a viable 9-10 man rotation with three as the linchpins. They led the Wizards to 49 wins during the 2016-17 season and three second-round playoff appearances.

Wall’s torn Achilles flipped the script and moved salary cap and luxury tax worries to the center of the action.

Moving Beal, a two-time All-Star, seems impossible unless a full rebuild becomes the new plan. It's not.

Dealing the remaining one-plus seasons of Ian Mahinmi’s large tab would require the addition of coveted draft picks. There’s no moving Wall with his injuries and contract.

That left Porter, who signed a four-year, $106 million offer sheet with the Brooklyn Nets in 2017 that Washington matched.

The trade dropped the Wizards tax bill from $8.96 million to $3.34 million, per ESPN, and its 2019-20, salaries to $89.5 million in guaranteed contracts. Washington later went completely under the tax by trading Markieff Morris and a 2023 second-round selection to New Orleans for Wesley Johnson.

No longer choked by finances, Washington can breathe more comfortably heading into the off-season.  The Wizards are not locked into keeping Parker or Portis beyond this season. Extending Portis, a rugged power forward, seems likely.

“I prefer Otto,” a former NBA front office executive texted to NBC Sports Washington moments after the trade, “but if it’s gotta be done to clear money, getting Portis and a second seems like a decent deal.”

There’s some irony with finances taking a primary role in an Otto Porter sendoff since for many his contract came to define the player more than his many winning traits.

In 2013, Syracuse’s longtime head coach Jim Boeheim overlooked the rivalry with Georgetown to deem Porter the “best all-around” small forward in Big East history. Once Porter overcame some initial struggles on the NBA level, league executives and opposing coaches came to praise the parts of his game that do not register in any box score but makes basketball minds swoon.

Those that love numbers also covet the highly efficient forward. Porter finished top-5 in 3-point shooting percentages in consecutive seasons, consistently ranked among the leaders in turnover rate and often paced the Wizards in net rating. He led the Wizards in “Win Shares” the two previous seasons.

The contract overshadowed the work. Max contracts are handed out to franchise-altering players. Porter’s talents are more franchise enhancing.

Porter’s low-key persona stands out amid a cavalcade of outsized NBA personalities. His athleticism, above average for the masses, offered an old-man quality compared to the league’s sky-walkers especially when lingering hip and toe injuries flared up.

NBA fans generally want their heroes loud, proud and above the ground. The kid from rural Missouri is grounded in multiple ways.

The big picture money alone did not move Porter.

If he advanced his game after a pair of solid campaigns, the Wizards figure out a way to keep him. Porter struggled at the start of the season and over his final five games. The 3-point shooting remained steady, but his mid-range game faltered.

Nothing egregious, not worthy of condemnation, though head coach Scott Brooks set a tone by singling out Porter’s lack of aggression after the second game of the season at a point when the team played passively.

Porter returned from a knee injury shortly after Wall played his last game of the season on Dec. 26. The Wizards needed all the usual subtleties from Porter, and then some. At times he popped from the perimeter and apparition into passing lanes. With the team shorthanded, they needed more. With Wall sidelined for the next 12 months and the financial situation limited, Washington decided it needed change.

For a variety of reasons, Porter’s game never took off during this curious season. He will now end the campaign somewhere else even though just a few days prior it appeared set he would continue calling Washington home.

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Wizards vs. Nuggets: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Wizards vs. Nuggets: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Wizards travel home from Chicago to host the surging Nuggets Thursday night at Capital One Arena. The Wizards, on the second leg of a back-to-back, were unable to snare the victory at the United Center, losing in overtime to a rejuvenated Bulls squad.

Jabari Parker was spectacular off the pine, going for 28 points, but it wasn't enough to hold of Lauri Markkanen, 33 points and 12 rebounds. Bradley Beal was able to tie up the game at the end of regulation to put five more minutes on the clock, but mistakes and blown coverage late in the contest proved too much for the Wizards to handle.

Denver is looking to continue their regular-season domination. Currently holding down the top spot in the Western Conference, the Nuggets are fresh off of an impressive road win in Boston against Kyrie Irving and the Celtics. Nikola Jokic went for 21 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists on Monday night at the Garden and Boston was unable to hold off the visiting squad.

The Nuggets look to continue their outstanding play Thursday in the Nation's Capital.

WIZARDS vs. NUGGETS HOW TO WATCH:

What: Washington Wizards vs. Denver Nuggets 
Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.
When: 7:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: The Wizards vs. Nuggets game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder Link).
Live Stream: You can live stream Wizards vs. Nuggets on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.
Radio: Wizards Radio Network, 1500 AM

WIZARDS vs. NUGGETS TV SCHEDULE:

6:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders
6:30 PM: Wizards Pregame Live
7:00 PM: Nuggets at Wizards
9:30 PM: Wizards Postgame Live 
10:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders

WIZARDS vs. NUGGETS INJURY REPORT:

Wizards: Wizards: John Wall (Out, Heel), Dwight Howard (Out, Back), Trevor Ariza(TBD, groin)
Nuggets: Michael Porter Jr. (Out, Back)

WIZARDS vs. NUGGETS PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Wizards, Bradley Beal: 26 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 5.6 APG

Nuggets, Nikola Jokic: 20.3 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 7.5 APG

WIZARDS vs. NUGGETS SERIES HISTORY: 

Number of all-time Meetings: 88
Regular Season Record: Nuggets lead, 51-37

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Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets present a new challenge Wizards haven't faced in months

Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets present a new challenge Wizards haven't faced in months

Now 72 games into the 2018-19 regular season, the Wizards will finally get their first look at one of the most improved teams in the NBA. On Thursday night, the Wizards welcome the Denver Nuggets to town for a 7 p.m. tip on NBC Sports Washington. 

That means the Wizards will face off with star center Nikola Jokic for the first time this season. Jokic, 24, is likely to receive MVP votes with averages of 20.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game. He is a certified superstar with the team results to back up his resume.

He and the Nuggets are in contention for the top record in the Western Conference. They trail the Warriors by just a half a game as they ride a four-game winning streak.

The Wizards, meanwhile, are nearing playoff elimination. After losing three of their last four, they stare at a 5 1/2 game gap between them and the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. At this point, it may be a matter of when and not if they will make the postseason, as the Miami Heat have taken firm control over the No. 8 spot.

The Wizards are likely safe to plan their summer vacations, but they may be able to put up a respectable fight against Denver. The Wizards are particularly good at home with a 22-14 record in Washington compared to an 8-28 elsewhere.

They also, for whatever reason, happen to be very good in the second game of back-to-backs. After losing on Wednesday night in Chicago, they are 2-12 in the first games, but they boast a 9-4 record in the second ones.

Denver wouldn't be the first good team the Wizards have beaten on zero days rest. They have wins against the Heat, Nets, Sixers and Pacers in those scenarios.

The Nuggets, though, are better than all of those teams. In addition to Jokic, they have Jamal Murray (18.2 ppg, 37.5 3PT%), Gary Harris (13.5 ppg), Paul Millsap (13 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and a deep bench.

Denver is good on both ends of the floor. They are third in offensive rating (114), 10th in defensive rating (108.9) and they allow the sixth-fewest points (107/g).
At 47-22, the Nuggets are on pace for 56 wins. That would mark their second-best season since the 1970s.

The Nuggets are one of the fastest rising teams in the NBA. The Wizards, at least this season, are trending in the other direction. It may be the biggest challenge Washington has faced in months.

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