Wizards’ Porter going through some growing pains

January 16, 2014

Wizards rookie Otto Porter Jr. has played just 19 minutes in the past five games. (Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Otto Porter Jr. was a do-it-all player for Georgetown, a rangy forward capable of bringing the ball up court for the Hoyas, snagging rebounds from every conceivable angle and taking control of the game when his team needed it the most.

That Otto Porter has not been seen in quite a while.

The Porter that plays for the Washington Wizards is a serious work-in-progress, despite his lofty status as the No. 3 pick in last summer’s NBA draft. At the time, it seemed like a no-brainer for general manager Ernie Grunfeld to take Porter, whose ability to play several positions would serve Washington well in the future.

But heading into Friday’s game against Chicago, Porter is a non-factor, anchored to the bench for large stretches of games. It is far, far too early to label Porter a “bust,” but it is fair to say that, given his draft position, he’s been a disappointment through the first half of the season.

Porter missed training camp, preseason and the first 18 games of the regular season with a troublesome hip injury, and since his NBA debut on Dec. 6, he’s averaged 10.4 minutes per game. In Washington’s last five games, however, he’s played 19 minutes total.

Part of this is due to the fact that Wizards coach Randy Wittman had no idea what kind of player he had in Porter since the rookie was unable to practice, and part of it is because Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster are much better options at the same position.

“I know he feels like, as a lottery pick, he needs to get out there and show the reason why he was picked No. 3,” Webster said.

Porter’s scoring (1.9 PPG) and rebounding numbers (1.6 RPG) are negligible, but a more troublesome concern is the notion that the assured player at Georgetown often looks overmatched on the NBA court.

He’s not alone. No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett has struggled mightily with the Cavaliers, and fellow rookies Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller and Alex Len have all had growing pains early on.

Wizards center Marcin Gortat joked that Porter “is so small,” but still believes in the 6-foot-8, 198-pounder’s ability.

“What I see from Otto is that he’s a talented kid,” Gortat said. “His shot looks really good.”

Would a stint in the D-League be what Porter needs to gain valuable playing time and a boost in confidence? Several teams, including the San Antonio Spurs, use the D-League as a training ground for their young players, but the stigma of playing in the “minors,” combined with the fact that the Wizards don’t have an affiliate, might prevent the team from making that move.

So for now, Porter remains a project. Will that change anytime soon?

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Marissa Payne · January 16, 2014