The Washington Wizards have one obvious choice in the NBA draft: Otto Porter Jr.

Mike Wise
Columnist June 26, 2013

When everything points to the obvious, when outside-the-box thinking produces only pipe dreams and obscures the value of staying local, sometimes the best thing to do is follow intuition and do the obvious.

Barring a last-minute deal or a complete change of heart by another team, Otto Porter Jr. is going to be a Washington Wizard by about 7:45 p.m. Thursday night.

Mike Wise is a sports columnist for The Washington Post. View Archive

Porter is being tabbed as the safe pick for the Wizards at No. 3 in the NBA draft, the jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none small forward from Georgetown who was in the team’s sights from the day they leapfrogged several teams in the lottery and secured the third spot.

“Safe” is unfair to the forward who played two seasons at Georgetown and just turned 20 this month. Porter would be a great addition who complements the Wizards’ back court of John Wall and Bradley Beal.

And for all the unrealistic wishes of some people who fail to realize that Kevin Love or a player of his ilk was never a possibility in a trade for the third pick, for all those in-the-moment idealists who wanted to make certain the Wizards become a playoff team for the first time since 2008 (guilty as charged), a future with Porter is worth the year or so it’s going to take him to be a major contributor to the roster.

If the upside of UNLV’s Anthony Bennett is greater, the Wizards could be kicking themselves in three years. But then, if you’re Ernie Grunfeld or Randy Wittman, you don’t have three years. At the moment you have today and next season, the team president and coach’s last under contract with the club.

This isn’t a difference-maker draft. How could it be? Three of the top seven or eight picks are going to be sidelined with injuries to begin the season.

In the high-risk, high-reward world of hiring 18- to 21-year-olds, this was a good year to go with a low-risk, longevity stock — and Porter is that player. He is hours from becoming the first prominent player taken by the Wizards from Georgetown since Jahidi White, and the first area star to sign with Washington since Juan Dixon.

If you don’t know Porter’s story, it’s worth summarizing again if only because of its uniqueness within the youth basketball community. Unlike nearly every young American kid who is deemed to have a game by 10 years old, Porter never attended a Nike or Adidas camp, never even played for an AAU summer league team.

Even though the summer-circuit prep showcases give youngsters a chance to be seen and scouted by college coaches and NBA people, most of those gatherings are essentially cattle calls for post-adolescent boys, who are judged on how well they separate themselves from their teammates and opponents — not how well they blend in and actually learn to be part of a team.

If teenagers don’t show well at one of the premier camps or summer runs, it could be the difference between a full-ride scholarship to Syracuse or a Pell grant to play in Poplar Bluff, Mo., where, yes, Otto Porter Sr. happened to star.

Otto Porter Jr. became that throwback player who broke his father’s records and whose favorite memory was the Missouri high school state championship game. He didn’t need Phil Knight or Sonny Vaccarro or Worldwide Wes to validate his talent. Porter’s first plane flight was when he came to Georgetown for his recruiting trip. Heck, he still calls his father his favorite player. One of his biggest deficiencies on the court is that he’s too unselfish.

Is he a 100 percent lock to be a Wizard? No. But of the 14 mock drafts our crack research team surveyed, 10 have Porter going to the Wizards — including the one by The Post’s Michael Lee. Only one has Porter going higher, No. 1 to the Cavaliers, who still don’t seem to know what they’re going to do.

I know how highly David Falk — who represents Porter, just as he has represented nearly every prominent Georgetown star since about 1980 — thinks of Kyrie Irving, the Cavs’ point guard. I also know Falk’s opinion of Wall isn’t quite as high. But don’t think for a moment that Falk would steer Porter away from the Wizards, especially given his good relationship with owner Ted Leonsis and Grunfeld.

John Thompson III said he believes Porter should be the No. 1 pick. This would be news if John Calipari didn’t think Nerlens Noel should go No. 1, Gonzaga’s Mark Few didn’t think Kelly Olynyk should go No. 1 and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski didn’t think Mason Plumlee should go No. 1. But JTIII does have some credence when he says that Porter reminds him more of Paul George than Kawhi Leonard. Porter himself sees a little Tayshaun Prince.

It’s so easy to lock into comparing a prospect’s game to a current player’s game. Porter does have Leonard’s reach and knack for anticipation around the rim at a young age. But I see more Gordon Hayward in his game on the offensive end, where Porter continually makes the right play. His decision-making is almost flawless for a player that young.

Now, he’s going to have to work on a quicker release on his shot, and the speed of the pro game is going to seem blindingly quick to him at first. But in time, he’s a 10-year solid pro, minimum, and an all-star small forward by his third year, maximum.

The Wizards’ goal in a very unpredictable, wait-and-see draft is to get the one true old-school player who has the least likelihood of letting them down in the long term. That’s Otto Porter Jr., whose home court in college is a day away from remaining the same in the NBA.

For previous columns by Mike Wise, visit washingtonpost.com/wise.

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