“People say it’s a fluke but that’s my game,” Porter said, grinning widely as he walked off the floor at Siegel Center for the final time Saturday afternoon.
So, in the heated contest of mid-court bank shots, Porter comes out on top. Now, he has the rest of the month to rise again as the Wizards’ No. 1 option at the small forward spot.
Before the start of camp, Coach Scott Brooks advertised the position — between Porter and second-year player Kelly Oubre Jr. — as highly contested.
Last season, Porter, the No. 3 overall draft pick in 2013, started 73 games even as Oubre, another first-round pick with a similar build, had joined the team. On Saturday Porter admitted that he found it to be a bit curious when Brooks proclaimed there would be “healthy competition” at the wing — “of course, but at the same time I like it,” he said.
“I like the competition.”
Throughout the camp, Porter and Oubre played stretches of scrimmages against each other. However, five days and seven practices into the Wizards’ preseason, Brooks would not drop a clue about his plans and if “healthy competition” truly meant that the starting job was up for grabs. Also, Brooks would not say if either Oubre or Porter had emerged ahead of the other.
“I’m not looking at it that way. I still look at the entire month, there’s going to be a healthy competition,” Brooks said. “Both players do things very well, both players need to continue to improve on certain areas where we need them to improve on.”
The two players may have similar physical attributes — long and lanky frames — but their games vary in personality.
“They’re two different kinds of players,” teammate John Wall said. “Otto brings a smooth, laid-back type of game – can shoot the ball, cutting to the basket and use his length defensively. Kelly brings a lot of energy [and is an] athletic guy. Still working on his shots but can attack the basket and get to the free throw line.”
Last season, Porter attempted only 20 shots in plays described as cutting to the basket, according to statistics provided by NBA.com, but he improved as a shooter. Porter hit 72 percent of his pull-up jumpers and made 36.7 percent from beyond the three-point line, the best rate of his brief career. That gives Porter a discernible attribute to bring to the starting five. The 20-year-old Oubre, meantime, has been consistently praised for his lust for defense and ceaseless streams of energy but still has to develop his strengths — as any young player would.
“We just wanted him to play [last year] but he has to be under control a lot more,” Wall said of Oubre. “He has all the tools to be a great player in this league and a great defender – one of the best defenders in this league.
“He just has to be able to tone it down and know when to play under control,” Wall continued, “and I think that’s what a lot of young players [have to] do coming out of college after one year.”
Also, the more experienced Porter offers more continuity for the Wizards. According to Porter, when the roster broke into three teams during camp, he practiced mostly alongside the starters.
“With the guys we have coming back, we’re all linked to each other,” said Porter, referring to defense. “We trust each other. That allows us to get into the passing lane, that allows me, John and Brad [Beal] to get out and put pressure on the ball.”
Besides teaming up with the regular starters, Porter also spent the week finding a new role as he spent time matched up against Wall, Beal and even Markieff Morris.
“I was all over the place,” Porter said. “I wasn’t just always on the wing, I had to play some four,” the power forward position.
After revealing his diversified skill set, Porter crowed about his half-court-shot-making ability. Porter said he hit another during Saturday’s closed practice, kissing it off the glass just like his winner on Friday night. Though Wall played the good-natured cynic — “I [didn’t] see it. I must’ve been asleep.” — Porter gleefully celebrated his win in this competition.
“I even bent down to look at it as it went in,” Porter said. “I called it even before I shot.”