MILWAUKEE -- He's scoring more than Al Horford, grabbing more rebounds than Kevin Durant, shooting the 3-pointer better than Stephen Curry and he's swiping more steals than Avery Bradley.
That all makes Otto Porter Jr., the Washington Wizards' fifth-year forward, one of the most underrated and versatile players in the NBA. Fresh off of signing a four-year, $106M max contract, Porter is having the best season of his career, and proving to be worth every damn dollar. Through 17 games, he's averaging 15.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game, while shooting a ridiculous 47 percent from 3-point land.
Yet as smooth as this season has been, however, the offseason was as tumultuous for the lanky 6-8 forward. Despite meeting with the Wizards minutes after free agency officially began, he didn't sign with the team until nearly two weeks later -- and that was after signing an offer sheet from the Nets first. Plus, before the Pacers shipped Paul George to the Thunder, there were rumors that the Wizards and Pacers had interest in a potential sign-and-trade deal involving George and Porter.
"A lot of people said he shouldn't get paid for his contract," Wizards star John Wall said after Monday's 99-88 road victory vs. the Bucks. "And all you can do is play and try to prove people wrong. I think that's the same thing he's doing that me and Bradley Beal) did when we got paid. He's having a heck of a start to this season. He's one of our X factors that gets us going."
Wall is referring to the fact that he and Beal also were given max contracts (running five years, not four) before elevating themselves to the All-Star status that typically comes with that kind of payday. The Wizards have committed to their core -- all three were top-three draft picks by the team -- but not without skepticism. In the case of Porter's contract, that skepticism may not have been strictly from the outside.
Not knowing where you'll be playing in a few months is not a fun feeling, especially for a young player, but the hectic offseason and the trade rumors did not phase Porter. Nor, are they providing any added motivation. "I'm self motivated," Porter told CBS Sports after his 12-point, 11-rebound, four-assist, three-steal performance in Milwaukee. "I don't need anything to motivate me. It didn't bother me at all."
The Wizards are certainly glad for that, as Porter has continued his ascent. In every season of his career, he's increased his scoring, field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, rebounding and steals, and that trend is continuing through the first month of this season.
"He just gets better and better and better," Beal, the Wizards' leading scorer, said. "He adds something to his game that a lot of people doubt that he can do. He puts the ball on the floor this year, and a lot of people didn't think he was capable of doing that. He's attacking, he's getting his own shots. Those are all things that people quote-unquote had question marks about. But we had faith in him that he was capable of doing that, and now he's given that opportunity to, especially in our offense. We love to move the ball, share the ball, and he's a valuable piece of it. Especially on both ends of the floor because he has to guard the best player on the other team too. It's a pressure situation for him in a sense, but he embraces it."
If it wasn't true last season when Porter had a breakout season and finished fourth in the voting for Most Improved Player, it's certainly true now: Porter is one of the league's best young wings.
The most-talked about part of Porter's offensive game is his 3-point shooting. After shooting 19 percent, 33 percent, and 36 percent in his first three seasons in the league, Porter has become one of the NBA's most accurate sharpshooters. At 47 percent from downtown, he's the most efficient outside shooter on the Wizards -- including Beal! -- and is 10th in the entire league.
His leap to becoming an excellent 3-point shooter has even surprised many people across the league, including his coach, Scott Brooks.
"Like I said last year many, many times, I didn't know he was a great shooter," Brooks said before the Wizards took on the Bucks. "I thought he was a slasher, offensive rebounder-type of scorer, but he can flat out shoot the ball. It's all over the 3-point line, it's not just in the corners."
With John Wall and Bradley Beal drawing so much attention from opposing defenses, Porter is often left all alone on the perimeter, and is left with open shots time and again.
And as Brooks said, he's not just a guy who runs to the corner now and waits to get a pass.
Last season, 40 percent of the 3s that Porter took were from the corner, while this season, that has dropped to 22 percent. Being able to knock down triples from all over the arc was something Porter spent extra time on this summer, and it's paying off.
"Yeah, yeah, I put in a lot of work, extending my range out. I want to extend it out farther and farther -- I'm trying to get to my Steph Curry range," Porter said, jokingly. "But it's just consistency with my jump shot, making sure my mechanics stay the same. I changed something this year, was I got a little more lift off from the 3-point line. But I've definitely been practicing my 3-point shot all summer."
But as Beal touched on, Porter has also been better at creating his own shot this season. A big reason for his overall increased efficiency on the offensive end is his work in the short mid-range, where he's been Ottomatic (nailed it).
Last season, Porter took about 13 percent of his shots from between five and 14 feet and only made 45 percent of them. This season, however, Porter has increased both his usage and efficiency from that distance. About 20 percent of Porter's looks this campaign have come from five to 14 feet, and he's knocking down more than 57 percent of them.
He's getting better at taking advantage of mismatches in the post, where he's got a funky, off-balance game. He does, however, still fade away on many of these looks, so he could be in for some regression. But with his size and length, they are usually pretty clean looks over the top of the defense.
With Porter not only improving his 3-point shooting, but turning into a more complete offensive player, he's becoming a bigger and bigger problem for opponents. Bucks assistant coach Joe Prunty's eyes lit up when Porter's name was brought up before the game. "He's playing at a very high level right now," Prunty said.
Stopper as well as scorer
Porter's biggest contributions often come on the defensive end, where he is arguably the Wizards' most important player.
He has a defensive rating of 99, which is the best on the Wizards and puts him 35th in the league among players who play at least 15 minutes per night. He's ranked 27th in defensive real plus-minus at 1.69 (fourth among perimeter players), 11th with 1.8 steals per game and ninth in the league with 2.9 deflections per game. Though he mostly checks the other team's best wing player, Porter is capable of switching onto anyone from point guards to power forwards.
This is Porter's job: preparing to guard the other team's best offensive player on a nightly basis while also trying to improve his offensive game each season. "It's just stepping up to that challenge," Porter said. "You know, competing at a high level. Making sure I don't get in foul trouble, and just play straight up."
When watching Porter play defense, the most noticeable aspect is how he's constantly disrupting opponents with his length. Often it seems as though opponents don't realize quite how long his 7-1 wingspan actually is. Take this pass by Durant, for example. It's a bit lazy, yes, but he makes what he thinks is a routine pass, and then all of a sudden Porter's arm just shoots out into the passing lane, and we're going the other way:
That, though, is just one example of a multitude of times this season when Porter has used his length to his advantage to jump into passing lanes or poke the ball away from unsuspecting defenders.
Steals, of course, aren't the end-all, be-all of defense, and when you dive into specific play-type stats on Synergy, he does have some not-so-great numbers in terms of one-on-one defense. In particular, he ranks "poor," in isolation, where he's giving up 1.8 points per possession.
Watch the video, though, and a large chunk of those isolation plays were him getting cooked by Durant and LeBron James, which, can you blame him? There should probably be some sort of asterisk or just like a whole entire other category for you numbers against those two. Really, what are you supposed to do against this?
When watching even those clips, Porter's defensive ability shines through. Plus, along with Porter ranking well in stats like deflections and DRPM, the Wizards' are a much better defensive team with Porter on the floor. With him on the court, their defensive rating is 99 points allowed per 100 possessions, but when he sits, that number skyrockets to 108.9.
That's all the reality of playing arguably the league's most important position at the highest level. Porter's competition is no longer the bust-filled 2013 NBA Draft Class that he emerged from, it's Durant and James. He's a max player now, forced to prove his value on a nightly basis.
"At the end of the day, he knows that his hard work has paid off," Beal said. "He's one of the best 3s in the league right now."