Being patient with Otto Porter

Without going to Wikipedia, can you name the highest pick remaining in this year’s NBA Playoffs?

Anthony Bennett and Victor Oladipo, the top two picks, are long eliminated. Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams was the 11th pick.

This past year’s Draft was not the strongest in the world. Not by a long shot. The best rookie that made it out of the first round might very well be the Nets’ Mason Plumlee. The highest pick in the NBA’s best eight is the third pick — Otto Porter.

You probably did not notice. Porter has played in only three games this Playoffs, including the end of the season-ending loss to the Pacers on Thursday night. He barely played all season for the Playoff bound Wizards, averaging only 2.1 points and 8.6 minutes per game in 37 appearances.

You would be excused if you forgot that. The Wizards, as they ascended into the NBA Playoff picture, had the ability to wait things out with their third overall pick. Then again, he never forced his way into the lineup or the rotation.

He was not hurt, he just could not crack the rotation. Imagine how good the Wizards would have been if their third overall pick in the Draft was able to contribute. Anything really.

On one Friday night in Orlando, they saw what he could become. One season where he was unable to crack the rotation is not going to discourage Porter or the Wizards at all.

“Otto has not played in a long time,” Bradley Beal said after Porter scored a season-high nine points in the Wizards’96-86 win. “For him to actually be ready and come in and make the impact he did is terrific for us. And coach left him out there. Whenever you are having success, whenever you are playing well and playing the right way, coach is going to leave you out there. He definitely deserved it. Hopefully he can continue to do that and continue to make shots.”

The Wizards’ players after that game talked a lot about the work Porter put in to be ready when his number was called. They saw his athleticism in practice and what made him the No. 3 pick. It never translated into consistency in his rookie year.

That third overall pick is in there somewhere. It is up to the Wizards to unlock it.

“First of all, he’s a bright guy, he’s a smart guy, he’s a humble guy and he works hard every day,” Marcin Gortat said. “Like I said, he’s lifting and doing extra work on the court. If guys are working his tail off, it’s obvious sooner or later he is going to get his opportunity and he is going to use it.”

Trevor Ariza and several Wizards players noted that Porter is a very smart player who is adept at reading plays and cutting without the basketball. That is a product of his Georgetown education and the Princeton Offense. They all said he is capable of playing when he gets his opportunity.

That opportunity might be coming sooner rather than later, now that the Wizards’ season is over.

The unproven Porter though might be leaving Washington in a tricky position. Trevor Ariza becomes a free agent this summer and John Wall’s hefty extension kicks in next season too. The Wizards will likely have to make some difficult decisions as they build their roster for the future (Marcin Gortat is also set to become a free agent).

Perhaps, Porter was in line to be the backup plan should Ariza be gone in free agency. The year waiting in the wings will have to be put to good use as he takes watching and turns it into playing if that is the case. In either case, the idea has to be for Porter to one day take that spot and play alongside John Wall and Bradley Beal, right?

He never really got that chance in his rookie season. He will have to continue improving his jumper and becoming an all-around player — doing a lot of the dirty work that Ariza did to become a quality starter in this league.

“This is how it is in this league,” Ariza said. “You just have to stay ready and wait for your opportunity. You have to stay focused which is not easy, but at the end of the day that is how you can recognize if the guy is smart or is a true professional player.”

The Wizards did much of that in their long-awaited return to the Playoffs and series win this year. Everyone believes Washington is a team that will continue to rise as Wall and Beal grow together. Porter will be a part of that puzzle too. It just might take some time.

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily