To start off this classic off-season series, we'll take a close look at one of my personal favorites, Otto Porter Jr. Without a doubt, many Pelican fans are eyeing him in the upcoming 2013 draft. Whether they're huge proponents of his excellent statistics at Georgetown, his solid NBA projections or simply believe the team's shooting forward slot needs the most attention, Porter lies at or close to the top of most wishlists.
Hailing from an area just north of Sikeston, Missouri, Otto Porter honed his game at Scott County Central High School, amid the farmlands of the Midwest. Despite leading the school to three consecutive state titles, Porter didn't start gathering national acclaim until his senior year. For instance, that season, Scout.com had him unranked in preseason, 49th midseason and 28th season end. In January 2011, an ESPN article coined him as "the best player no one knows".
Porter was the classic case of what happens when a gifted player decides to forgo playing basketball on the highly visible AAU summer circuit. Thankfully, college recruiters are much keener than the average media; thus, he was still courted by all the elite universities: Connecticut, Kansas, Texas and, his eventual choice, Georgetown.
Porter had a fine freshman season for the Hoyas, but it was his recently completed sophomore season that has pushed his name towards the top of the upcoming lottery. He was unanimously voted Big East Player of the Year, tied with Trey Burke as the leading vote-getter for the Associated Press All-America squad and awarded a 2013 Naismith Player of the Year finalist.
As a freshman, averaging 29.7 minutes a game, Otto Porter put together a nice season with a PER of 21.3. It was buoyed by most statistics outside of points per game: 9.7 PPG, 6.8 REB, 1.5 AST, 1.1 STL, 0.8 BLK, 1.2 TOV with a TS% of 57.8.
As a sophomore, averaging 35.4 minutes a game, Porter upped his PER to 27.3 largely due to his increased scoring and efficiency from all over the court: 16.2 PPG, 7.5 REB, 2.7 AST, 1.8 STL, 0.9 BLK, 1.5 TOV with a TS% of 59.0.
The most notable improvements Porter made after his collegiate rookie season: handled an increase in usage, from 17.4% to 24.1%, without increasing his turnover percentage, 12.0% to 10.0%; improved his FT% from 70.2% to 77.7% (while doubling his FTA); and, vastly improved his proficiency from behind the arc, 22.6% to 42.2%.
Instead of salivating over his 7'1'' reach or his handles for a 6'8'' player (another former point guard!), let's see what some notable individuals have said about Otto Porter.
"I’ve defined it all year — probably without saying it — in that he is a selfless player, in that all of his actions, all of his thoughts are on how can he help our team win," Hoyas Coach John Thompson III said. "And because he’s so talented, with such God-given ability, because he is the worker that he is, because he is as coachable as he is, he has been able to succeed on many different fronts. Not just scoring. I don’t want to say he’s a complete basketball player — he’s not finished — but he excels at many different aspects of the game, many of which show up in the stat sheet, many of which don’t."
Jason Reid, a columnist for the Washington Post endorsed Porter like few other college athletes in the midst of their freshman years:
He appreciates aspects of the game rarely celebrated in television highlight packages. Fundamentals are actually important to him. Porter would rather communicate well with his teammates on defense in victories than produce meaningless statistics in losses. In a look-at-me basketball generation, Porter is a team first guy.
Bubba, a nickname first used by his grandma that stuck, appears to be an absolutely perfect fit on a Monty Williams-led team. As the best shooting forward option in the 2013 NBA draft, Otto Porter could fit what many consider the Pelicans most glaring hole. This would especially ring true were Al-Farouq Aminu to sign an off-season contract with another team.
Listening to many experts and reading plenty of mock drafts, Otto Porter appears highly probable of being selected prior to our pick, namely by the Cleveland Cavaliers. While many correctly cite positional need, I tend to disagree that this would be the deciding factor. Like the Hornets this past season, the Cavaliers are a deeply flawed team and need plenty of help elsewhere. They have been looking to trade the oft-injured Anderson Varejao for several seasons, and behind him, sit an underwhelming Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller.
If Ben McLemore and Nerlens Noel get picked 1-2 as anticipated, could Cleveland pass on Cody Zeller? Pairing up the Zeller brothers would work on several fronts, both from a marketing perspective and a personal emotional level. More importantly, Cody is currently wowing onlookers at the NBA draft combine. Lastly, it has been reported that the Cavaliers haven't even reached out to Porter yet. It's hard to believe he isn't on their radar, but not making Porter a priority, doesn't bode well in having him don one of their uniforms next season.
Considering Trey Burke's questionable size or Victor Oladipo's scoring issues, Otto Porter seems like the safest high ceiling pick the Pelicans can make with their first round selection. And his availability odds might be higher than you think.