RICHMOND, Va. — The small forward position has been a rotating door for the Washington Wizards for some time now. Over the past three seasons, there have been three different starters including Trevor Ariza, Paul Pierce, and Otto Porter.
The Wizards traded Ariza in the three-team deal back in 2014 to the Houston Rockets. Last summer, Pierce decided to sign with his hometown team in the Los Angeles Clippers for the finals years of his career. That left Porter as the lone small forward with expectations that he would eventually develop the wing player this team needed for the long term.
Porter had a career-year averaging 11.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game. Still, new head coach Scott Brooks made it clear to the media yesterday that the starting role is all but set in stone.
“I think minutes are definitely going to be earned. Otto has had a solid start to his career and still has a lot of growth for improvement. They both (Porter and Oubre) can be elite defenders in this league. I like what Kelly had done this summer. The position is up for grabs.”
Porter had spurts last season in which he proved that he can be the right complimentary piece next to John Wall and Bradley Beal. His job is simple. Play solid defense, knock down open three’s created off Wall’s penetration, and run the floor in transition. He did those three things, but not consistently enough.
In catch-and-shoot situations, Porter connected on 38.2 percent of his triples. Furthermore, he made 38.7 of his three’s when he was wide open (his match-up was 6+ feet away). Ideally, that percentage in those situations would be in the mid-to-high 40s.
Brooks’ system will include a lot of pick-and-roll actions between Wall and a big man. With Porter viewed as the weakest link of the starting five, he will help the most when he is roaming around the three-point arc. He needs to become more of a three-point threat early on in training camp and preseason to prove that he is the guy for the starting job.
Make no mistake, Porter is well aware of the chatter and the realistic fact that he will be competing for the job he held all of last season.
“For the last four years, I’ve been having to work for minutes. So it’s nothing new to me. But at the same time, that’s what I want. I want the challenge.”
Oubre heads into the position battle with playing time from last season not on his side. Oubre totaled just 671 minutes compared to Porter’s 2,276. So why is he even being considered to push for the starting position?
Oubre has all of the tools to be an effective wing player in the NBA. He has the athleticism, length, and quickness to not only benefit him on the offensive end of the floor but also to become a menacing defender. The 20-year-old still had a lot of improvements to make in his game dating back from mid-way through last season. He got his chance to get significant playing time in the first couple of months when key rotation players were nursing injuries.
Oubre had some great moments that displayed an untapped potential that would blossom with age and experience. Unfortunately, once the players returned from their respective injuries, his seat on the bench kept sliding further down towards the end.
He spoke on what he learned most from rookie season.
“Work ethic. Work ethic is most important. I really learned how to work hard last year. I wasn’t playing a lot, but I was in the gym working my butt off. I learned how to get better.”
This summer, the story wasn’t any different. Oubre jetted off to California to spend time working out constantly with trainer Drew Hanlen becoming more of a threat with the ball.
Oubre plans to translate that hard work into training camp as he makes his argument for the starting role.
“I mean I’m here. We both play for the same team. They have five players in the lineup, not six. So I’m here ready for training camp trying to get some minutes and definitely be the best I can be to help this team.”
Training camp gets underway for the Wizards today. Throughout the next couple of weeks, it’ll allow fans to get a much better grasp of what this team will look like come opening night. The biggest question mark is the starting small forward position, but there is no question that the battle between Porter and Oubre will be one to watch.