The Missouri native will be the key to Georgetown's success.
Our award-winning player profiles series continues with a look at sophomore sensation Otto Porter, Georgetown's best player and projected lottery pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.
Normal Stats: 29.7 MPG; 9.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.1 SPG, .8 BPG 52.5% FG, 22.6% 3FG,
Hoya Prospectus Wizardry: 17.2 %Poss; 117.7 ORtg 88.8 DRtg
A Look Back:
The Otto Porter story is seared into the brain of every Hoyas fan by now: "Bubba" never played AAU ball, never boarded a plane until his Georgetown recruitment, and instead crafted his skills at home while learning to whittle wood from a cassette tape. Though not that quite dramatic, all of the cards fell into place for JT3 and then assistant Coach Kirby during Porter's recruitment, as Georgetown was able to beat out schools like Kansas and Missouri for Porter. Kirby was a distant teammate of Otto's father (and if you haven't read it already, make sure to catch the best thing ever produced by Bleacher Report how Otto is the culmination of two dominant basketball families in this one small town in Missouri). Bottom line: Otto Porter is a winner – he has been his whole career and both the focus and quiet intensity he brought to the Hoyas last season were a godsend for a team with a fragile psyche coming off of years of multiple early NCAA Tournament exits.
Despite a string of solid performances and outstanding efficiency in early season action and the Maui Invitational, Otto's coming out party wasn't until just days before the new year as the Hoyas upset Louisville on the road. Otto finished that game with a 14 point-14 rebound double-double in a narrow three point victory and showed his now commonplace grit under the boards and craftiness on both ends of the floor.
Otto finished last season on an absolute tear, but his crowning performance was against the Orange menace. Born to break the 2-3 zone, Porter's long arms, high IQ, and most importantly, deadly mid-range shot infuriated Syracuse as they struggled to stay in front of a freshman-led, unheralded Georgetown squad. Though the Hoyas came up just short due to some home-cooking by the scorer's table guy who refused to sound the horn to allow Hollis Thompson in the game with the Hoyas down by 3 in the waning moments, Otto's 14 points, 13 boards planted more than a few seeds of anxiety in the Orange faithful for this year.
Porter was always, always, on the floor in the end of the game and played starters minutes throughout, but he wasn't officially a starter until a late-season Markel Starks benching after a disastrous blowout at Seton Hall. From there, his profile only went up – a double-double threat throughout the season emerged as a potential dominant player in the final month of the season, joining forces with Henry Sims to carry the team during the Big East tournament and closing out the final five games averaging over 15 points per game. Despite that streak, the season ended on a sour note against NC State, as Otto couldn't provide a spark in the final game and missed what would have been the tying baseline jumper in the final seconds. In that game, Porter was efficient but didn't put up big numbers (9 points and 8 rebounds) - something the Hoyas will not be able to afford in 2012-13.
Looking at the expectations heading into this season, I would argue that Otto fulfilled the upper bound of expectations in this feature a year ago: "By time the calendar flips to 2012, there will be no question that Otto Porter is the best overall player on the Hoyas."
Outlook for 2012-13:
The Otto Porter bandwagon is at full capacity. He's the team leader and JT3 has repeatedly called him one of the best players in the county. He was recently rated the #1 NBA Draft prospect in the Big East (watching this video is far, far more informative than this post – for the cynical start at the 5:40 mark, for the delusional, end at the 5:40 mark), he's a projected Lottery Pick, and the assumption that he's done after this season is unquestioned (JT3's recruiting strategy seems to only bolster this assumption).
The one attribute of Porter's that screams NBA is his wingspan. At 7'1", his wingspan was the longest among small forward prospects at a camp over summer and it's the key to all the things that Otto does uncannily well: rebounding, steals/help D, mid-range jumpers, movement without the ball and finishing under the basket. Even his dunk are never emphatic – but he always seems so precise, his arm a body length in front of defender on a backdoor cut, closing the cap on a pass a half-second quicker than the defender expected, or most notably, no matter where he started when the ball hit the rim, his fingertips always ended up above and in front of everyone else's – even those opponents with better athleticism. Last year, Porter always seemed to elevate the play of his teammates on the court with him – he made the press break that much easier, he could break into the middle of a zone and provide great spacing and awareness on D.
But that won't be enough this year.
Porter's two biggest weaknesses are on each side of the ball: 1) an inability to consistently create his own offense and 2) he's too easily beaten off the dribble. Both of these will be challenged this year. His 16% and 13% usage rates in the NCAA tournament and his 17% overall will be not be enough for a team that lost Henry Sims, Jason Clark and Hollis Thompson. Last year, Otto helped orchestrate the tempo of the offense, but now he'll be given the green light to create on his own – and the offense may stutter if he can't rise to the task. Breaking down opponents off the dribble was clearly a focus of Otto's at Kenner League, but in the sample size I witnessed from Kenner action, he lacked great success. It's a very legitimate and still open question whether he can grow from a game-changing super role player into the #1 offensive option on a contender.
On defense, Otto Porter was a key component of a suffocating zone that was one of the best defenses in the county, but he struggled to contain wings on the perimeter in 1-on-1 situations. And this year he will no longer have Henry Sims as a safety valve underneath the basket. With Nate Lubick or Mikael Hopkins most likely waiting over his shoulder, will the Hoyas defense crumble slightly from within?
Best Case Scenario:
Porter becomes a First Team All-American and draws comparisons to being the next Paul Pierce. Barring the unthinkable, Otto Porter seems to be a lock to be remembered as one of the better players in the JT3 era – and the ability to launch himself into the upper echelon of Hoyas lore is not out of the question. This is Otto's team, and if Georgetown becomes a Top 15 team and makes waves in March, any postseason success will be linked directly to his name. The key to such success might be his three point shot – it'll likely fall somewhere between 22% (last year's %) and 45% (the percentage Otto shot on deep 2's). The closer he gets to the latter, the better life will be for the Hoyas. Markel Starks gave Otto high praise in the offseason saying that he added some Paul Pierce to his game, and he'll need to improve behind the arc and have a quicker trigger on the pull-up two's. If he does, the floor should open up for the Hoyas and he'll be a very, very dangerous triple threat.
Worst Case Scenario:
Porter continues to do all the little things well, averages double-doubles, jams defenses, and earns a spot on the second All Big-East team. But even though he impresses statistically, he struggles to ignite a stalling Georgetown offense or anchor a leaky interior defense. If DSR isn't ready to be a big-time scorer, Markel doesn't make a jump, no center pans out, and Greg Whittington regresses, the Hoyas lack explosiveness and can't put away bottom feeders in the Big East. As a result Georgetown struggles throughout the season and becomes a middling Big East team, and frustrated Hoyas fans wonder once again what could have been next season if Otto Porter had stayed one more year as he walks across the stage to shake David Stern's hand at the NBA Draft.