For Georgetown fans, the proceedings of tonight's 2013 NBA Draft center on the latest Hoya star with professional aspirations, Otto Porter. While the past two seasons have seen a series of Hoyas--Chris Wright, Austin Freeman, Henry Sims, Hollis Thompson, Jason Clark--go undrafted, this year more resembles 2010, when Greg Monroe was the two-year Georgetown player guaranteed to be chosen in the lottery. Like Monroe, Porter is seen as a skilled player and good teammate whose athletic limitations may hinder his long-term ceiling. Questions about Monroe's upside eventually led to franchises searching for big men to draft Derrick Favors, DeMarcus Cousins, and even Ekpe Udoh (!!) before the Hoya big man. (Recently, ESPN draft guru Chad Ford opined that a 2010 re-draft would result in Monroe going third overall, and first among bigs.)
So how does Otto stack up against the field? What are his NBA-ready skills? Which teams need him, and are likely to take him? Will so-so athletic numbers make him slide like Monroe? Let's get to it.
Backstory. Porter's rise has been meteoric. Just two and a half years ago, Otto was tabbed (in somewhat of a back-handed compliment) the "best player no one knows about." He was the scion of a basketball family in small-town Southeast Missouri, a place so remote that highlight reels were still soundtracked by metal, a place so far off the beaten path that Porter remained untainted by the evils of AAU ball. Nearly everything about Porter's story--the dirt court at his grandmother's house; his nickname, "Bubba;" his first airplane trip, to visit Georgetown--seemed straight out of a Jimmy Chitwood-like myth.
Porter's game was as good, and ultimately better, than advertised. As a freshman, he immediately became a utility man extraordinaire on a team built around a veteran trio. Solid in almost every aspect of the game, Porter was the perfect compliment to his elder teammates, proving a particularly adept rebounder and defender. With that trio's departure, Porter stepped into his own this season, becoming the team's leading scorer and a rangy dual threat, in some ways interchangeable with his classmate and fellow wing Greg Whittington.
Porter's ascent from intriguing unknown to budding star was remarkable, but it may have been gradual compared to the trajectory of the past few months. With Whittington sidelined for academic reasons, the Hoyas were short-handed, offensively anemic, and thin on the wing. Porter filled all of those holes, somehow contributing more while doing so more efficiently. Otto turned in one sterling performance after another during an 11-game Georgetown winning streak that resulted in the Hoyas being crowned Big East regular season champions. That streak included typically Porterian clinics on maximizing opportunity (19 points on 10 shots in a must-win game at Notre Dame to begin the streak; 20 on 9 in a trouncing of Seton Hall). He also put on a two-way show of excellence, dominating the defensive end and the boards while scoring in the clutch in two wins over the hapless (and, as later revealed, ball-dodging) Rutgers.
Otto's masterpiece was reserved for Georgetown's arch-rival, Syracuse. In the Hoyas' last visit to the Carrier Dome, Porter poured in 33 of Georgetown's 57 points in a thrilling, record-crowd-silencing win for the visiting Hoyas. With that unforgettable performance, Porter wrote his name in the book of an already historic rivalry. Suddenly, Otto was no longer the small-town wonder, or the selfless and seamless contributor, but the limitless star. An impeccable defender, surprisingly effective rebounder, and rapidly improving shooter, Otto proved that he also could bear the weight of an entire team on his narrow frame. Four nights after his signature game at Syracuse, Otto's last-second, game-winning lay-in at Connecticut further cemented his national reputation. At season's end, Porter racked up a series of deserved accolades: Big East Player of the Year, All-American, and surefire lottery pick. The last made his departure from the Hilltop a near certainty, and Otto announced his professional intentions in mid-April.
Pre-Draft. Fewer and fewer putative high draft picks prepare for the draft by actually playing against one another, instead submitting to measurements (physical and athletic), interviews, and the occasional team-specific individual workouts. It's a system designed to minimize the risk for soon-to-be multimillionaires, but also one that may not have benefited the most recent Georgetown lottery aspirants. Those Hoya greats (Jeff Green; Roy Hibbert, who was taken just outside the lottery; Monroe; and now Porter) likely had no issue acing an interview, but the narrow analysis of the tape measure, stopwatch, and shot chart may not have captured the diverse, well-rounded skill-set Georgetown's offense requires and fosters. For Porter in particular, the looming question-mark was his middling athleticism, one of the particulars, for better of worse, that are still measured in the run-up to the draft.
Against that back-drop, Porter fared reasonably well at the NBA Draft combine in Chicago. He measured big, at 6'7.5" in socks and 6' 8.5" in shoes, with a "very big" 7'1.5" wing span. These measurements were all the more favorable when compared with the shorter Shabazz Muhammad, his nearest competition for the first small forward to be selected. With his modest but self-assured demeanor, Otto also predictably was a great interview. In the athletic testing, Porter did better than expected, given scouts' fears, notching a 36" maximum vertical leap--a respectable number--and posting good-enough other athletic numbers.
Nevertheless, Porter's draft stock may have taken a slight dip at the combine. He is a candidate for one of the very top picks, rarefied air even in a weak draft like this year's. Two other players sure to be taken in the upper half of the lottery are Victor Oladipo and Ben McLemore, both of whom jumped out of the gym in Chicago, perhaps literally and figuratively putting them just above Porter.
Scouting Report. At this stage, we all know Porter's game so well that a scouting report almost seems superfluous for Georgetown fans, particularly after the excellent, detailed analyses by various NBA-centric blogs. Porter's most valuable attributes at the NBA level are his terrific feel for the game, which enables him to be a valuable play-maker, either as a role player or in a featured capacity, and his league-worthy size, which should make him a versatile defender and potentially create mismatches on offense that he can exploit. His jumper, somewhat of a shortcoming in his freshman year, now appears to be an asset that should allow him to contribute in a league in which rangy wings who can bomb from behind the arc are a valuable, and increasingly precious, commodity. Porter's shortcomings--his limited ability to create off the dribble, his lack of explosiveness--may prevent him from ever rising to the NBA's true elite. Still, in a draft full of question marks, Porter is one of the few sure things.
Where he might go, and how he can contribute. Here's a rundown of where Porter might go, and how he'd contribute on his new team, in draft order.
- Cleveland Cavaliers. Before the NBA Draft Lottery, Porter seemed a perfect fit for the Cavaliers, who have used top-four picks in the last two years on a point guard (Kyrie Irving), a shooting guard (Dion Waiters), and a power forward (Tristan Thompson), and a fourth first-round pick on a center (Tyler Zeller). But when Cleveland won the lottery, experts predicted the Cavaliers would take Nerlens Noel instead, as Noel allegedly will be the best talent available. The Cavaliers also might trade their first pick, adding further mystery to who's going number one. At this point Porter would seem to be a dark-horse to go first, though he reportedly still is under consideration. Nevertheless, Georgetown agent extraordinaire David Falk reportedly scheduled Porter for workouts with only Cleveland and the next two teams on this list, suggesting that he has some degree of confidence that his client will be picked very early. Were he to go to Cleveland, Otto would fit well next to two ball-dominating guards, Irving and Waiters, thanks to Porter's ability to be productive with relatively few touches. He also would provide a valuable defensive presence on a team whose guards are clueless defenders.
- Orlando Magic. Porter interviewed with the Magic at the combine, and will work out for them as well. Having acquired two young small forwards--Tobias Harris and Maurice Harkless--in trades within the last year, Orlando seems like an unlikely destination for Porter. Then again, none of the current Magic are exactly franchise cornerstones, and early rumblings are that Orlando may be active in the trade market this year. With no sure things on the current Magic roster, it's very difficult to project how Otto might fight in if picked second, but suffice it to say that joining the roster of the team that finished at the very bottom of the league last year would allow him immediate playing time.
- Washington Wizards. The overwhelming consensus seems to be that the hometown Wizards will select Porter with the third pick. The latest versions of these eight mock drafts all have Porter staying in D.C.: ESPN.com; nba.com; si.com; draftexpress.com; cbssports.com; SBNation.com; nbadraft.net; and sheridanhoops.com. The one warning flag comes from ESPN's Chad Ford, who notes that some members of Washington's front office are enamored of power forward Anthony Bennett, a UNLV product who is far less polished than Porter but may have more tantalizing potential. Regardless, the Wizards could use a forward, despite having used four first-round picks in recent years on forwards who haven't exactly panned out. In Washington, Porter would flank a promising young back-court of John Wall and Bradley Beal, and, as in Cleveland, could evolve as an effective finisher on the wing and near the basket and a valuable defender.
- Charlotte Bobcats. If a team with no fans changes its nickname, does it make a sound? Whatever its moniker, MJ's squad took small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the second pick last season, and so probably isn't taking Porter this year. If Otto does go to Charlotte, he'd probably let MJ beat him in a maniacal game of H-O-R-S-E, just because he's such a gentleman.
- Phoenix Suns. The Suns have a new front office and a new coach. Will they look for a new small forward to replace a flake (Michael Beasley) and a bust (Wesley Johnson)? While Otto might seem like a good fit in Phoenix, Porter isn't among the players working out in Phoenix. As with Orlando, it's difficult to say exactly who will be in Phoenix in the coming years, making Otto's fit a tough call, but playing time would be available.
- New Orleans Pelicans. If Porter slides this far, it's hard to see him sliding further: New Orleans needs a small forward. With Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, and Robin Lopez, the Pelicans seem set up front. While their back-court is full of question marks (Will Eric Gordon ever be healthy, or happy? Is Austin Rivers a viable NBA player? Is Greivis Vasquez really a starting point guard?), the big hole is at the three. Al-Farouq Aminu has not turned promise into production, and may leave in free agency, and the depth chart gets worse after that. Porter would fit in well, and could join Davis as the foundation of the Pelicans' future.
- Sacramento Kings. This team is a mess, a combination of misfits and mismatched parts that somehow has a brand new coach but not a general manager. Let's not even entertain the possibility of Porter ending up here, even though it's possible that, if he's somehow available at 7, he'll have a locker next to Boogie Cousins next year. Just hold your breath as we pass by this graveyard of once-promising talent.
- Detroit Pistons. This would seem to be the stopping point for Porter. If somehow Cleveland, Washington, New Orleans, and the other teams above think Porter can't jump over a credit card, Detroit will take Porter, as it did Monroe in similar circumstances. The Pistons lack a wing of any caliber, particularly after trading stalwart small forward Tayshaun Prince mid-season. Without Prince, they resorted to weekend-at-Bernie's-like games, pretending that Kyle Singler gets paid to play basketball, or that Corey Maggette is still alive. Porter has compared himself to Prince, which seems modest until you remember that you couldn't always hear Tayshaun's bones creak. Otto would be his natural successor in the Motor City, and might be called upon to score more often there, as a somewhat promising young core (Monroe, Andre Drummond, Brandon Knight) could use additional offensive punch.