The Wizards be­lieve the break­out play­off run of Otto Porter Jr. could be a spring­board.

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY JORGE CASTILLO jorge.castillo@wash­post.com

When Otto Porter Jr. vis­ited Poland in July to help team­mate Marcin Gor­tat lead a few youth bas­ket­ball camps, the two Washington Wizards dab­bled in some ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties around the coun­try. They checked out some sub­marines. They flew he­li­copters. They rode boats and tanks. Well, Gor­tat rode the tanks. Porter watched.

“I wasn’t try­ing to get on no tanks,” Porter said.

Porter does not ex­pect to be a spec­ta­tor for the Wizards this sea­son as he was for the ma­jor­ity of his first two in the NBA be­fore he broke out in the play­offs last spring. Washington is bank­ing on him to re­sume where he left off; his break­out post­sea­son per­for­mance quelled con­cerns about his po­ten­tial. With Paul Pierce now in Los An­ge­les, Porter, 22, is slot­ted to re­place the fu­ture Hall of Famer in the start­ing lineup and po­ten­tially log min­utes at power for­ward in smaller con­fig­u­ra­tions.

“It’s a huge op­por­tu­nity for him,” Gor­tat said. “He had been wait­ing for the op­por­tu­nity. I think he’s ready. He’s hav­ing fun out there. He’s en­joy­ing his time. But the most im­por­tant thing, he’s not go­ing to be out there to prove that he be­longs in this league.”

A sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in play­ing time dur­ing the Wizards’ two-round play­off run al­lowed the lanky 6-foot-9 Porter, who was in and out of Coach Randy Wittman’s reg­u­lar sea­son ro­ta­tion, to show­case his skill set. The No. 3 over­all pick in the 2013 draft is a per­sis­tent cut­ter, sneaky re­bounder and dogged de­fender. He does not need the bas­ket­ball on of­fense to make an im­pact. In­stead, he de­fers to team­mates, spot­ting up for three-point­ers and fill­ing lanes to the bas­ket to field passes and re­trieve misses and as­sum­ing the dirty la­bor most play­ers avoid.

On the sur­face, Porter’s post­sea­son sta­tis­tics — 10 points and eight re­bounds in about 33 min­utes per game — do not awe, but they were gi­ant com­pared with his reg­u­lar sea­son num­bers and don’t prop­erly de­lin­eate Porter’s im­pact: The Wizards had six line­ups log at least 15 min­utes and tally a plus net rat­ing, and Porter was the only player in all of them.

A few months later, Porter’s peers have no­ticed a dif­fer­ence in the third-year pro through five prac­tices. He has been more ag­gres­sive in at­tack­ing the rim, tak­ing shots and crash­ing the glass.

“Otto’s re­ally good. Otto’s ter­rific,” Wizards guard Bradley Beal said when he asked what he learned about Porter in the play­offs. “He does all the lit­tle things, but at the same time he’s not afraid to make the big shot or make a big play in the game. And that’s what we needed from him.”

Though the fa­vorite, Porter’s start­ing role isn’t a lock. There will be some healthy com­pe­ti­tion from Martell Web­ster, Kelly Oubre Jr., Alan An­der­son and Jared Dud­ley, though An­der­son and Dud­ley are nurs­ing in­juries.

Porter ex­plained one of his per­sonal goals is to im­prove his three-point per­cent­age— he shot 34.5 per­cent from be­yond the arc be­tween the reg­u­lar sea­son and play­offs — so he fo­cused on cor­ner three-point­ers dur­ing the off­sea­son af­ter shoot­ing 25 for 61 (40.9 per­cent) from the corners last sea­son.

“He took another step last year in his im­prove­ment and de­vel­op­ment as a player, and now you want to see a third step,” Wittman said. “And that’s what you want to work with, the lit­tle things he’s got to add. He’s got to get a lit­tle bit stronger. Just his con­tin­ued growth, just like we talked about with Brad and John [ Wall] when they were younger com­ing in. That’s what good play­ers do.”

No­to­ri­ously skinny, Porter, at the be­hest of the or­ga­ni­za­tion, also worked to add strength. He said he weighed in Satur­day at about 208 or 209 pounds. He was listed at 198 pounds last sea­son.

“It’s core strength that mat­ters,” Porter as­serted. “If I go out there and knock Gor­tat around and he’s like, ‘Oh!’ then I know I’m get­ting stronger.”

Un­prompted, Gor­tat re­marked that it seemed like Porter has put on some weight since the two were ad­ven­tur­ing in his na­tive coun­try to­gether.

“Maybe like three or four pounds. But it’s clean mus­cle. It counts,” Gor­tat said. “I haven’t tried to grab the calves yet, but they look like they’re slightly big­ger.”

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