Five years ago, Otto Porter Jr. declared his work with the Washington Wizards was just beginning. The then 24-year-old had just signed a max four-year, $106 million contract, and the former No. 3 overall pick spoke openly about the expectations that came with it.
Porter was the third fiddle behind John Wall and Bradley Beal, but the Wizards paid him because of how well he meshed with the duo.
“He doesn’t need the ball,” Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said then. “We like his game the way it is.”
Porter has come a long way since then. For one, he’s no longer with the Wizards and no longer making max money. After his contract expired, the Georgetown product signed with the Golden State Warriors for just a one-year, $2.4 million deal — the league’s minimum for veterans. The dramatic pay decrease marked a reflection of how poorly stints with the Chicago Bulls and Orlando Magic went upon the Wizards trading him in February 2019.
But with Golden State, Porter has carved out an important role — on an NBA Finals team, no less.
In Sunday’s Game 2’s 107-88 win over Boston, the Warriors outscored the Celtics by 24 points when Porter was on the floor. That was tied for the team’s greatest disparity in plus-minus, despite the swingman playing only 15 minutes. In Golden State, Porter has rejuvenated his career by emerging as a key piece off the bench.
Porter has done so with the same skill set he displayed in the District. The 28-year-old has shot 40% from deep this postseason, and his length allows him to guard multiple positions — making him a true “3-and-D” wing. Porter’s rebounding and playmaking have provided value.
The main difference between now and then, however, is the Warriors, unlike the Wizards, haven’t needed Porter to be their third-best player. Golden State has relied on stars such as Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. With the Warriors, Porter can just be a role player.
And that’s what appears to suit him best.
“Every time he’s on the court, he makes a difference,” center Kevon Looney told reporters earlier in the playoffs. “He makes an impact on both sides of the court. He allows us to unlock a lot of different lineups with his size and his shooting.”
Porter understood going into the year that his season would be crucial for him. He told reporters that he “absolutely” had something to prove after the last few years of his career. Injuries, in particular, had taken a toll as Porter appeared in just 28 games last season and 14 the year before that. Porter’s health problems even extended to his time in Washington and became a source of frustration.
But surprisingly, Porter has mostly stayed healthy with the Warriors. He appeared in 63 of 82 regular-season games — his most since 2017-18. During the playoffs, Porter sustained knee and foot injuries that caused him to miss a few games, including the last two of Golden State’s conference final series against the Dallas Mavericks.
Porter, though, managed to heal enough to play in the finals. Though Golden State was blown out in Game 1, he went 4 of 5 from deep to finish with 12 points. In Game 2, Porter hit a crucial 3-pointer from the corner to halt a Boston run that had cut Golden State’s lead to six.
Porter’s basket kicked off a 19-2 run that put the game out of reach for Boston.
Funny enough, the make was also Porter’s lone shot attempt of the night. The Warriors didn’t need much more than that. Porter found other ways to contribute.
• Matthew Paras can be reached at email@example.com.
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