Washington Wizards Must Properly Utilize NBA D-League for Otto Porter

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Washington Wizards Must Properly Utilize NBA D-League for Otto Porter
Ron Hoskins/Getty Images
No. 3 overall pick Otto Porter Jr. has struggled in his rookie year, averaging just over two points. Porter could benefit from getting his confidence back in the NBA Development League.

Washington Wizards fans have a lot to talk about this season. John Wall is well on his way to becoming an All-Star, Bradley Beal looks like one of the top young shooting guards in the NBA and the Marcin Gortat trade seems to be working out nicely. 

But amid all of these positive storylines is Otto Porter Jr. The third overall pick of the 2013 NBA draft, Porter was supposed to be Washington's sixth man off the bench, but instead he's been buried in the lineup. 

Porter's stat line looks like someone who was drafted in the late second round, not someone who was a highly touted prospect out of Georgetown. 

The solution to Porter's problems, though, is not for head coach Randy Wittman to just bench Porter, or continue to put him in the lineup and wait for him to shoot himself out of this slump. It's for the Wizards to send Porter down to the NBA Development League to get his feet under him, eventually getting him to the level at which the Wizards drafted him to play. 

 

What's been wrong so far?

For Porter, pretty much everything has gone wrong this season. Go to YouTube and search "Otto Porter Jr. Wizards highlights." There are none. He hasn't done anything of note this season, and most recently has been relegated to playing single-digit minutes with Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza playing so well at small forward. 

Graph made via ChartGo, all stats from NBA.com

But to be fair, the Wizards don't really know what Porter looks like as an NBA player. 

In just over 10 minutes per game in 16 games this season, Porter is averaging 2.1 points per game on 33.3 percent shooting. He's made just 15 field goals all season. 

Porter essentially didn't have a training camp after he left the summer league early with an injury. Since then, it's been tough for him to get decent playing time.

Even in the summer league, he just barely broke the 30 percent shooting mark.

The 20-year-old has just looked flat on the floor. Watching him, it's impossible to tell even one thing that he is good at and for which it would be worth the Wizards putting him in the lineup. 

He only has 27 total rebounds and eight assists on the year, and for Washington's last three games he's played a combined 11 minutes. 

Playing such few minutes isn't going to help Porter, it's only going to hurt him, and he could easily find playing time in the D-League with the Iowa Energy, an affiliate to the Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves and New Orleans Pelicans

 

How could the D-League help?

At this point, Porter just looks lost in the NBA. And while the D-League doesn't have the appeal of the "real" NBA to a young player, it would still give him the opportunity to get some confidence back. 

Right now, the Energy don't have anyone of note on their roster. Ever heard of Othyus Jeffers? Jarvis Varnado? No offense to Jeffers and Varnado, but Porter could easily get playing time over guys like them, and a solid 20-25 minutes per game for Porter could do a lot more than the Wizards think. 

Porter is only playing in 10 minutes or less per game, which has to be discouraging for the young player. 

He's not even looking to shoot, only attempting 16 field goals in January. That shows that he doesn't have confidence in his shot, and the Wizards simply can't afford to have a first-round pick who is only taking two shots a game. 

In the D-League, Porter won't constantly be looking over his shoulder, waiting for Webster or Ariza to come back in the game. He can play with fewer restrictions and find his game. 

Porter isn't the only draft pick this season who could use the help, either. Just look at Anthony Bennett of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and look at this "screen" he set the other night. 

SB Nation

That doesn't look like someone who wants to play NBA basketball. 

Now, Porter isn't playing with the same level of carelessness, but he is essentially taking himself out of games, avoiding taking shots and not getting involved on the boards. 

Some quality time in the D-League playing in a month's worth of games at 25 minutes per game would allow Porter to find out how he wants to play, and would give him his shot confidence back. 

For whatever reason, some NBA teams have been reluctant to use the D-League exactly as it's designed, a DEVELOPMENT league. Just look at how MLB teams use the multiple levels of the minor leagues to groom players. Why not look at the NBA D-League the same way?

 

Organizations the Wizards can learn from

Washington might be reluctant to use the D-League to help Porter, but it can look to other teams in the league to see how using the D-League as a pseudo-farm system can work. 

The San Antonio Spurs are one of the top franchises in the NBA and have been for the last 10 years or so, naturally making them a good team to look at. 

Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Spurs shooting guard Danny Green spent two years in the D-League with two different teams before coming on as San Antonio's starting 2 guard.

When he first came into the league, shooting guard Danny Green bounced around the D-League, spending time with the Reno Bighorns (he also spent one day with the Austin Toros in April 2011). 

With the Bighorns, he averaged 20.1 points and 7.5 rebounds in 16 games, playing in over 37 minutes per game. Even in his one game with the Toros while signed by the Spurs, he played 32 minutes and scored 19 points. 

Now Green is an every-day player for the Spurs, starting 80 games last season for a team that made it to the NBA Finals. 

This season, the Spurs continue to utilize the D-League, sending point guard Nando de Colo back and forth from the D-League to the Spurs. In fact, de Colo has been sent to the Toros five times in his two-year NBA career. 

This season, de Colo has played in eight games for Austin, averaging 23.3 points on 52.3 percent shooting. In the NBA, he's been a solid bench player, finishing games this season with minute totals of 10 and 16. Granted, he's not producing the kind of stats the Wizards would hope to get out of Porter, but it's still a good example of how the D-League can be used effectively as a farm system. 

The Golden State Warriors have also used the D-League effectively. This season, they have constantly been sending players to and from the Santa Cruz Warriors. 

For example, point guard Nemanja Nedovic was sent down on Dec. 28, only to be recalled on Jan. 10 and brought back to the Warriors. 

Nedovic certainly isn't blowing the doors off of Oracle Arena, but he has put in efforts of double-digit minutes in six games this season. 

The Minnesota Timberwolves also utilized the D-League with first-round draft pick Shabazz Muhammad, sending him down to the Energy for four games, where he averaged 24.5 points on 57.1 percent shooting. 

Jack Arent/Getty Images
Minnesota's first-round pick Shabazz Muhammad spent time with the Iowa Energy to get NBA experience. Muhammad shot over 57 percent from the floor in a few weeks with Iowa.

Porter is essentially in the same boat as Muhammad, who hardly played for the Timberwolves. No one would fault the Wizards for sending Porter to Iowa. 

It's not doing the Wizards any good to have him sit on the bench except for eight minutes every game. 

Instead, they need to make him a member of the Energy in order to get his confidence back and return to the form that got him drafted No. 3 overall. 

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