Every great shooter has a pregame routine—some more spectacular than others.
Stephen Curry dribbles two basketballs at once and launches shots from midcourt. Kevin Durant mimics Dirk Nowitzki's one-legged shots in the lane. Bradley Beal bombs away with headphones on to drown out the din.
Otto Porter Jr.'s routine isn't particularly breathtaking. Some shooting around the horn. A flock of floaters. A handful of dribble pull-ups.
As a shooter, what you do isn't as important as the fact that you do it, over and over and over again. From game-day rituals to shot mechanics, consistency is key.
Porter's stroke is no picture of perfection. At 6'8" with a 7'1 ½" wingspan, there's more arm to aim. But if his form stays the same from shot to shot and game to game, it can be just as effective.
"He's a creature of habit, which I think all the great players do," said Scott Brooks, who was Durant's head coach in Oklahoma City for seven seasons before taking over the Washington Wizards this past summer. "All the great shooters have that. You don't just get extra shots because you had a bad shooting night last night. You stay with your same program.
"He is as consistent as any shooter that I've been around."
During his four years in the NBA, Porter has learned to pay closer attention to the particulars of his shot, and it's paid off. Among those qualified for the three-point shooting crown, he ranks third in percentage at a career-high 43.8 percent.
"Making sure my mechanics, making sure I'm on balance, little things like that," Porter said of his uptick. "That kind of stuck in my head every time I catch and shoot or every time I work out or anything like that. Just make sure that everything is lined up right, make sure I'm on balance and let it fly."
Porter Jr. came into the league with a proven capacity to improve his shot. As a freshman at Georgetown, he made just 12 of 53 attempts (22.6 percent) from the shorter college three-point line. As a sophomore, he shot almost twice as many threes (102) and nearly quadrupled his makes (43).
Washington saw that potential, and plenty of it—the Hoyas play at the Verizon Center, home of the Wizards. Come draft day 2013, D.C.'s team made him the No. 3 pick.
But the transition to the pros at 20 years old wasn't seamless. His percentages plummeted to 36.3 percent from the field and 19.0 percent from the deeper NBA arc.
After averaging more than 1,000 minutes a year on the court as a collegian in the nation's capital, he played just 319 in 37 appearances as a rookie.
In Year 2, Porter came under the watch of future Hall of Famer Paul Pierce, who saw a sky's worth of potential in what he described as "a young, wide-eyed kid."
"He had all the tools," Pierce said. "His only thing was being consistent with his work ethic with him."
During his lone go-round in D.C., Pierce preached the importance of steady habits to all the young Wizards. Get up early. Work hard. Be hungry. And if they didn't heed his wisdom, Pierce didn't bite his tongue.
"When he wasn't in there getting his shots up before me, I would tell him," he said. "I can't be beating him to the gym."
The message got through to Porter. "I watched what he did and just to be around, it kind of rubbed off on me," he said, "because I want to be a great too as far as perfecting my craft and being a professional."
Pierce's effect on Porter paid off during the final six weeks of the Wizards' 2014-15 campaign.
Over Washington's last nine regular-season games, Porter shot 43.5 percent from three and averaged nearly 10 points per game. In the playoffs, he shot a sturdy 37.5 percent from deep, averaged 8.0 rebounds and scored in double figures five times in 10 outings, including a team-high-tying 17 points on the same night Pierce called game against the Atlanta Hawks.
The following offseason, the Truth knew what he had to happen, so he declined a $5.5 million player option for 2015-16.
"One of my reasons for leaving Washington, I felt like after that playoffs, it's time for Otto to step in there and take that spot," Pierce said. "Once I left, I felt like he was ready."
The year after, Porter started in all but two of his 75 appearances while nudging his three-point shooting (36.7 percent) above the league average. This season, he hasn't missed a game or a start, and he spent a good chunk of the schedule leading everyone in long-range accuracy.
These days, Porter's game-day routine is just as reliable as his place in Brooks' starting five.
He reads the Bible every day. He eats the same food every day. He watches the same thing on TV every day: cartoons. Tom and Jerry, to be specific.
"Weird, right?" Porter admitted. "Very old school. I grew up watching that, so that definitely helps relax."
His pregame playlist is more up to date and varied. Nowadays, he has J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar in rotation.
Other than that, not much changes in Porter's approach from game to game. He still lifts weights at home before heading to the "Phone Booth." He still gets stretched in the locker room by Washington's trainers, with the occasional massage mixed in. And he still gets his shots up on the court before tipoff.
What's different, aside from and along with Porter's shooting percentages, is his impact on how (and how well) the Wizards play.
"It's a game-changer," Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said of Porter as a three-point threat.
For Wall and Beal, it's opened up more driving lanes than ever before.
|Drives Per Game by John Wall and Bradley Beal Since Porter's Rookie Year|
"You have to stay at home. The defense has some tough decisions to make," Brooks said. "That's what you want."
Porter isn't the only player in Chocolate City enjoying a prolific shooting campaign. The Wizards rank eighth in the NBA in three-point percentage (37.2 percent). They've gotten a healthy season from Beal and a hot streak from Bojan Bogdanovic during his first month with the Wizards following a deadline-day trade from the Brooklyn Nets.
Washington's combination of shooting and slashing has sparked both a top-10 offense and a run since a 2-8 start that's netted D.C. its first division title in 38 years and a slice of home-court advantage in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Whenever that run ends, the shooters who've fueled the Wizards' recovery from last season's trip to the lottery stand to profit handsomely—if they haven't already.
Bogdanovic, 27, could make a pretty penny for himself in restricted free agency this summer. Porter, 23, will almost certainly sign for a salary with as many figures as the five-year, $127 million deal Beal inked in 2016.
Doing the same thing over and over again might not always be exciting, but for Porter, it's been the bedrock of a rise that has him poised to break the bank.
"Now he's going to be a $100 million player," Pierce said.