When the Golden State Warriors acquired Otto Porter Jr. in the off-season, many thought that he, when fully fit and healthy, would provide much-needed depth as a three-and-d wing. But instead, the 28-year-old has reinvented himself as more of a stretch big within the Warriors system.
That’s not to say that the franchise, and just as equally the fans, aren’t more than happy with the evolution of Porter as an NBA player. Although he’s had a consistent and career redefining season, the undoubted highlight was his game-clinching performance against the Suns on Christmas Day.
Otto Porter Jr.’s Christmas lights show against Phoenix was the anthesis of his basketball evolution with the Golden State Warriors.
The closing minutes, in which he knocked down several clutch jump shots, was a glance into Porter’s transformation, one that’s retained what’s always been his most valuable asset; the ability to shoot the ball.
But over the past few seasons, a myriad of injuries has meant he’s no longer the athletic small forward that entered as the number three overall pick in 2013. It’s the reason the Warriors were able to sign him to a minimum contract, having previously signed a four-year $106.5 million deal with the Wizards in 2017.
The reduction in athleticism, combined with a solidly built six-foot-eight frame, has forced Porter to revolutionize as a modern-day big in a league that’s continuing to downsize. His transformation actually began last season, despite limited game time due to injury and role with the Chicago Bulls and the Orlando Magic.
According to Basketball Reference, Porter had never played more than 36% of his time as a power forward prior to last season. Then, in 606 minutes across 28 games, the nine-year veteran played 53% of his time as a four.
In his first year with the Warriors, a team known for revolutionizing the game with small-ball lineups, the position estimate has taken another drastic transformation. Although his time as a four continues at 53%, the remaining time is now as a small-ball center rather than at small forward. It’s a completely new aspect for Porter, having never played more than 1% of the time at center in his previous eight seasons.
His statistics reflect the job he’s been asked of, and the way he’s responded to the challenge. Always seen as a long, versatile defender, Porter has now become a shot blocker of sorts. His block percentage of 2.5 is easily a career-high, well ahead of his previous career-high of 1.7%, and almost double his career average of 1.4%.
His total rebound percentage of 13.3 is also the second-best of his career, just below the 13.8% of last season when he became primarily a power forward. In a team lacking any genuine seven-footers, outside the absent James Wiseman, his ability to snatch boards has been an invaluable aspect of his production.
On offense, Porter’s thriving in a more simplified role. Following last season, in which the Warriors often lacked the perimeter threats to take advantage of Stephen Curry’s greatness, Porter’s addition has helped them go from 20th to third in offensive rating.
65.3% of his shots come from 3-point range, 19.5% higher than any of his previous seasons. That’s also a product of his reduced usage rate, the 15.1% an equal career low. With covid issues beginning to infiltrate the Warriors roster, expect his offensive opportunities to expand as they did against the Suns.
The management of Porter’s body, much like Andre Iguodala’s, is a constant priority for the franchise. That’s no longer just because of his injury troubles in recent seasons, but also because of the importance he now holds in a team that’s elevated into title contention.