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The Case For Otto Porter

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Here’s my best attempt to convince the Sixers fanbase that Otto Porter would be a welcome addition to the Sixers.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Washington Wizards Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

PSA: Some of the CBA/Salary Sheet implications in this article are murk. All salary cap related points are well-researched, but nonetheless an approximation based off tools and information available.

I want to preface this article by saying I don’t think Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, or Kemba Walker are realistic trade/signing targets — if they were desperate to come here, we could probably make the trades required, for now, I’m operating under the assumption that they’re unobtainable.

Over the past few weeks I’ve floated the idea that Otto Porter would be a terrific acquisition for the Sixers. I will attempt to present my case for him in as unbiased a manner as possible, including his weaknesses and the potential negative implications of acquiring him.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Washington Wizards Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

I should start by addressing the #1 objection:

“His contract situation is awful”

Let’s just take a quick look at Porter’s contract:

Basically, you’re paying him $55M over 2 years, approximately $28M against the cap each year.

This cements you as a team that operates over-the-cap, but also unlocks the full Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception ($9.2M). There are other ways you could divvy up the remaining cap space the Sixers have, but this article may convince you that Porter is certainly among the best options.

Trade Kicker: I believe Porter would waive his 15% trade kicker to travel down I-95, leaving a dumpster fire in Washington to come to a perennial contender in Philadelphia. Remember, he probably never expected to get a max contract after averaging mild box stats of 13.5 PTS /6.5 REB /1.5 AST with high efficiency.

The Wizards can thank the Brooklyn Nets for tendering him a max-offer sheet, which Washington was forced to match, after watching their 24-year old, former #3 overall draft pick blossom in the previous season. Also, Porter has some interesting language in the contract details where his payments are structured incrementally and he ends up getting more cash earlier in the season. Remember, he doesn’t turn 26 for over six more months and will have a cool $70M in career earnings.


Value: The question: Is paying him a little north of $27M/year worth it?

If you look at the general arc of NBA careers, there’s a very low chance Otto Porter has reached his prime. He is a 25-year old, who by many accounts, has improved his game each & every year since he entered the league in 2013-14. Most players don’t hit their prime until around 27.

It’s quite incredible that last season, Porter played his best games against all the top defenses. His highest volume, most efficient night were vs. the finals contenders. This is early indication Porter is a gamer who can flourish against any opponent in the playoffs.

The first thing to note: Trading for a big contract is significantly better than signing someone big in free agency. By trading for a large contract you inherit their Bird Rights, which allows you to re-sign your own player’s while exceeding the salary cap.

Here’s a trade that I think makes sense for each team involved & the money works:

If Porter hypothetically didn’t waive his trade kicker, the Sixers could add an exception.

Sixers give:

  • M. Fultz
  • W. Chandler (salary matching)
  • 2019 PHI 1st
  • $2.6M Trade Exception
  • F. Korkmaz (trade filler)

Sixers receive:

  • Otto Porter
  • Tomas Satoransky

Of course, three-team trades in the NBA are difficult to orchestrate, but I think this is pretty convincing for the teams involved.

The Suns, who are Point Guard-less, take a lottery ticket in Fultz. They have a plethora of young wings so they see no problem in moving on from Josh Jackson & get two young pieces they can develop in the process. The Wizards get themselves out of “cap hell” into “cap purgatory” and get some pieces back that will help them “rebuild.”

I’ve researched other potential trade packages for Porter and none of them give the Wizards as much cap relief. Perhaps a package from the Pelicans including Julius Randle & Solomon Hill , which could be enticing to Washington. I think by keeping Beal around, the Wizards could manufacture a rebuild while still selling tickets.

Remember, if you sign someone in free agency, you need cap space to fit the entirety of their first year dollar amount. This makes it even more difficult to entice big free agents, because if you have that much space to sign them, presumably not a contender!

Here’s a realistic salary sheet starting in 2019-20 that looks quite good:

Trading for Porter allows you to bring back some of your supporting cast at cost-controlled rates. Starting lineup would look something like this:

  • Ben Simmons (PG/PF)
  • Jeremy Lamb (SG)
  • Jimmy Butler (SG/SF)
  • Otto Porter (SF/PF)
  • Joel Embiid (C)

Bench:

  • JJ Barea (PG)
  • JJ Redick (SG)
  • Zhaire Smith (SG)
  • Landry Shamet (SG)
  • Mike Muscala (PF/C)
  • Jonah Bolden (PF)
  • Kyle O’Quinn (C)

Ball-Handlers

Simmons, Barea, Butler

Wings

Butler, Porter, Lamb, Redick, Smith, Shamet

Bigs

Embiid, O’Quinn, Muscala, Bolden

Your starting lineup has plenty of shooting which will give Simmons tons of space to attack and distribute, while also giving him more transition partners. You gain offensive versatility — capable of playing bully-ball or 5-out, while being able to switch 1-4 on defense quite comfortably.

As far as the bench goes: you have wing depth, plenty of shooting, secondary ball-handlers, and a few solid defenders. I built the bench based off the idea of building several different specialty lineups including shooting, defense, transition, or end-of-game situations.

Would Jeremy Lamb take the Non-Tax MLE? Would JJ Barea take the Bi-Annual? Would O’Quinn take the Veteran Minimum? I think they all would consider it to join a big market contender.

Lamb is a perfect fit, and he’s improved his shooting and defense over the past two seasons. Perhaps you could even trade Muscala for him this season, sign him with Bird Rights, then use the $9.2 on someone else, as one commenter smartly mentioned.

Side note: In this scenario, Barea was signed instead of Satoranksy, just my personal preference.


Fit: When I brainstormed what it truly means to be a good fit, there were two things that stuck out to me:

  1. Accentuating the skill-sets & roles of your teammates
  2. Not having a skill-set or role that cannibalizes the impact of your star players

The Sixers acquired Jimmy Butler knowing the positive effect it would have on the development of Ben Simmons. A point-of-attack defender who excels in transition, spot-up opportunities, and off cuts is a great complement to him.

Ben Simmons is the Sixers “square hole” and Otto Porter is one of the few complementary pieces who is not a “round peg.”

A cursory glance at Porter’s counting stats this year might scare you away. This video was included to dispel that worry and illustrate that all of Porter’s skill are still present.

Quick Offensive Facts

Of course, all “queries” are cherry-picking, but this query demonstrates Porter is not your garden-variety shooter.

This list shows regular rotation players since 2016 who connect on over 39% of their outside attempts on volume (over 4.5 3PAs/36), over 80% Free Throws & True Shooting above 59%.

It’s impossible to be among those other names and not be considered a terrific shooter — which Porter is indeed.

This year he’s only been 34.9% on catch-and-shoot 3s, well below his average over the last four seasons of 41.7%. That shouldn’t concern you — not only is this a tiny sample (63 shots), but even if you assume his opportunities are normally distributed, there is approximately a 6.5% chance that Porter’s cold start can be explained solely by random chance.

My answer is it’s a small blip in the data, which is sure to correct itself on the right team, given that he has demonstrated himself to be one of the most efficient shooters from any spot on the court.

You will see, he could just as easily shoot 48% from three in December.

Here’s his shot chart for every attempt since Feb. 2017:

When he gets to the rim, he scores well. He hits threes from all over at a 40% rate, including the wings which are more difficult than corner 3s. He’s also proficient from mid-range if he’s forced to take them. My major criticism is simply his lack of volume — he just needs to shoot more 3s and try to drive for more finishes at the hoop, even at the expense of a few percentage points.

Porter is also one of the most turnover-averse players in the NBA. Practically nobody else can match his turnover percentage, which is partly attributed to his lack of usage, but also his great decision making.

For reference, 275 NBA players played over 1000 minutes last season. Porter was 151st in Usage (18.4%), but 12th in turnover percentage, which helps contextualize how well he takes cares off the rock.

Fun Defensive Facts

Anecdotally, Wizards fans sing Porter’s praise on defense (good sign) & most of the advanced stats agree. His defensive adjusted-plus minus numbers have been well above average, he’s gotten more deflections per 36 than Ben Simmons, he’s 6-8, mobile, tries hard, has a long wingspan, is strong enough to battle in the post, boxes out, and has decent lateral quickness & high defensive IQ.

He also rarely fouls, accruing just 2.5 fouls per 36 in his career, which is below most of Porter’s SF facsimiles.

He faired well against Demar DeRozan in the playoffs, which is no small feat:

Derozan did convert 11/20 shots against Porter, but this was over 181 possessions. Surrendering 24 points against the primary option in 1.8 games worth of possessions is pretty good in my eyes, especially considering Derozan was limited to just 2 assists in that time.

He held the Sixers very own Ben Simmons to 8/22 shooting in the regular season, with more turnovers than assists (3 vs. 2). With a rim protector like Embiid behind him, he will become even better at deflections and switching.

Let’s again reflect on the defensive capabilities of Simmons, Lamb, Butler, Porter, Embiid lineup. There’s nobody to hunt and the switch-ability and matchup exploitation capabilities are off the charts. This is all feasible under the luxury tax & acquired at a *semi* realistic price.

Also, take a look around the league.

  • Golden State seems primed for “one last ride” before they have a major shakeup
  • Houston has started off slow showing major defensive concerns
  • Boston has struggled on offense & has 2 potential albatross contracts in Hayward/Horford
  • Toronto is extremely good this year, but Kawhi looks like he’s got his eyes on the prize (LA)
  • Milwaukee is lethal but tax bill looms if they pay everyone (Middleton/Bledsoe/Lopez/Brogdon)

I think 2019-2020 might be a year where you can steal an NBA title.

On basic principle, I’m going to continue to reiterate that the Sixers need to use the NOAH Basketball Analytics System.

This machine is basically a high-speed camera that measures the entry angle, shot depth, and left/right pattern of every shot. It allows you to chart these shots over time, in an effort to understand overall trends in your shooting, while also helping the shooter understand on a shot-by-shot basis what they need to calibrate.

For example, the ideal entry angle for a Simmons’ free-throw is around 45° — if he shoots one too flat at 38°, the screen will show him and he can attempt to make the correction. Feedback beyond the binary result of make/miss is vital to improvement.

For Simmons specifically, over time, his goal is to be able to conjure up the “feeling” of the proper shot without thinking about his mechanics.

Obviously just one example is not proof, but look at Anthony Tolliver’s improvement using the system, the red line indicating when he started using the system:

Tolliver: “I literally used it one time and I could tell the difference in my thought processes as far as what I need to do to make sure I make the next shot.”

In golf, there is a similar system which measures even more variables, called Trackman. Professional golfers hone in on their ideal launch conditions, to hit the furthest, most accurate drives possible. This is a tool that helps you calibrate your shot and improve the effectiveness of your practice.

Once you get to the course, you’re no longer actively gaining benefits from using the Trackman technology. You’ve honed your launch conditions and you have a neutral thought during the shot.

This is no different than basketball. Which brings me to my ultimate point: when Ben Simmons or Markelle Fultz shoot free throws, it’s evident they are actively thinking about their mechanics. Elite performers don’t generally do this. The literature suggests it’s preferable to be thinking about something more passive — like rhythm or the release (pointer finger through rim).

In fact, if you watch player’s like Steph Curry, they alter the trajectory of their shots on a regular basis. Curry practices this more than any player I’ve seen, which is his form of differential training or calibration practice.

It’s like a golfer trying to hit low, spin shots and high lobs — this sharpens your ability to execute all shots. If you didn’t know, Stephen Curry is a scratch golfer who’s appeared in professional events.

People assume it’s his natural hand-eye coordination that allows Curry to excel in seemingly every athletic endeavor — there is undoubtedly great truth to this. Perhaps also it’s his understanding of the importance of calibration practice — a special fine tuning that makes the difference between pretty good and world-class.

He intentionally shot this down the stretch of a tight playoff game:

Are you on in on this team?

Poll

Does this seem like a worthy investment?

This poll is closed

  • 32%
    I didn’t think so, but now I’m convinced!
    (220 votes)
  • 37%
    Hell yeah — I loved Porter from the start.
    (255 votes)
  • 29%
    No — I’d still rather spend it someone else (see comments).
    (201 votes)
676 votes total Vote Now