Reporting David Elfin
Washington area hoops fans might not have seen the last of Otto Porter in a home jersey after all.
Thanks to the ping pong ball bouncing the Wizards’ way for a change in last night’s NBA draft lottery, Washington wound up with a near-perfect pick, third, a spot that it had just a 4.79 percent chance of securing.
The Wizards aren’t assured of being able to pick Porter, the small forward who won Big East Player of the Year honors as a Georgetown sophomore this past season, but they’ll likely only have to sweat out Orlando’s choice at No. 2 overall. Cleveland, which won the lottery, is expected to select Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel.
Remember that Washington chose third in last year’s draft and wound up with the right player, shooting guard Bradley Beal, who formed a fine backcourt with point guard John Wall when both were healthy. Forwards Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were selected before Beal in 2012, but the latter didn’t have a great rookie year and the Wizards had veteran Nene at the former’s position.
Martell Webster was a pleasant surprise for the Wizards at small forward, but he’s really just a shooter. Porter, who averaged 16.2 points and 7.5 rebounds to lead the Hoyas to a share of the Big East regular season title with eventual national champion Louisville and East Regional finalist Marquette, has more of an all-around game.
The Magic, who had the NBA’s worst record last season, will leave the Wizards sitting pretty if they take Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore, UNLV power forward Anthony Bennett or Michigan point guard Trey Burke instead of the 6-foot-8, 200-pound Porter.
“We have recently been able to use the draft to form a potent backcourt in John Wall and Bradley Beal that we envision leading us for years to come,” Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld said after Washington soared from eighth to third in the lottery where it was represented by Beal. “We are thrilled to be able to add another young talent with the third pick in this year’s draft and are very optimistic about what our team can accomplish moving forward.”
Webster and reserve guards A.J. Price and Garrett Temple are the only unsigned Wizards who played any extensive part in the team’s 25-25 record over the final 50 games under coach Randy Wittman. If Grunfeld re-signs them and adds Porter to a lineup which includes Wall, Beal, Nene and center Emeka Okafor, Washington could certainly challenge for a playoff spot in the less-than-robust Eastern Conference.
That would be a very positive development for a franchise that hasn’t reached postseason in five years while going 117-277 (.297). Only Minnesota, Sacramento and Toronto have gone as long without making the playoffs and none of those franchises have been in their markets nearly as long as the Wizards. What’s more, the Nationals, Redskins and Capitals are all coming off division championships. The Wizards last won of those in 1979 when they were still the Bullets and none of their players under contract for next season were even born.
“This is another important step for our franchise and for our fans,” Beal said. “I’m excited to see our team continue to move in a positive direction.”
In what’s generally considered a weak draft, picking third instead of eighth is an especially positive direction if it provides a certain versatile player.
“You have someone who, even at the next level, can play multiple positions — offensive and defensive,” Hoyas coach John Thompson III said of Porter, whose value to Georgetown soared after second-leading scorer and rebounder Greg Whittington became academically ineligible in January. Porter, who’ll be 20 on June 3, was first or second in every stat that mattered for a team that spent part of the season ranked in the top five.
“It was a tough decision,” Porter said when he announced he was turning pro on April 15. “I love Georgetown. I love my coaches, my teammates. I feel I’m ready to make this next step. The toughest part was knowing you’re going to leave a great place. I love this place.”
Verizon Center isn’t the Hilltop, but it’s still the place that Porter played his home games the last two seasons. As Dorothy says at the end of The Wizard Of Oz, “There’s no place like home.”
David Elfin began writing about sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last three Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since March 2011. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidElfin