Prior to Friday night, Otto Porter had registered just three games of at least 25 points and 8 rebounds in 267 career games. He dropped 28 points and 9 rebounds Friday night, and he added 3 assists, 4 steals and a block.
Kelly Oubre opened the season with 14 points and 8 rebounds against the Philadelphia 76ers. He had reached those numbers in a game just once prior. Entering the season, Oubre had just 10 career games with at least 7 rebounds; he has at least 7 rebounds in both games so far this season.
The sample size is minuscule, but the two wings with great potential and so far modest production have been outstanding for the Wizards. John Wall and Bradley Beal have been their typical selves to start the season — Wall has averages of 27 points, 9 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks per game, Beal is putting up 25 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks and 1.5 steals per game — but it’s been the boost provided by Porter and Oubre that have the Wizards 2-0 early in the season.
The statistical evidence is clear, but the duo has (mostly) passed the eye test so far, as well.
Porter came out hot in the season opener, scoring Washington’s first eight points of the season, but he completely faded from the game, scoring just two more points the rest of the way. That’s been one of his biggest flaws through four-plus years as an NBA player, and if he can’t establish consistency and regular aggressiveness on both ends of the court, the Wizards won’t get their money’s worth on this contract.
But when Porter is engaged, he shows the skill to be a genuine weapon on offense and defense, as evidenced by his explosion on Friday.
Porter is sneaky athletic and has the wingspan coveted on the perimeter. If he can ever fully use them to his advantage, we could be seeing outbursts like that more often.
Meanwhile, Oubre is perhaps the best athlete on the team, and he’s even longer than Porter is. He has shown the potential to be an elite defender, both in terms of making plays and forcing turnovers, and in being able to lock his man down. And, of course, his explosiveness on offense is matched only by Wall’s, which can add a whole new element to the Wizards’ bench if he can tap into that on a regular basis.
This is not a new thought. The Wizards have been hoping for Porter to develop into a third weapon for years now, and once it became clear that the bench was never going to materialize in the way Ernie Grunfeld hoped and all roster flexibility went out the window, it was up to Oubre to provide a lift. The Ringer ran a story on as much just this week.
We’ll check back in a few weeks to see if this promising start holds up. Perhaps we’re being fooled and the season will look like Porter’s first game, with some initial promise but ultimately inconsistent. Or maybe each player has finally figured out how to find that spark each and every night, and the Wizards can take the next step and join the second tier of the NBA elite (the Warriors alone lay claim to the first tier).