by Bryan Frantz

WASHINGTON — It’s no secret Marcin Gortat and Otto Porter are friends.

The pair lifted weights together when Porter was first drafted by the Wizards, they hung out in a Polish submarine together this summer and Gortat thinks Porter is a #smartKid.

Speaking with Chad Dukes Tuesday on 106.7 The Fan, Gortat covered many important issues, including pizza toppings and looking good on the beach, but he also expressed admiration for the team’s young core.

Though John Wall and Bradley Beal are generally considered the Wizards’ best players, Gortat said Porter could be the team’s X-factor this season. Dukes asked Gortat how much more of a veteran presence he would have to be this season, now that Paul Pierce is no longer on the roster, and Gortat said the Wizards’ young players are mature beyond their age.

“John and Brad, they’re so smart, they don’t need the guidance. Otto’s also such a bright person, I’m such a big fan of Otto,” Gortat said. “He’s sitting right next to me in the locker room and I’m constantly whispering in his ear. He’s doing everything he’s supposed to do since Day 1 in D.C.”

“I’m excited for him,” Gortat continued, heaping praise on the former Georgetown Hoyas star. “It’s going to be a huge opportunity for him to play. So far, he’s been playing amazing basketball. He can be the X-factor for us this year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the guy who’s going to give us, every night, 12, 14, 15 points.”

Porter scored just 2.1 points per game in his injured-riddled rookie season, but he began putting things together in his sophomore campaign, averaging six points and three rebounds per game. When coach Randy Wittman began using a small-ball lineup in the postseason last year, Porter saw his minutes and production shoot up, leading many to believe he could have a breakout season this year.

Porter played 33.1 minutes per game in the postseason, up from 19.4 in the regular season. In that time, he put up 10.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.2 steals per game. With Pierce no longer in the picture and the Wizards expected to give more playing time to wing players like Porter, it seems likely the third-year forward will produce on a level consistent with his postseason numbers.

In the 13 games Porter has started through two seasons as a pro, all of which came last year, he averaged 10.2 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, well above his 5.1 points and 2.7 rebounds per game as a reserve last year. He is expected to be the starting small forward this season, so Gortat’s prediction of 12-15 points per game is certainly possible.

In other, equally important, matters, Gortat and Dukes agree tomatoes should not be used as toppings on pizza.

“I think it’s watery and disgusting,” Dukes began. “You already have the marinara sauce. Where do you stand on this issue?”

“I definitely agree with you,” Gortat answered. “I don’t roll with [tomato] on the pizza. I just totally don’t feel it. Totally don’t feel it. I hate it. I never order tomatoes with pizza.”

For what it’s worth, Gortat’s go-to topping combination on a pizza is cheese, salami, oregano, hot peppers and “just a little bit of mushrooms.”

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