Wake-up call: Can Otto Porter beat out Paul Pierce to start?

Wake-up call: Can Otto Porter beat out Paul Pierce to start?
July 13, 2014, 6:00 am
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LAS VEGAS -- Coming into his second season with the Wizards, Otto Porter would've been content to just get more playing time after being out of the rotation in 2013-14. Now, he has his eye on the starting job at small forward though Paul Pierce should put that on hold until further notice.

Trevor Ariza took a four-year, $32 million deal to play for the Houston Rockets on Saturday, which initially cleared the way for Porter with Martell Webster out until at least December because of back surgery. Then later in the evening, the Wizards quickly moved to snag Pierce with a two-year, $11 million deal from the Brooklyn Nets, CSNwashington.com confirmed.  

"The door opens up. He had a tremendous year last year," Porter said of Ariza after he posted a game-high 25 points in his summer league debut vs. the Atlanta Hawks and a few hours before he'd heard about Pierce's arrival. "Guys are now moving out and stuff and now it's time for people to step up and fill those shoes."

So what are the chances Porter starts? Maybe not initially, but the plan all along was to find a way to carve out more minutes for Porter regardless of Ariza's status. It's a given he'll register significantly more playing time than he did as a rookie when he made just 37 appearances and averaged 8.6 minutes per game.

Pierce started 68 of 75 games in Brooklyn last season when he played a career-low 28 minutes per game but still averaged 13.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists. He's a different player than anyone the Wizards have at the moment. He's a veteran who can get his own shot even at 36. He's long at 6-6. He was a 37.3% three-point shooter last season. He doesn't fear the taking the game-winner and his efficiency actually rises in the clutch, the last five minutes of games, according to NBA.com's advanced statistics. 

Porter is a closer replica to Ariza, particularly if he can hit the corner three-point shot in coach Randy Wittman's offense. Ariza flourished beyond the arc as he shot a career-high 40.7% last season. At 6-8, Porter is viewed as a utility player who can defend but he's a better mid-range shooter and better at creating his own shot off the dribble than Ariza. The Wizards definitely are deeper now in getting 2-for-1 as the collective salaries of Pierce and Porter are roughly equal to the $10 million per year salary that Ariza required to stay.  

"Hopefully, yes," Porter said when asked if he thought he could be a starter -- again, before Pierce agreed to terms. "I've got the great coaches that's going to help me along the way. Got great teammates that's going to help me along the way. And I got my man March (Marcin Gortat) looking after me to make sure I'm doing good."

Pierce is the placeholder who'll provide the sort of on-the-job training that Ariza provided for Porter, if all goes according to plan. Porter, who accounted himself well in his summer league opener vs. the Atlanta Hawks when he led all scorers with 25 points, can learn from Pierce.  The Wizards play again Sunday vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves (CSN, 7:30 p.m. ET).

"One of my veteran guys," Porter said of Ariza. "To have him gone, he taught me so much especially on offense and defense. Being there, showing me the right things, tricks, ins and outs and now I've got to put them to use."

Porter doesn't have to be Ariza. Pierce doesn't have to be 2008 Pierce when he won an NBA championship with the Boston Celtics. Collectively, they could be better.