The Dallas Mavericks are entering a key offseason in the future of their franchise. Luka Doncic will almost certainly sign his rookie extension this summer, and that, along with Kristaps Porzingis’ substantial contract, will take up a significant portion of the salary cap. So it’s key that the Mavericks hit on players who can contribute at a high level, especially in the playoffs, while they can.
That’s where Otto Porter Jr. comes into play. He’s not a superstar like some fans are clamoring for, but he’s the type of player who could thrive alongside Doncic. But acquiring players like him could be the difference between success or failure in the postseason.
The 6’8”, 198 lbs forward just wrapped up a four-year, $106 million contract. Porter finished the season with the Orlando Magic after being traded from the Chicago Bulls as part of a package that brought Nikola Vucevic to the Windy City. He only appeared in 28 games last season, however, due to lingering back and foot injuries.
Porter put up nine points, five rebounds, and two assists per game last season. He shot 37% from three on almost four attempts per game. Porter was relegated to the bench last year, averaging only 22 minutes per game.
Porter comes with that precious combination of shooting and size. Players who can shoot above league average from behind the arc and defend on the perimeter are the Holy Grail of NBA general managers. Porter can definitely shoot. The defense? Well...we’ll cover that below. But the Mavericks desperately need more shooting to place around Doncic. Porter can easily do that.
Even with subpar defense, Porter could be valuable just because of his size. He’s got a 7’1” wingspan, and has the athleticism to keep up with most perimeter players in the NBA. The Mavericks were short on wings last season (and the season before that, and before that, going back to the beginning of time). They could have used another body like Porter, even if he doesn’t lock down opponents. Sometimes you just need a competent forward who can stay in front of his man, and Porter should be able to do that.
Porter has had trouble staying on the court lately. He’s played 56, 14, and 28 games the last three seasons. Those aren’t comforting numbers, especially for a team like the Mavericks, who already have an injury prone superstar on the roster. All of the positives Porter brings won’t matter at all if he can’t stay on the court.
Then there’s the defense. Porter had a defensive rating of 111.9 last season, the highest in his career. It’s hovered around that mark the last three seasons, a significant downgrade from his time with the Wizards. He put up a 103.9 rating his sophomore season in Washington. So something’s changed. Whether it’s a physical step back or simply an issue of motivation will be something the Mavericks have to judge.
Fit with the Mavericks
As mentioned above, Porter is the exact type of complementary player the Mavericks want to put around Doncic. He would fit into the roster seamlessly, either replacing Dorian Finney-Smith as a starter or slotting alongside him in a small ball lineup. The question isn’t really about where he would fit or contribute. He’s built to play in the modern NBA, and fully equipped to succeed placed next to Doncic.
The only question is Porter’s health and effort on defense. If it weren’t for those doubts, people would probably be talking about Porter’s upcoming max contract offer, putting him safely out of range for the Mavericks. Elite 3-and-D players are hard to find, making them one of the most valuable assets in the NBA. It’s possible Porter has had a rough couple of seasons and is ready to bounce back, taking his place among the better wing players in the league. Or it’s possible the last three years are exactly who he is, and signing him would be a mistake.
Nico Harrison and the Mavericks will have to decide if Porter is worth the risk. A lot of it will probably depend on Porter’s market. If he’s getting plenty of offers, the price may be too high. But if the Mavericks can bring Porter to Dallas on a one or two year “prove it” contract with a club option, he could be a smart signing.