Otto Porter is now a $100 million man.
The 24-year-old forward signed a four-year, $106 million contract with the Washington Wizards in July. One reason why the Wizards had no issue making Porter a max-contract player? His 3-point shooting prowess. Porter shot 43.4% from deep last season, which ranked fifth-best in the NBA. His lethal long-range effectiveness helped him post a sterling 60.8% adjusted field goal percentage, the best mark in the league among non-centers.
Porter hasn’t always been an expert NBA marksman. During his rookie season, he shot a dreadful 19% from deep. He improved significantly during his second season, shooting 33.7% from 3-point range, but that was still below league average. He continued his mediocre performance in the first half of the 2015-2016 season, draining a paltry 31.7% of his 3-pointers. Then, something clicked. Porter went on to shoot 44.7% from deep in the second half, and that momentum carried right into his breakout 2016-2017 season.
So, what changed?
He stopped looking down. Seriously. In a Washington Post article from March of 2016, Porter revealed he’d fallen into the habit of constantly making sure his feet were behind the 3-point line before he launched a long-range shot. Combined with his slow gather and unique shooting form, the tic was enough to throw off his mechanics.
“I try not to look where I’m at, especially when I’m shooting threes but I just think it’s a bad habit for me. I have to do a better job of when I shoot not to look down or anything. It’s different when you’re catching a low pass down low or something like that,” Porter told the Washington Post.
In a recent interview with STACK, Porter revealed the issue is now firmly a thing of the past. “It was definitely taking a toll on my rhythm, (I was always) making sure I was behind the line. To be honest, I don’t know where that came from. I think it just happened over time. But watching a lot of film and the mechanical problems I had, I noticed that was one big thing that kept me from shooting a high percentage in my early years. Just having that confidence that I know I’m behind the line and I can just focus on making the shot, that’s definitely helped,” Porter said.
Porter’s improved court awareness has helped his 3-point stroke become smoother and more decisive. Witness these highlights from his 25-point performance against the Indiana Pacers in February:
It’s a subtle change, but it’s clearly been significant for Porter. In January, The Ringer ran a piece entitled “Otto Porter Jr. Fixed His Shot Without Fixing His Form.” Porter’s always had a funky shot, and his basic mechanics have remained largely unchanged since his rookie season.
“The angle of his feet is the same. The long gather that gives defenders time to close out is the same. The left hand that hovers over the top of the ball like he’s cradling a baby is the same. The fact that there aren’t any visible differences is stunning considering his early-career lack of shooting production,” writes staff writer Kevin O’Connor.
For Porter, continued practice and an improvement in his court awareness were enough to make a major difference in his performance.
Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images