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Otto Porter credits presence of Paul Pierce for rapid development

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

There have been times in the last two years when it looked like Otto Porter was on the path to becoming a bit of a draft bust, even if such proclamations would have been a little premature.

The No. 3 overall pick in 2013, Porter played sparingly as a rookie due to a hip flexor injury that cost him months of game action and the opportunity to carve out a role in head coach Randy Wittman's rotation. When the Washington Wizards signed Paul Pierce last summer, it appeared clear that Porter's role as a sophomore would be a fairly limited one.

As it turns out, Pierce's presence has done far more good than harm, with the veteran helping to expedite Porter's development.

"I think he's tired of me getting on him, too," Pierce said after the team's first-round series victory against the Toronto Raptors, during which Porter emerged as an effective defender and an important cog in small-ball lineups. "I constantly stay in Otto's ear pushing him, trying to get him to be the best he can be. He's responded."

Porter's minutes were somewhat erratic during the season, but he appeared to earn Wittman's trust late in the year. The growth may not necessarily bear itself out in the numbers, but an increased role in times of greater importance is quite the vote of confidence in the 21-year-old.

Oct. 29 - Nov. 21 24.4 8.1 3.4
Nov. 25 - Dec. 30 14.8 4.1 2.7
Jan. 3 - Jan. 7 24.2 7.7 4.0
Jan. 9 - Jan. 25 11.8 2.4 1.9
Jan. 27 - Feb. 11 19.8 7.4 2.7
Feb. 20 - March 6 27.0 8.9 2.9
March 7 - March 29 12.5 3.6 2.3
April 1 - April 15 29.5 9.3 5.0
Round One 31.9 9.5 7.3

Against the Raptors, Porter was as important a piece as anyone, helping neutralize DeMar DeRozan and hitting the offensive glass with abandon. He still struggles to handle the ball and isn't a deadly threat from outside, but the improvement in his overall play was striking.

"I need it," Porter said of Pierce's mentoring. "I'm a young pup, I need somebody to push me and that's what he's doing."

Porter has one more season to learn and grow under Pierce's tutelage, and it seems likely he'll see an expanded regular-season role in 2015-16. If he continues to develop as he did in April, the ceiling for this Wizards core rises appreciably.

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