Setting up the schedule for Raptors HQ staff for Toronto Raptors player previews was a pretty easy task this year — after all, this is almost the exact same Raptors team as last year! Copy and paste all the way! Well, there is that word — almost. There are a few new bodies in the gym to watch out for.
Though Juancho Hernangomez might be the most recognizable new face, thanks to Hustle, I don’t think it’s stretch to say that there’s only notable new rotation player on the 2022-23 Raptors, and that’s Otto Porter Jr.
Porter signed with the Raptors in July, after some encouragement from former teammate Thad Young. On paper, the fit is perfect — Potter brings versatility on both ends of the floor, can shoot the ball, and — of course — is 6’8” with a 7’2” wingspan.
How will Porter look with the team on the floor, and what can he bring to the table?
Otto Porter Jr’s role on the 2022-23 Toronto Raptors
The Raptors, despite their bench woes last season and lack of big moves this offseason, looks surprisingly deep on paper; there’s at least 10 players who could play 20+ minutes (though of course only one point guard… and not one true centre. But that’s a column for another day!).
I think it’s pretty safe to say Porter won’t be a starter, but the interesting question is whether he’s the first player off the bench, or the last, or somewhere in between.
So let’s say Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes and O.G. Anunoby are locked in as starters. The fifth starter could be Precious Achiuwa or Gary Trent Jr.; whichever of those two doesn’t start seems like the likeliest sixth man.
That leaves Porter, Chris Boucher, Thad Young, and Khem Birch in spots 7-10. (In an ideal world, Malachi Flynn would leapfrog Birch into the top 10, and his good summer gives me some hope, but I need to see it first.) It seems to me that Chris Boucher will be the next guy off the bench after Trent/Achiuwa (certainly the contract Boucher got gives credence to him having a big role), leaving Porter and Young in spots 8-9. And I’d say if the Raptors need buckets, Porter will be eight man in, and if the Raptors need stops, Young will be eighth man in.
Otto Porter Jr., bench booster
“Getting buckets” is likely the biggest reason why the Raptors signed Porter; the Raptors were dead last in both bench scoring per game last season, at just 25.7 points per game, and bench offensive rating, at 47.6; they were the only team in the league whose bench offensive efficiency was below 50.
So yeah, they needed some scoring help.
Porter isn’t the scorer he used to be, of course. Back injuries helps Porter to just 105 games over the past three seasons, and a scoring average of just 9.1 points per game. In contrast, Porter averaged 70 games a season, and 14 points per game, from 2016-17 through 2018-19.
That’s a steep decline — but there’s still hope that Porter has some gas left in his tank. First, he doesn’t turn 30 until next June; second, he had a solid bounce-back season last year with the Golden State Warriors; and third, the Raptors boast one of the best medical staffs in the league. If Porter’s health is trending in the right direction, the Raptors should be able to keep him on track, and if so, there’s a chance he’s even better this year than he was last year, when he averaged 8.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in 22 minutes per night, on 46/37/80 shooting splits.
Regardless of the raw numbers, Porter should help balance the Raptors’ offense; he has the highest career 3-point field goal percentage on the team, and that ability to help spread the floor and draw attention as a shooting threat, should open up a little more space for others to put pressure on the rim… and vice versa.
Playing the other side of the ball
Any new Raptor is up against it when it comes to learning the nuances of Nick Nurse’s defensive schemes — and managing to sustain the energy level needed to execute them. A player with back issues — which typically dampen mobility and quickness — certainly doesn’t seem likely to crack the code!
Last year was Porter’s best defensively, by far, according to both basketball-reference.com’s defensive box plus-minus (a 2.1 DBPM; his previous career high was 1.0, in 2017-18) and fivethirtyeight’s defensive RAPTOR (1.7). Team defense matters, and of course the champs were a great defense last year — but so are the Raptors.
As long as Porter remains healthy, and is able to pick up Nurse’s schemes and avoid any early trips to the doghouse, he should be a neutral addition, if not a positive one, on that side of the floor.
Final thoughts on Otto Porter Jr.
Porter’s a solid pickup and should be a perfect fit on this Raptors team. The only real question is just how much he’ll be able to contribute — both when it comes to health, and the glut of players playing in essentially the same position. You can certainly argue the Raptors should have signed a point guard or a centre this past summer, but if no one was available that Bobby Webster and Masai Ujiri thought would move the needle, then Porter is a decent consolation prize.