- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 27, 2013

Surprises atop the NBA draft didn’t change the Washington Wizards‘ plan. They kept Otto Porter Jr. on his home court.

The former Georgetown star will stay at Verizon Center to begin his professional career after the Wizards took him with the third overall pick in Thursday night’s draft.

Washington could have opted for a big man to complement backcourt stars John Wall and Bradley Beal, as the two centers projected by many to go to the Cleveland Cavaliers at No. 1 overall – Maryland’s Alex Len and Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel – both were available at No. 3.

But the Wizards stuck with Porter, who should be ready to contribute quickly after a pair of seasons with Georgetown.

“It’s amazing not to move anywhere,” Porter told ESPN. “It’s just a blessing.”

Cleveland shocked prognosticators by taking UNLV’s Anthony Bennett at No. 1 overall, and the Orlando Magic followed by selecting DeMatha product Victor Oladipo of Indiana at No. 2.

Len ended up going at No. 5 to the Phoenix Suns, just after Charlotte selected Indiana center Cody Zeller at No. 4.

“I was worried,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman told reporters. “I told the kid when he came here, ‘Don’t go visit anyplace else.’ You never know. You feel somebody’s going to grab him, and it could have happened. I don’t think anybody really had a great idea the order that it went, with Bennett and Oladipo going 1 and 2.”

The Wizards later swapped their two second-round picks, Nos. 38 and 54 overall, to Philadelphia for 6-foot-6 swingman Glen Rice Jr., who had gone to the 76ers at No. 35 overall.

Rice, 22, has one of the more intriguing backgrounds in this draft class. The son of the former Michigan and NBA star of the same name had attended Georgia Tech but was dismissed from school following the 2012 season. He spent last season in the NBDL, leading the Rio Grande Valley Vipers to the D-League title while averaging 25 points per game in the playoffs.

Later in the second round, Virginia Tech guard Erick Green went 46th overall to the Utah Jazz.

Porter, from tiny Sikeston, Mo., went from role player as a freshman at Georgetown to Big East Player of the Year as a sophomore. He averaged 16.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game and generally came up big for the Hoyas when it mattered – as in his career-high 33 points in a huge February win at Syracuse.

Porter also was second on the team in blocked shots and third in assists; his all-around game should make him a versatile piece at the next level. He probably will need to bulk up a bit, but he’s so polished he should get regular playing time quickly.

He also has drawn praise for his businesslike makeup, which will be a welcome addition as the Wizards continue their character overhaul of the last couple of years.

“He’s not only low maintenance, he’s no maintenance,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said after the Wizards‘ pick.

With yet another talented young piece on hand, the Wizards could continue their nowhere-to-go-but-up trend.

“We’re going to do damage next year,” Porter told reporters. “I already know what they bring to the table. All I do is plug myself in there, and it’s going to be fun.”

Len, who turned 20 last week, might not make an immediate impact in the NBA, but at 7-feet-1 and 255 pounds, pro teams like his potential. And make no mistake, the Ukraine native likely isn’t as close to a finished product as many of his lottery-pick peers.

In 60 games the last two seasons for the Terrapins, he scored in double figures 32 times and collected at least 10 rebounds in a game just nine times. Though he made the ACC’s All-Defensive team, he was not among the group of 16 players named first-, second- or third-team all-conference by the coaches.

“I’m so excited, dream come true,” Len told ESPN. “I’m so honored to be here, I’m so glad I’m going to Phoenix. Oh my gosh. … Two years ago I had no idea I’m going to be here at this point. I’m just happy, man.”

New Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said Len was the top player on Phoenix’s board, and the unexpected start to the draft worked out well for his team.

“When Anthony Bennett went first, I think everybody in the room was excited to think that, ‘Hey, the guy that we have rated highest on our board may end up getting there,’” Hornacek told the Associated Press, “and that’s exactly what happened with Alex.”

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