- The Washington Times - Monday, January 8, 2018

Otto Porter has always been slender. Even now, at 24 years old, he is under 200 pounds despite being 6-foot-8. When he goes to work on the basketball court, the durability of his spindly frame may be the largest concern.

For the last few years, his hip has bothered him. It gets tight. When his hip is tight, his lower back locks up. This prevents Porter from playing on rare occasion. He played 80 regular-season games last season, plus the playoffs. But, missing the Jan. 6 game against the Milwaukee Bucks — just his fourth missed game of the season — was enough to surface wonder about the Wizards’ depth.

Without Porter, Kelly Oubre was in the starting lineup, Tomas Satoransky, who has made it clear he should play point guard whenever possible, became the backup wing player and the backcourt was thinned as a result. It was one game, and it was telling.

Porter participated in half of Monday’s practice. He sat out the scrimmage portion despite “feeling much better,” according to Washington coach Scott Brooks. Porter has a good chance to play Wednesday — the midpoint of the season — when the Utah Jazz come to Capital One Arena in the second of five consecutive home games for the Wizards.

“Hopefully [Tuesday] he does everything [in practice],” Brooks said.

If Porter plays, the rotation gets bumped back into order. It also allows Brooks to deploy a lineup with Porter as the “power” forward, delivering Washington’s best offensive ensemble back to it.

This goes beyond Wednesday, though. A flawed roster construction from two summers ago, when the Wizards grossly overpaid to add non-stretch-shooting personnel to their frontcourt, still leaves them compromised this season if one player among their premier three goes down, even for a game, especially at the small forward spot.

When John Wall missed nine games this season, he was replaced by Tim Frazier, keeping Satoransky with the backups (and delivering the opportunity for Satoransky to push his way into the rotation after Wall healed). The alignment is not ideal, but can be managed by the three point guards on the roster.

Satoransky’s size and versatility has made the limited wing options easier to deal with because he fixed his three-point shot. It was not an attempt he was comfortable with last season, his first in the NBA, and something he knew he had to improve in the summer. When he plays small forward now, he is most often on the court with Wall and Bradley Beal. That means open corner 3-pointers. Satoransky is shooting 41.7 percent from behind the 3-point line this season. That’s up from 32.9 a season ago.

“I think I put a lot of work in, but it’s a combination also with confidence of the last month of playing,” Satoransky said. “I think if you combine those two factors, pretty confident shooting it especially like you say from the corner. That’s where I usually am.”

Washington has not had to look at life without Beal so far this season. He has played all 40 games for the first time to open a season. In 2016, he made just 35 starts total. He surpassed that mark almost two weeks ago. Beal contended the day in the summer of 2016 he discussed signing his maximum contract that he thought his lower right leg problems would be resolved. Thus far, he has been correct.

However, if he is to go down for any reason — even a game like Porter — the Wizards would be forced to elevate struggling Jodie Meeks to starting shooting guard and then decide what to do. They do not have another shooting guard on the roster, which carried just 12 healthy players Saturday before forward Devin Robinson, on a two-way contract, was called up Monday from the G-League.

Robinson’s presence, expected to be limited to a couple days, does nothing to influence the lack of shooting guard depth 30 days before the NBA trade deadline arrives. He has done enough work in the G-League that the Wizards wanted to reward him with a few days in Washington before sending him back down. Like Satoransky, Robinson has fixed his 3-point shooting. He has shot 40.8 percent from behind the 3-point line with the Delaware 87ers.

“I’m real comfortable right now,” Robinson said. “Coming out of college it was tough. I was like, ‘I don’t know how guys shoot this at a high level.’ Shooting air balls left and right. But, I’m real comfortable now. I figured it out. Mechanics. Repetition.”

In a couple years, that may be a compelling piece of the equation for Washington. Midway through a season when it expects to be a contender in the Eastern Conference, it’s only a reminder of how thin the roster is.

• Todd Dybas can be reached at tdybas@washingtontimes.com.

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