The CBA is a complicated document. It’s hundreds of pages long. So complicated in fact that the Nets hired a Harvard-trained lawyer, Natalie Jay, as their capologist and resident expert in its intricacies.
We don’t suggest we know much. We read Larry Coon and Bobby Marks and hope we’re not screwing things up when we finally write something. But just a few thoughts on what the Nets may be doing, or trying to do here.
—The Otto Porter contract is something the Wizards expected for months (or should have). The only mystery was who would extend the offer sheet. So they know the costs associated with matching. They have $99 million in guaranteed salary and the $24.8 million Porter will get would put them at $124 million or roughly $5 million over the $119.3 million tax threshold. According to one estimate, that would mean a tax bill of $11.6 million this year. The Wizards have never paid a dime in luxury tax, not under Ted Leonsis, the current owner, nor Abe Pollin, their previous owner.
—The larger issue, perhaps, is the long-term implications of Porter match. The Wizards have three players who make more than the Nets highest paid player, Timofey Mozgov. Porter would make four. Of those four, all would be on the books in 2018-19: John Wall, Bradley Beal, Ian Mahinmi (!) and Porter. Once Wall signs his DVEP (Designated Veteran Player Exception) extension, he, Beal, Mahinmi, and Porter would all be on the books through 2019-20. All but Mahinmi would make $20 million plus. Beal’s deal goes through 2020-21. So Leonsis would be risking a big tax bill year after year, ultimately the repeater tax, unless he can find a way out. The downside risk, of course, is that if the Wizards get nothing for Porter, Wall could decline his DVEP, demand a trade or walk after 2019. Would he?
—The $106.5 million deal for Porter is probably set in stone. You don’t go back on your word to an agent as powerful, as smart, as David Falk. Remember who his biggest client was? A guy who owns the Hornets. BUT and this is important, until Porter signs the offer sheet and it’s submitted to the Wizards, there is no deal. The Wizards and Nets could work out some sign-and-trade with Washington, taking less money in return and staying below the tax bill. The Nets don’t have many assets, but they have some that might appeal. Marks pitch might be, consider the alternative, the abyss of continuing luxury tax payments. Once a deal is signed, it’s more difficult to do those sorts of deals. The offer can only be rescinded by the agreement of all three parties, Porter and the two teams.
—Are the Wizards even with Porter a competitive team in the revamped Eastern Conference? Yes, yes, the East is weak, but with Cavaliers still carrying the world’s greatest player on their roster and the Celtics getting better with Gordon Hayward (not to mention Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and whoever they take in future drafts). They are certainly, for the time being, the third best team but is that worth all that salary, all that luxury tax, all that angst?
--The final offer sheet remains a mystery until it is sent over to the Wizards offices. What else is in there besides the max? A trade kicker of at least 15 percent is a given. Is there money upfront? Is that even permitted under the new CBA? Is there something that the Wizards aren’t expecting? Did the Nets capologists find some loophole that will give them an unforeseen advantage? It’s doubtful, but Daryl Morey found the poison pill provision in the last CBA that permitted Houston to sign Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik to front-loaded deals.
—The Wizards could offer their own surprise as Tim Bontemps noted in Wednesday’s Post. He wrote that there are provisions that would permit, “in theory”, the Wizards to tie up the Nets money through next Wednesday. Here’s what he wrote. “In addition to the two days the Wizards will have to match Porter’s offer initially, there also is a two day window in which Porter will need to report to the team and have a physical, plus another two day window after that for the team to announce that he’s passed the physical.” Could they do that? Would they? Seems like a nuclear option.
—Finally (we think) there is the lost opportunity some think is the real flaw of the deal (other than overpaying a 24-year-old who averaged 13.4 points and 6.4 rebounds.) Are there deals out there that the Nets could have done if their money wasn’t tied up in an offer sheet to Porter. JaMychal Green, the Memphis power forward? Kelly Olynyk, the newly available Boston Center? Jonathon Simmons, the Spurs swingman? Rudy Gay, the 31-year-old Kings small forward who could play PF in the Nets system? Etc. etc. Right now, back-of-the-envelope, we project the Nets have a little less than $7 million left in cap space after the Porter offer. That’s without renouncing Quincy Acy, Archie Goodwin or Spencer Dinwiddie and without making any trades that would clear cap space, say Trevor Booker who makes $9.1 million or Justin Hamilton who makes $3 million. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson? Maybe the Nets aren’t crazy about those other free agents or believe that the optics of making another big, aggressive move outweighs their value. Or maybe, Marks has back-up plans we don’t know about with agents for one or more of these players.
Bottom line: the Nets are taking big risks. They have to. They have no first rounders of their own until 2019, no second rounders of their own until 2021. Deron Williams dead money —$5.47 million every year through 2020— limits other options.
And so far, the off-season is at least solid. The Nets lost Brook Lopez, but gained a potential franchise player in D’Angelo Russell. And Jarrett Allen is another good young prospect.
Yes, if it doesn’t work, there will be carping that they have now failed three times at working the RFA, losing out on Allen Crabbe, Tyler Johnson, Donatas Motiejunas and Porter. It would be a bummer for fans, a bigger bummer for Marks, the front office and ownership.
So we wait. So we’re patient. We’re good at that.