The Wizards are in free fall. They are 5-11 so far, the sixth worst record in the NBA. They are also a mess with reports that no one on the team likes each other. Not to mention they are among the highest payrolls in the NBA.
So there are increasing calls among pundits and fans for Washington to blow it up. And the name that’s been mentioned most is Otto Porter Jr. He and John Wall haven’t been getting along that well and Scott Brooks called out Porter —publicly— last month.
“I want guys to play hard. We’ve got to play hard. You don’t need extra minutes to play hard,” Brooks said when asked about Porter playing only 25 minutes during a loss to the Raptors. “Got to play hard. Everybody.”
Brooks added, “I love Otto… but he has to play faster, you got to move. You got to set yourself up. You got to run the floor,”
Some have suggested that Porter, a quiet player, is being set up as a scapegoat.
So might the Nets be interested in Porter if he becomes available? It’s hard to imagine they wouldn’t be! The Nets went to great lengths in the summer of 2017 to sign Porter, then a restricted agent.
Sean Marks, with clearance from ownership, tendered a near unique offer sheet to Porter. The Nets wanted Porter bad, very bad. They saw the 6’8” forward as an ideal stretch 4 in their system and put their money where their hopes were. Marks never commented back then on the level of interest, but a retelling of the process that led up to the offer sheet said everything that needed to be said.
Moreover, the Nets treated recruiting Porter as if he was unrestricted, having Nets players sit down with him and tell him all about Brooklyn ... despite the belief, proven accurate, that Washington would match. Indeed, Porter had a similar offer from Sacramento, but chose Brooklyn.
The Nets offer sheet was traditional, if generous, in terms of money, an agreement to pay him the max —$106.5 million over four years. The Wizards had declined to make Porter an offer and instead let the market decide.
But what isn’t well known is how the Nets larded up the offer sheets in a myriad of ways. Here’s the other disincentives the Nets included in hopes that the Wizards wouldn’t match.
—By giving Porter the max, the Nets put Washington over the luxury tax threshold for the first time in franchise history ... to the tune of $10 million.
—The Nets inserted a 15 percent trade kicker in the offer sheet, the max allowed, making any trade difficult to complete unless Porter waived it (as Allen Crabbe did.)
—Porter was given a player option in the fourth year, giving him greater flexibility ... and his team less. The Wizards may have to re-open negotiations with Porter in 2020, a year before the deals given John Wall and Bradley Beal run out. Those two will make a total of $70 million in 2020-21. The option was going to complicate Washington’s salary cap and luxury tax planning, even before their collapse.
—Most uniquely, the Nets agreed to pay Porter upfront. Half of Porter’s annual salary has to be paid by October 1 every season. Specifically, the first payment — equal to 25 percent of his salary — has to paid on July 1, then Porter gets another 25 percent at the beginning of training camp on October 1. That means lump sum payments of around $14 to $15 million between July 1 and October 1 in every one of the four years of the deal.
How unusual is all that? None of their offer sheets to Crabbe, Tyler Johnson or Donatas Motiejunas, the three other RFAs they tendered offer sheets, had all of those provisions. (Motiejunas offer was different from the others in that it was filled with team options.)
As Bobby Marks tweeted at the time, “Say this about the Nets front office. They have given some of the nastiest offer sheets in the past year.”
Despite all that, the Wizards matched — and made the Nets wait as long as the rules allowed, tying up their cap space. Washington was not happy they had to match every single provision of the offer sheet: the salary, trade kicker, player option and the “signing bonus” ... but they wanted to win fast.
More significantly, the whole process —the recruitment, the onerous term sheet, the willingness to lose access to the cap space— suggests just how much Marks and Co. liked (and almost certainly still like) Porter. They saw his numbers the year before — 13 points per game, 6.4 rebounds, and a 43.4 percentage from deep, numbers he improved on last season to the tune of 14.7, 6.4 and 44.1.
This year, of course, he’s had an early drop-off. No word on whether the Nets are less enamored of Porter ... just as there was no word on their continued interest in Crabbe.
Such a move, of course, would cut into the cap space available to the Nets in June. How much would depend on the structure of a trade. On the other hand, if the Nets are correct in their belief that Porter would make them a better team, sacrificing a bit of space to win more, they could become more attractive to other, bigger free agents. They might even get a pick to take on Porter’s contract!
This, of course, is all speculation, but the Nets interest in Porter is not. And it’s hard to believe that the Wizards will want to move on Porter or other players until December when nearly all 450 NBA players are eligible to be dealt ... and when teams have a good idea of their needs.
Until then expect a lot of rumors like Monday’s.
- Nets may check in with Wizards as ‘perfect fit’ now available - Brian Lewis - New York Post