The biggest question mark between now and the start of next season is whether Otto Porter Jr. will be on the roster. The former No. 3 overall pick has completed his rookie contract, assuming he rejects Washington’s qualifying offer, and will become a restricted free agent. What that means is the Wizards will have the opportunity to match any offer the other 29 NBA teams make to Porter for his services.
Before the All-Star break, Otto Porter was shooting an insane 46.6 percent from beyond the arc, which I believe would have warranted a max contract offer from Washington in order to keep him in DC. But, Porter shot just 34.1 percent from deep post All-Star break in the regular season and a mediocre 28.2 percent (11-for-39) in the playoffs.
So, the question is, does Porter get a 5-year, $90 million deal, the max of roughly $130 million, or something in between. Would he give the Wizards a hometown discount? Is Washington willing to see him go? Those are major variables that will determine whether the Georgetown product continues to make hay in Washington or not in a few months.
Between Beal, Wall, Mahinmi, Gortat, Morris, Smith, Satoransky, Oubre, McCullough, Mac, and Ochefu (the latter two of which are technically non-guaranteed but likely to stick around), Washington is already on the books for $94.5 million. This more or less guarantees Washington to go over the projected $102 million salary cap, which is allowed because Bird rights of Porter (as well as Bojan Bogdanovic and Trey Burke) are held, but the real question is whether owner Ted Leonsis gives the team the green light to go over the $122 million luxury tax limit.
Assuming not, just because of their track history of not doing so, Washington would have four roster spots to fill, assuming none of the previously mentioned 11 players are moved, with just $27.5 million. Assuming Porter gets between $90 and $130 million over five years, that number drops to a mere $5 to $10 million for three players. It is easy to stay under the cap by signing their second-round pick and a couple other undrafted free agents, but with McCullough, Mac, and Ochefu already on the roster as projects, the team probably desires immediate contributors especially at the backup point guard spot if Satoransky is not yet ready.
Bojan Bogdanovic expressed a desire to sign somewhere he can play “heavy minutes” and he will want (and get) a bump more than $10 million per year in his second NBA contract, which all but rules out his return to Washington if Porter is re-signed. As an aside, do not deem his acquisition as a total bust as shedding Andrew Nicholson’s contract is the only reason why the Wizards have any flexibility this summer. Hypothetically, if general manager Ernie Grunfeld and company allow for Porter to walk and sign Bogdanovic to a deal similar to Ian Mahinmi’s four-year, $64 million contract, Washington would have nearly $12 million to spend on their final three spots, which could be enough money to sign a decent backup point guard. Of course, the downside to Bogdanovic is that he is a worse defender relative to Porter.
The most likely scenario? Porter returns with a fat wallet, but probably not the max deal. Why do I think that? Because players and coaches expressed how much they like his game and are already acting as if Porter will return next year for the starting five core getting another year to grow.
“Love Otto, love Otto,” Brooks began. “Had a good year with Otto, really getting to know him. Great kid, team guy, makes a lot of winning basketball plays. He’s not a guy that you can give you 25 a night, but he’s a guy that can give you great minutes and give you winning minutes. His outside shooting has improved to become a knockdown shooter. Did not know that about him going into the year, but am excited that he has become that. Can guard multiple players, which is another strength of his. I’m excited to be able to coach him and get to see his development this year, he’s one of our guys that really developed this year as the season went on from November through May.”
“He stole a lot of good rebounds from me,” Gortat joked. “‘Yeah, now that you are a free agent, you want those rebounds, right?’ He definitely took those rebounds from me, I let him take it, but he’s going to get paid.”
“He fits great, does a great job, knows his role,” Wall said. “Doesn’t complain about anything, comes in puts in work every day. On the court, he gives everything he has.”
“Don’t come to me for no advice,” Beal kidded at the beginning before advising. “Just be patient. At the end of the day, it’s a patient game. Ultimately, he has to do what is best for him. We love him here. Hopefully, we will have him back but you know, it’s a business and a process at the end of the day. Otto’s my boy, he’s a Missouri boy, we got to stick together always. Just take your time and enjoy the process. It can be gruesome and sometimes not go your way, not go the way you want it to, but it always works out in the end.”
“He’s a key piece,” Beal continued. “He can shoot the ball tremendously well. He made a lot of strides this year for us on both ends of the floor. He’s going to constantly get better. He’s 6-9, I wish I was 6-9. 6-9, long and can shoot the ball, athletic, and can rebound with the best of them. He’s a true talent and I’m hoping we get him back.”
“His three-point shooting,” Morris said was the biggest surprise from Porter. “I didn’t think anyone knew he could shoot the ball that well. Me and Otto, we complement each other well on the court. He’s more like me, laid back, quiet type. Guy that just comes in and gets his work done. Great teammate. Great guy to have on the team. I hope he gets the max, I think he deserves the max.”
Porter himself did not comment too much on his impending free-agent status has he was still processing the end of the 2016-17 season, but admitted that it will be a “good summer” for himself. When I asked point blank if he expects to be back next season, Porter responded, “I don’t know. I don’t know yet. We’ll see.”
Those responses sound a bit bleak, but Porter wanted on to say, “I love D.C. I want to school here [Georgetown], became a big part of what goes on around here, this is like home to me.”
Will the soon to be 24-year old get paid millions this summer? Definitely, to quote the not so quotable Porter. Whether that is Ted Leonsis cutting the check is likely in my opinion but far from a guarantee. Free agency begins in July and hopefully, the Wizards are not in for another wild finish Al Horford-esque.