NBA free agency begins July 1. Until then, you’re going to see free agent profiles from all over the league. Where will the most notable names land? Why will they land there? For all the profiles we’ve already covered, click here.
I’m worried about Otto Porter. I think he’s going to become the Eric Bledsoe memorial “restricted free agent who deserves the max, doesn’t get it, and then signs reluctantly in September.”
He shouldn’t be. There should be a line of teams around the block trying to nab Otto Porter. He’s exactly the sort of role player who would thrive in these NBA Finals. He makes a bunch of three-pointers. He can switch across almost every position. Plus, he even offers some auxiliary value as a secondary ball-handler and is at least an average rebounder. You could fit him into just about any five-man lineup. I bet he could even play some center in a pinch.
But who’s going to sign him? Boston has grander plans for their space. Minnesota and Miami HAVE to spend their money now. They can’t afford to sit several days out of free agency while Washington hems and haws over whether or not to match. Everyone else will be gone by the time the Wizards inevitably match. Brooklyn would love him. But, they seem hellbent on using their cap space to acquire more picks by taking on bad contracts.
Who does that leave? Maybe Philadelphia or Denver. But I fully expect both of them to court bigger names that will have a more immediate win-now impact. Chicago could use a bigger wing who does the things Porter can. But, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo are eating up their cap space. Phoenix won’t have the money. Orlando might, but if they’re creating cap space it’s to get someone who will help them right now. Porter would, but not as much as some guys who are already in their prime.
As much as Porter might deserve a max contract, there’s just not a team with the right combination of need, cap space and patience to give it to him. And so he’ll wait. He’ll take a visit or two in August when some team has been left alone on the dance floor. We’ll hear rumors of a potential sign-and-trade agreement. But nothing will ever come of it, and Porter will face the choice many restricted free agents have in the past: take a contract below your market value for the sake of security, or bet on yourself for one year with the qualifying offer and test unrestricted free agency a year later.
Greg Monroe is the only notable free agent in recent memory to take the latter path. It has so much risk. One injury could cost Porter a lot of money. On the other hand, taking the qualifying offer also delays his next free agency for a year (assuming he gets a four-year deal) which carries even more risk. The cap isn’t going to rise next summer either, it’ll be stable. His max isn’t changing.
For Porter to take that option, he’d have to be offered significantly below his market value and strongly believe that he’ll get a max offer without the burden of the restricted label next year. Or, he’d have to really want to pick his own team and potentially leave the Wizards.
Washington is in a dangerous boat here as well. Letting an asset like Porter walk for free is usually disastrous. But if they want to get in the hunt for DeMarcus Cousins next year, his salary has to be off of their books. They might be able to trade him in a year, but there won’t be very many teams with cap space in a flat cap environment. Porter could help the Wizards win a few games next year. He could also cost them quite a few more later on.
For the Wizards to re-sign Porter, they’d probably have to get him to agree to a contract that’s more easily tradable. Rather than his four-year deal in the $108 million range, they’d probably start him off somewhere near $80 million. They’d go back and forth, but the Wizards have more leverage so the final number will end up closer to their desired figure.
So let’s say Porter signs a four-year, $88 million deal to return to Washington. That’s easier to trade than the max, but finding a team that both has upwards of $20 million in cap space and a desire to take Porter rather than explore a very deep free agency class is going to be difficult. Add the fact that taking that team off of the board makes it harder to trade Ian Mahinmi and/or Marcin Gortat as well, and I wonder if re-signing Porter might be a huge mistake for Washington. If the money is there, they feel like the favorite for DeMarcus Cousins.
But teams get scared very easily. If the Wizards lose Porter and don’t get Cousins they’re basically closing the door on any dreams of contention they might have had. So the Wizards will probably act conservatively and bring him back. Only time will tell whether or not that’s the right move.
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