On Independence Day, the Brooklyn Nets and restricted free agent Otto Porter agreed to a max offer sheet. And the Nets can’t lose.
Restricted free agency is tricky. The crux is simple and often disheartening if someone gets their hopes up a bit too high. Last summer, Sean Marks shot for the moon with Tyler Johnson and Allen Crabbe, who got $50 million and $75 million from the Miami Heat and Portland Trail Blazers, respectively. This year, Marks’ strategy hasn’t changed. He wants players to entertain the idea of coming to Brooklyn to play for the Nets, and he’s going to throw money at whoever he believes is worth it. One of those lucky individuals is Otto Porter, a 6-8 swingman who just wrapped up his fourth season with the Washington Wizards.
Shams Charania reported that the offer sheet the Nets presented Porter is worth $106 million over four years. Washington has the chance to match and they likely will. Since the offseason started, they’ve been vehement in letting everyone know that they’re going to re-sign Porter. He’s fresh off the best season of his career, and the improvement has been noticeable.
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Porter thrived playing alongside John Wall and became a key cog in the Wizards’ rotation. He averaged 13.4 points and 6.4 boards, but his best asset is his three-point shooting. Porter is the definition of a lights-out shooter. With a clip of 43.4 percent, only Joe Ingles, Allen Crabbe and Kyle Korver finished above him on the leaderboard. That stroke fits perfectly with how the Nets run their offense and Porter’s used to playing in an up-tempo system. He can also get to the basket from time-to-time, and he connected on 57.6 percent of his twos, and that contributed significantly to his 60.8 effective field goal percentage.
While Porter’s got the potential to be more than a three-and-D guy, that’d be his primary role to start. And he’d excel in it. In addition to the 148 threes he buried, he tallied 116 steals, making him one of 11 guys to record at least 100 in each category, per Basketball Reference. (That list includes James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry and Chris Paul, so it’s some delightful company.)
Some of that is chalked up to just being aggressive. Porter is far from a lockdown defender, but he’s slightly above-average depending on what metrics you look at. He finished this year with a defensive box plus/minus of 0.9, which, technically, makes him better than the average defender. Contrarily, according to Basketball Reference, Washington was 1.1 points worse per 100 possessions with him on the floor during the regular season. Once the playoffs rolled around, though, they became 9.7 points better. For some added justification to your argument, you can head over to his defense dashboard on NBA.com. There, it’ll show you that Porter’s defensive field goal percentage (47.5) was 2.3 points higher than the average (45.2). Take this with a grain of salt.
Andre Roberson — second team All-Defense — held his opponents to 41.6 percent, whereas Kawhi Leonard — first team All-Defense — boasted a defense field goal clip of 45.0 percent. Both are premier defenders, but the eye test is just as necessary. From what I’ve watched of Porter, he’s average. He has room to get better, but being average is better than awful. And that’s the best adjective to describe Brooklyn’s defense in 2016-17.
Putting all of Porter’s on-court skills to the side, this deal would royally decimate the Wizards’ cap space. And that bench isn’t going to fix itself.
Neil Dalal pointed out on Twitter that Washington is going to have $136.7 million tied up in salary for 2017-18 if they match the Nets’ offer. They’re already over the cap by $2.19 million according to Spotrac, and then they’d be entering luxury cap territory, and it’s all because Ian Mahinmi is getting paid nearly the same amount as John Wall. (Wall is set to make a little more than $18 million, while Mahinmi brings home $16.6 million. Seriously, how does that happen?! One is the East’s best point guard, and the other is… yeah.) It’s also noteworthy that Wall has yet to sign an extension. It wouldn’t impact their books until 2019-20, but they’d still have three max contract guys on the roster.
The outcomes of Otto Porter’s free agency are binary — either he signs with the Nets or he signs with the Wizards. There’s no in-between, and that’s why Brooklyn can’t lose. If Washington goes back on their word and fail to match, the Nets get an excellent young player who can develop alongside a young core, and they’d still have a bit of money left over to spend elsewhere. If the Wizards match, Brooklyn misses out, but Washington would be left gasping for air as they try to build a contender to take down LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.