The Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night offered a four-year, $106.5 million contract to restricted free agent Otto Porter Jr., the maximum they could give the Washington Wizards forward, following a meeting between the two sides the day before.
Because the NBA is still in its moratorium to begin free agency, the offer won’t become official until noon on Thursday, when deals are first allowed to be signed. And the Wizards would then have until 11:59 p.m. Saturday to match the offer and retain Porter’s services. If Washington chooses to match the offer — something several sources reiterated Tuesday that the Wizards have every intention of doing — he would not go to Brooklyn.
The Sacramento Kings had also offered Porter a maximum contract after meeting with him on Sunday. But after the Kings agreed to big-money contracts with a pair of veterans early Tuesday — first a three-year, $57 million deal with point guard George Hill and then a two-year, $24 million deal with big man Zach Randolph — combined with a prior three-year, $27 million agreement with Serbian guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, whose rights they acquired in a trade last year with the Phoenix Suns, they no longer had the cap space to offer Porter a maximum deal.
When those moves happened, the expectation was that Porter had told Sacramento he wasn’t going to sign there — meaning that he had another maximum offer in hand from a more-desirable team. It turned out the Nets were that team, with their offer coming after their meeting with Porter.
Now the ball is in Washington’s court. And, barring a reversal from what several sources have maintained for months, Porter will return to the Wizards as the team’s highest-paid player next season.
In fact, not only do the Wizards plan on keeping Porter, there is a possibility that they will keep the money from Porter’s offer sheet on Brooklyn’s books for as long as possible. In addition to the two days the Wizards 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 be given a physical examination, and another two-day window after that for the team to announce he has passed the physical.
So, in theory, the Wizards could wait to officially announce Porter has passed his physical and re-signed until 11:59 p.m. on July 12 — tying up Brooklyn’s cap space for a full 6 1/2 days.
The other moves Washington has made so far in free agency also seem to indicate that Porter remains in its plans. The Wizards agreed to a minimum deal with Mike Scott earlier Tuesday, following the signing of guard Jodie Meeks to a two-year, $7 million deal. Those moves put Washington’s roster at 14 players (counting the contracts of Sheldon Mac and Daniel Ochefu, both of which have small guarantees, and not counting Porter).
And while signing Meeks could mean the Wizards would use their biennial exception — making them hard capped, so that they could never exceed a payroll of $125,226,000 for the season — they still have enough room below that hard cap now to match Porter without any trouble. (It also should be noted the Wizards can make Meeks part of their taxpayer mid-level exception, if they so choose, which would allow them to operate freely without being hard capped).
Matching an offer to Porter would push the Wizards over the luxury-tax threshold, and Washington has never paid the tax — making it one of three teams, along with the Charlotte Hornets and New Orleans Pelicans, to have not done so. There is some skepticism around the league, no matter how much the Wizards insist they will match an offer to Porter, that they could still blanch at paying the tax if they have to.
This is a viewpoint the Wizards have pushed back on, saying they are ready to spend to keep intact a team that has advanced to the second round of the playoffs in three of the past four years — something the team hadn’t done since the glory days of the 1970s.
Now that Porter and the Nets have come to an agreement on a max contract, the Wizards will get their chance to prove that is the case. We’ll have the answer by late Saturday night.