As soon as the Wizards were eliminated from the playoffs, Nets fans set their sights on Otto Porter. Certainly, there are smart reasons to add him. He will be 24-27 years old on his next contract, and he can shoot and guard multiple positions. Given his age and versatility, Porter fits what the Nets are building, regardless of the direction they go in. If they decide to completely rebuild by trading Lopez and other veterans, Porter fits because his career is so nascent — he can grow with the current and incoming kids. If they (I hope not) enter “win now mode,” Porter is a good player who will help them win games, and fits into nearly any lineup seamlessly.
Alas, there is an elephant in the room: Porter is a restricted free agent, and the Wizards would be taking a gigantic risk letting him walk out the door.
The Wizards goals are rather simple: contend, and keep John wall beyond his 2019 unrestricted free agency.
Those goals reveal one simple truth as to Porter – there is no reason for the Wizards to let him go, unless they can replace him with a better player. And the chance they can replace him with a better player in 2017 or 2018 (you cannot wait for Wall to hit the market) is unlikely.
Replace him internally? That is a gigantic leap of faith in Kelly Oubre, who was barely a rotation piece and is nowhere close to where Porter is right now. Bojan Bogdanovic? He is a good shooter who offers nothing close to Porter’s dribble drive game, defensive prowess, or ability to play and guard multiple positions.
With no internal upgrade available, what about the trade market? Good luck. Oubre is their best asset and is just not valuable enough to get a piece as good as Porter.
So then the Wizards have to turn to free agency, and their task would be arduous: find a free agent who is BETTER than Porter in 2017 or 2018 — and who does not play point guard, as you are set there.
But first things first: the Wizards would need a $30 million max slot for any free agent. To get there in 2017, they would have to dump Mahinmi and Smith, or Gortat Smith and Satoransky, and do so without taking back a single dollar of salary, without dangling this year’s first, as the Nets own it. If they want to keep Bogdanovic, they’d need to execute the above scenarios, but dump BOTH Gortat and Mahinmi. Good luck doing that, or doing that without developing a mini Nets like pick situation.
To dump that salary in 2018? The Wizards would need to dump one of Mahinmi or Gortat together with Smith, while letting all of their players walk and stringing along scrubs and bit players on one year deals. Again: good luck with that.
So positioning in free agency for a Porter upgrade would require the Wizards to hemorrhage their roster while dumping picks. The question then becomes: if the maneuvering works, what upgrades are even available? The answer: slim pickings.
The following non point guards (not including Aldridge given his serious decline), are practically in play in 2017 and 1018: Hayward, Blake, and Millsap in 2017; and George, Melo, and Cousins in 2018.
Can the Wizards honestly say that their chance of all the above maneuvering, AND getting one of these six players, is even close to realistic?
Let’s start with 2017, where at least the Wizards would be positioning for a piece obtainable now. Hayward and Blake play for winners out west, and can easily return to those teams on max deals. If they leave, that choice will likely be grounded in hoping to win more. Do they really believe Washington provides that chance? Millsap could win more in Washington and would fit, but he will have multiple suitors, likes Atlanta, and publicly jabbed the Wizards during the first round. Can they count on him committing and take all the above risk for a chance to MEET with him?
Moving to 2018, you have Cousins, George, and Melo. Melo seems hellbent on remaining a Knicks, so the Wizards cannot just take a shot in the dark on him coming.
Cousins is the piece everyone loves to talk into Washington. And sure, he struggled with drama in Sacramento, and was not happy about being traded to New Orleans because it deprived him of a massive $207 million deal only Sacramento could have offered. However, Cousins now plays with Anthony Davis, and the Pelicans have put everything into making that duo work. Maybe he is ticked off today, or was in February. But if the Pelicans show sincere growth in 2017-2018, and Cousins and Brow form a deadly duo, then it is certainly plausible, or likely, that Cousins moves past whatever lingering frustration he had about the trade, and embraces playing with a superstar in New Orleans. The Wizards would be dumping their third best player and tossing assets in the ocean on the mere hope that two upper echelon stars in New Orleans failed together, that Cousins believes it will continue to fail and asks out, and that the Wizards became his team of choice. That’s a gigantic risk to bet on for Washington.
Sure, Cousins to Washington to join his buddy John Wall is the thing these days, for some. But nobody had LeBron to Miami, or back to Cleveland. Or Dwight to LA then Houston. Or CP3 to the Clippers. Or Deron to Brooklyn for that matter. These superstar moves often surprise and go against the fan gradient.
So what about George? Once again, is he worth the risk? What if the Lakers rumors have legs? What if he is traded to an asset heavy team and finds a home? Banking on him feels like a fools errand for Washington.
So will the Wizards move on from Otto Porter? Given their win now mode, Wall’s free agency, and unlikelihood they turn losing him into an upgrade, the answer is likely no.
Stranger things have happened in the NBA, where the rule of thumb is that you NEVER know what will happen. If the Wizards decide to dump Porter to take a risk on a big name, or simply dump him to save scratch, I will be very surprised. But I will not be shocked.
Alas, Otto Porter is the third best player on a 49 win team. Nets fans can hope he comes. But they shouldn’t bank on it.