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Otto Porter’s free agency prospects have dimmed. Will the Nets offer the max?

The Sacramento Kings agreed to a pair of deals Tuesday, inking George Hill and Zach Randolph to multiyear contracts. Those deals, while happening roughly 3,000 miles away, were of great interest to the Washington Wizards and their restricted free agent small forward, Otto Porter.

By committing big money to both Hill (three years, $57 million) and Randolph (two years, $24 million), the Kings no longer have the cap space necessary to extend Porter a max offer sheet, something the team had done in its meeting with him over the weekend. That leaves only one team – the Brooklyn Nets – with both the cap space and the expectation of potentially offering Porter a max contract during free agency.

If Porter is to receive such an offer, several sources maintain the Wizards would unquestionably match it to keep their starting small forward moving forward.

Washington’s other free agency moves support that thinking. They agreed to a minimum deal with Mike Scott earlier Tuesday, following the signing of guard Jodie Meeks to a two-year, $7 million deal, to bump their roster up to 14 players (counting the contracts of Sheldon Mac and Daniel Ochefu, both of which have small guarantees). 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, if they so choose, which would allow them to operate freely without being hard-capped).

But matching an offer to Porter would push the Wizards over the luxury-tax threshold, and Washington has never paid that tax, making them one of three teams, along with the Charlotte Hornets and New Orleans Pelicans, to have never 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 the idea of paying the tax.

The Wizards have pushed back on that, saying they are ready to do so 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 hasn’t done since the glory days of the 1970s. With Porter back, the team is in position to do so again this year and beyond, thanks in part to the Eastern Conference’s relative weakness with several teams in various rebuilding stages.

From Washington’s perspective, if Brooklyn does choose to go in another direction than signing Porter to a max offer with a large chunk of its $30-plus million in cap space, it would potentially allow the Wizards to lock up Porter for something less than his max, which would have to be considered a win for the organization since the expectation was that he would sign a max deal.

Unlike last season, however, when the money flowed freely around the NBA and teams took advantage of a spike in the salary cap, teams have been much more restrained in their spending this summer – both because there isn’t nearly as much money to go around and because everyone sees the impending tax bills facing many teams around the league in coming seasons.

So while the rest of the NBA waits to see what Utah Jazz star Gordon Hayward decides to do, the Wizards are waiting to see if the Nets are willing to pony up a max offer to Porter.

Source: denverpost

About Michel Cooper

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