The calls about Otto Porter came early and often during the trade deadline that passed earlier today, but they went unanswered by Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld. He plans on keeping the soon-to-be restricted free agent now that he has blossomed into an elite shooter who is a perfect fit for one the NBA’s best starting fives.
“We love Otto,” Grunfeld told CSNmidatlantic.com, before the Wizards departed for Fridays' game at the Philadelphia 76ers. “We love the way that he’s developed and how he’s come along. I think Otto fits in very well with what we’re trying to do. I said he’s part of our core and we want to keep him here.”
Porter didn’t enter his fourth NBA season as this hot of a commodity. But in his first season under coach Scott Brooks he has elevated every aspect of his game, averaging career-highs of 14.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 53.4% overall shooting and an NBA-high 46.5% three-point shooting.
With John Wall and Bradley Beal having All-Star-caliber seasons, and Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat playing their best basketball since coming to D.C., Porter has stepped right in. He’s no longer the shy, shoulder-shrugging Mr. Nice Guy that he was when the Wizards drafted him No. 3 overall in 2013.
Though he’s still a nice guy, he has more edge to his game and certainly a confidence that was absent in most of his first two seasons. Last season, Porter’s first as the starting small forward, he came on strong late after lingering in the low 30s on his shot from three.
Now it’s a well-oiled machine. When defense overcommit to Wall and Beal, Porter makes them pay. As a result of his explosion, so will the Wizards to keep him. Porter's emergence created an unexpected expense.
The move made by the Wizards to trade Andrew Nicholson’s $26 million salary, in addition to sacrificing a lottery-protected first-round pick to the Brooklyn Nets for Bojan Bogdanovic, was to create more cap room. They anticipate needing it to retain Porter, who earns $5.9 million this season.
The Wizards must make him a qualifying offer of 125% of that salary to retain the first right of refusal by making Porter restricted. Not making a qualifying offer would allow him to become unrestricted.
“He and John, Bradley, Keef and Marcin and all the rest of our players complement each other very well,” Grunfeld said. “We hope to have him here for a long time.”