What will, or should, the Wizards do with Otto Porter when what is expected to be a feeding frenzy otherwise known as NBA free agency opens at 12:01 a.m.?
For months, the position has been to put the issue to bed quickly. Porter is a restricted free agent and the Wizards could move to close the deal or tell him to fetch an offer sheet from another team that they'd then have 48 hours to match to retain him.
It's a pay now-or-pay later dilemma but ultimately the Wizards will have to pay a lot of money to keep their 2013 No. 3 overall pick who is coming off the best season of his career (13.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 43.4% three-point shooting).
The Wizards, however, have their eye on Paul George. He's on the market going into his final year of his deal that pays $19.5 million and will leave. He has an option year for 2018-19 that he's already said he will opt out of and Indiana is in a bind.
The Wizards can't offer the type of attractive package that the Boston Celtics could with their multitude of assets which include draft picks. Then again, with no guarantee that George will stay with the team that receives him beyond the 2017-18 season complicates any deal. The Pacers hold the rights to their blue chip talent, but if they hold on to it too long that could backfire.
So what are the Wizards to do?
Their recent history suggests they take the bird in hand. When John Wall was eligible for an extension in 2013, they struck up talks during Las Vegas summer league play in July of that year and came to terms on what was then an $80 million max soon afterwards.
When Bradley Beal was a restricted free agent last summer, they agreed to terms on a $128 million max early in the process of free agency though they didn't make anything official until later in the process for cap reasons.
Beal had a lot to prove and had health concerns every year of his career since he'd been drafted in 2012. Like Wall, he raised his level after the deal. Both are coming off their best seasons and both were the healthiest they'd ever been.
Porter is slightly different in that he's not the same kind of player. Whereas Wall and Beal can isolate their opponent and break him down 1 vs. 1, that's not in Porter's wheelhouse.
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He's best off the ball and playing off others. While a good passer, he doesn't create for himself and needs to be surrounded by the right pieces to be the most effective.
Porter can drop a career-high 34 points and 14 rebounds like he did Nov. 11 vs. the Boston Celtics or go scoreless in 36 minutes of Game 6 in the playoffs vs. the same team.
He benefitted greatly from teams loading up on the ball with Wall or sending blitz coverages vs. Beal. Porter found the soft spots around the arc, made himself available and knocked down the shots. After a 2-8 start, the Wizards' 49-win season can be attributed to Porter doing his job in this regard.
Defensively, he was solid as long as he didn't encounter big, physical small forwards. Porter had difficulty matching up with LeBron James. While that's a problem for everyone around the league, the key is to be able to make him work hard for what he gets.
Porter's lack of physical strength makes him more of a liability. He also can be a step slow and easily disrupted by contact on his lock-and-trail technique when defending off screens and handoffs.
In other words, Porter is a role player. He does it well. He moves without the ball and makes himself available. He knows how to manipulate space and when you add in the development on his three-point shot he has lot of value.
After Kevin Durant and Gordon Hayward, there aren't that many small forwards in free agency who can be said are better Porter. The best of the rest are the oft-injured Danilo Gallinari, Rudy Gay (coming off an Achilles tear), Jeff Green, Tyreke Evans and P.J. Tucker.
Tucker is a player, league sources tell CSNmidatlantic.com, that the Wizards have inquired about in the past. Green, from Georgetown like Porter, also has been on their radar.
But the concept of supply vs. demand in the NBA is no different than anywhere else. There are some solid small forwards available but how many are 24 like Porter?
Part of free agency is gauging not just where a player is at that moment in his career but what's his ceiling. Can he get better? Will he get better? Will he do the work necessary to get better?
It's a future's market, too. If the answers to all of those questions are yes, he'll be promptly re-signed.
If the Wizards later decide they want to make a major move to bring in a third player to form a Big 3 with Wall and Beal, that would have to wait until December per collective bargaining rules. But they'd also have Porter under a long-term deal to guarantee certainty for another suitor.
The most important thing from Porter's perspective is that he'll likely be earning max under a larger salaray cap ($99 million), or near max money, than Wall or Beal.
Allowing him to leave without a comparable or better replacement isn't an option for a team that won 49 games and came one victory from advancing to the conference finals.
Unless a Hail Mary to acquire George comes to fruition, it'll be the other moves the Wizards make to fortify the roster with little cap room that will determine if they'll be taking another step forward.