While most of America was reacting (or overreacting) to the “real” Gordon Hayward decision, or celebrating the day our Founding Fathers let freedom ring across the nation, the Brooklyn Nets finally dealt their first hand in free agency. It was heavily foreseen leading up to July, but on Tuesday night, the Nets and restricted free agent Otto Porter reached an agreement on a four-year max offer sheet, worth $106 million.
Your gut reaction might be: Wow, the Nets finally did something in free agency! Your next reaction is probably: Whoa, $106 million through four years? That’s an average of $26.5 million per year! Or maybe: Oh damn, well, the Wizards are going to match anyway.
The magic of money in free agency
Money talks in free agency. It’s one of the few things that entices free agents in their decisions. Even more importantly, though, it’s impossible for teams to attain any cherished prizes without possessing a flexible amount of cap room. The Nets entered July with roughly $34 million in cap space, which evidently, will be eaten up substantially by Porter, once the deal is made official and if Washington opts to not match the offer sheet.
The Nets can generate up to $34 million in cap space. Max RFA sheet is around $25M https://t.co/LSb3IBYvMf
— The Brooklyn Game (@TheBKGame) July 1, 2017
With the NBA’s television deals and skyrocketing salary cap, teams overpaying for decent role players or average starters has become almost a norm. We saw that last offseason, with the likes of Evan Turner (four years, $70 million), Chandler Parsons (four years, $94.4 million) and Joakim Noah (four years, $72.6 million) signing lucrative, inarguably ridiculous deals that are nowhere near their value (and not in a good way).
Last year, the Nets tossed outrageous deals at — you guessed it — other restricted free agents in Allen Crabbe (four years, $75 million) and Tyler Johnson (four years, $50 million). As history has said again and again, it was fool’s gold for the Nets, since the Trail Blazers and Heat, respectively, refused to let go of their young wings. However, the Nets certainly raised the stakes for Portland and Miami to retain their players, while desecrating the two teams’ cap spaces in the process. This summer, the same thing applies to the Washington Wizards, who have until midnight on Saturday to make a decision on Porter.
Washington Wizards’ difficult position
Despite the Wizards’ insistence that they’ll do everything they can to keep Porter — including the supposed “aggressive offer” they claimed they were going to make at 12:01 AM four days ago — it won’t be easy. To re-sign Porter, Washington will be forced to go into the luxury tax for the first time in franchise history. Fun fact from salary cap enthusiast Albert Nahmad: Washington is just one of three NBA teams that have never paid the luxury tax. In his analysis of the Nets’ deal, 16 Wins A Ring’s Charles Maniego also hinted at the fact that General Manager Sean Marks likely included several clauses in the deal that would make it difficult for Washington to match the offer (trade kickers, trigger dates for money, etc).
Sure, Porter is far too valuable for the Wizards to lose if they want to remain in playoff contention for the time being. However, giving Porter a max contract will place them in an even more difficult position, especially after they offered John Wall a supermax extension for four years, worth $170 million. Wall is still contemplating his decision on whether to sign it, but there’s little reason to believe he won’t agree to a new deal, given that Washington is coming off a very successful season as a No. 4 seed that advanced to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.
Let’s not forget: Porter chose Brooklyn
No matter what Washington ends up doing, however, perhaps more can be said about the fact that Porter reached an agreement with the Nets in the first place. Prior to Tuesday, the Sacramento Kings were the only team that made Porter a max offer. However, Sacramento’s latest acquisitions, George Hill and Zach Randolph, take up a significant amount of its cap space to still have room for Porter. According to Zach Lowe, Sacramento has approximately $18 million of space left.
Following Porter’s meeting with the Kings on Sunday, ESPN’s Chris Haynes reported the 24-year-old would decide on which offer sheet to sign after meeting with two more teams (one likely being the Nets, who met with Porter on Monday). Porter’s judgment to hold off on a decision by fielding his options put the Kings out of the running, though a counterargument would be that it’s no secret Sacramento isn’t exactly the most desirable free agent destination.
Okay, forget the reason, let’s say we count the Kings out. Then, in the Porter sweepstakes, that put the Nets against whichever other club he met with after Sacramento. Plus, there’s the fact to consider that Porter and the Wizards have not yet reached their own agreement. Brooklyn should be feeling very good right now, even with all the reports stating there’s a high chance Washington will match its offer.
Take Note: The Jazz have also entered the hunt for Porter after Hayward left to go green. However, Utah will need to free up a considerable amount of cap space, potentially through sign-and-trades, to even be able to offer him a max deal.
Culture, culture, culture
For Nets fans who were in favor of the Nets going after Porter, the current satisfaction may boil down to two components: 1) the Nets made him an offer, and 2) Porter actually accepted it. The second of the two reasons is the more important one, as bidding for Porter would have been all for naught if he did not even settle on an agreement with Brooklyn. For the Nets, this comes after the unsuccessful pursuit of JJ Redick, Andre Iguodala and Joe Ingles in this year’s free agency, so getting Porter to agree to an offer sheet could be viewed as a success in itself. Not to mention, as everyone knows by now, the Nets have gone 0-of-3 in restricted free agency. Here’s hoping it doesn’t turn into 0-of-4.
Some may be satisfied with the fact that Porter chose the Nets in the first place, because it could indirectly serve as a way to potentially attract more players to Brooklyn. We all rave about the culture Sean Marks has been building since he took office last February, but there’s still the unfortunate fact that the Nets have been toward the bottom of the Eastern Conference, record-wise, for the last two seasons.
The tides may change for the better soon enough in Brooklyn, though for the time being, they rely on this culture to convince free agents to sign with their rebuilding squad (the roughly $34 million they had coming into this offseason helps too). Several free agents Brooklyn signed last offseason, including Randy Foye and Jeremy Lin, attested to the culture as one reason they decided to ink deals with the Nets. Securing Porter on just an offer sheet — even if he doesn’t land in Brooklyn — this early into July may only help the Nets with pursuit of free agent targets later this summer.
Plan A is in the works for Sean Marks and the Brooklyn Nets. It’s only a matter of time until they find out whether the money and culture can do all the talking.