Really, everybody has thought about it. The dream of being the General Manager of our local sports team, crunching cap numbers, making the trades that help us compete, and criticizing the opinions of others based on their “scenarios.” As much of a critic some fans have been to the current Washington Wizards’ GM, Ernie Grunfeld, the guy sure does a great job of cleaning up his mistakes.
Let’s rewind to the beginning of the season when the Wizards sleep-walked to a 2-8 start with a new coach. There were tons of fans clamoring for changes at GM, roster implosions, and if you didn’t know any better, you would think we were the worst team in the league. Funny how quickly things can change…John Wall rattles off yet another all-star campaign and is elected to his first All-NBA team. Bradley Beal proves he can stay healthy for a full year and is worthy of a max contract. Markieff Morris looks like a player you’d be thrilled to have in your starting rotation. Marcin Gortat still looks ageless. And then we come to Otto Porter. He has gotten better each and every season since he came into the league. I vividly remember his first game as a Wizard, at home, where he air-balled two out of his first three shots. Let’s just say Otto has grown up immensely into one of the premier targeted free agents this Summer.
So, where do the Wizards go from here after narrowly missing out on a chance to compete with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Eastern crown? There are still a couple of immediate needs in order to even have a chance in the LeBron-era. First, the bench will need some immediate tweaks in order to avoid floundering through their rotation minutes where the starters are gassed. Bojan Bogdanovic, Trey Burke, and Otto Porter are all restricted free agents this Summer.
Ideally, you would think the Wizards would retain Bojan and Otto, and let Trey walk. However, Brandon Jennings is a “non-bird” free agent. The non-bird exception allows a team to re-sign a player to a deal that starts at 120 percent of the player’s salary from the previous season, even if they’re over the salary cap. This would allow the Wizards to sign Jennings to a deal that starts at $1.44 million in the first season, and can be at that value for anywhere between one to four years. Personally, I think we should do whatever it takes to retain a viable back-up PG option in Jennings, who was a much better replacement than Burke. The Wizards would likely match any offer to retain Bogdanovic since he was the main scorer on the second unit, when not paired with Beal.
This all leads us to the $100 million-dollar question: Should the Wizards offer Otto Porter a max extension contract, or let him test free agency with the right to match any offer that comes his way? The Wizards have a lot of needs, but like as previously stated, it’s hard to see how you can match his production with the “next man up” mentality in Oubre. Kelly has looked great in flashes, but doesn’t seem to have enough in the tank to take it to the next level. I would love to be wrong about that opinion, but it’s an incredibly risky gamble. So, we are left with the dilemma once again about where the Wizards would turn to match Otto’s production on the “cheap.”
Currently, the list of impending small forwards hitting free agency does not strike to many as “cheap” production. Taking out the obvious re-structures of LeBron James and Kevin Durant, we are left with a lot of similar second-tier players that are basically Otto Porter 2.0, but have more NBA experience. In a disastrous scenario, let’s say all other NBA teams love Otto Porter and will basically give him a blank check to get him to come play for their team. It will be very telling to see just how much Leonsis, and more importantly, Grunfeld, really like Otto enough to get him to stay in DC. Time will tell, but with Leonsis busy handling the implosion of the Washington Capitals as well, you have to think that they will retain what they have and move forward. It’s not an extraordinary move, but it’s the right one to make.