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The case for trading Otto Porter before he hits free agency

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NBA: Washington Wizards at Orlando Magic Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

There has been some recent talk swirling around the internet about the potential value of the Wizards’ starting small forward, Otto Porter. He is having a career year, playing to the point that where there has been chatter that he deserves a max contract.

Before the Wizards start thinking about locking up Porter to a big, long-term deal, they should think long and hard about alternatives. This certainly isn’t an indictment on Porter as a player, but it has more to do with adding another max player to a payroll that’s already bloated with some unfavorable long-term deals. When it comes to making a decision on Otto Porter, it’s important to consider the best way to improve the team’s current roster and put it in the best possible position for the future.

With that said there are a few reasons why the Wizards should consider trading Otto Porter before the trade deadline:

He Will Be at the Highest Value He Can Possibly Be at Between Now and the Trade Deadline

Right now Otto Porter is one of the best bargains in the NBA. You would be hard pressed to find a player who is as efficient as he is, making $5.8 million this season. Next year, his contract will undoubtedly go up, but he will be a restricted free agent this summer, so he’s a controllable asset moving forward for whichever team has him. So if the Wizards traded him, that would assure them that they aren’t simply getting a salary dump or an expiring contract.

If the Wizards traded him between now and the trade deadline, there should be quite a few teams interested. But given that his salary is so low, the Wizards would be best served in getting a draft pick in return in addition to whatever player(s) they get that match his salary.

Conversely, if you decide to keep Otto and sign him to a max contract, there are potential challenges with trying to move him in the future. If you decide to trade him shortly after signing him to a max contract, his perceived value could be impacted because it could be a sign of buyer’s remorse to another team. But even once you pass the buyer’s remorse stage, Porter’s high salary means teams will have to come up with more players to match his salary and make the trade work.

Keeps Financial Flexibility Moving Forward

If the Wizards decide to keep Otto Porter and give him a max contract, he along with Bradley Beal, John Wall, Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi would cost the Wizards over $93 million in salary next season, and that’s not including the approximately $25 million in guaranteed salary for the rest of the roster that is already signed for next year.

With a projected $102 million salary cap for next season, the Wizards would only be able to use cap exceptions and draft picks to add players on to their roster. Trading Porter wouldn’t give the team flexibility this summer, but by keeping Porter’s long-term deal off the books they could keep enough space open in 2018 to sign Wall to a long-term extension before he hits free agency, or add some new pieces to make one last

It helps you overcome the lack of movable players on the roster

Given the current state of the Wizards’ bench, it’s very difficult to see many teams looking to acquire players like Andrew Nicholson, Jason Smith, and Ian Mahinmi, who all have lots of money and years left on their deals. It isn’t realistic to expect the Wizards to fix their bench with how much money they already have tied to it.

Outside of Porter, the only non-max players that are tradeable at this point are Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris. You could include players like Tomas Satoransky and Kelly Oubre to the mix of potential trade pieces but their low salaries may not yield much of a return. So how do you realistically improve this team without trading at least one of the combination of Porter, Morris or Gortat? Gortat is probably the easiest to trade that will yield a quality return in value at this point given his salary and the money the Wizards already committed at his position, but if they do that, can this team rely on Ian Mahinmi to stay healthy?

By trading Porter you could potentially add a draft pick that can turn into a young piece for the future in addition to the Wizards’ current 1st round pick. Or, that acquired pick can be packaged together with the Wizards’ 1st round pick to potentially move up even higher into what many experts anticipate will be a strong draft class. Either way, you are adding talent to your team without losing Wall or Beal, and you can still maintain some cap flexibility moving forward.

Can the Core of Wall-Beal-Porter be Elite?

This is perhaps the most important question in all of this, because the moment that you sign Otto Porter to a max contract, you lock yourself into a core of this trio until Wall hits free agency. But is this core really going to be the type of core that is going to lead this team to be title contenders?

The early returns say no. While many will argue that this trio is not the reason why this team is losing this season so much as it is the lack of talent around them, signing Porter to a max contract does absolutely nothing to fix this issue. As was mentioned earlier, Porter’s contract would take away any chance of cap flexibility for the next couple of seasons, which would make it difficult to add much more talent through free agency. Then at the end of the 2018-19 season, Wall will be due for another contract, which could shoot this trio’s salary alone over $80 million annually. And don’t forget, Ian Mahinmi would still have still have another year left on his deal worth $16 million.

The salary in 2019-20 is projected to be at $109 million, which can change between now and then, but if we assume that projection holds, there won’t be much money left for the rest of the roster. If the problem with the Wall-Beal-Porter core is that there aren’t enough pieces around them to make the team into a contender, committing a max deal to Porter that caps the team out for the foreseeable future isn’t the solution.

Trading Porter gives the Wizards another opportunity to construct a roster around Wall and Beal, to see if there is any potential with this group going forward. If for nothing else, this may become a last ditch effort to determine if the Wizards can truly build a contending team with John Wall under contract. If the Wizards don’t do anything to drastically change the course of this team in the next couple years, John Wall may leave DC for greener pastures, with a team that gives him a better chance to win a championship.