Call it gamesmanship, but even if Washington matches the Nets’ maximum four-year contract offer worth $106.5 million for restricted free-agent forward Otto Porter Jr., the Wizards can tie up the Nets’ salary cap money beyond the July 8 deadline to match under NBA rules.
If the Wizards do that, it could impact other potential Nets moves, including their reported interest in unrestricted Celtics free-agent center Kelly Olynyk. According to a USA Today report, the Nets are one of four teams along with the Pacers, Kings and Jazz who have expressed interest in the 7-footer with three-point range.
But while the Nets await a decision by the Wizards on whether to match their offer to Porter, the first-year salary worth $24.75 million counts against the cap space of at least $30 million, dramatically reducing the available money for Nets general manager Sean Marks to use on other possible moves.
When the free-agent moratorium is lifted at noon Thursday, Porter’s signing of the offer sheet will become official. The Wizards then have two more full days in which to match and retain Porter, who would become their highest-paid player. Technically, the Wizards can wait until 11:59 p.m. on Saturday to match the offer.
But even if they match, which an NBA source previously told Newsday they will, it won’t free up the Nets’ salary-cap space. That NBA source indicated to Newsday that the Wizards would then try to tie up the Nets’ money for another four days to July 12.
Here’s how that timeline would work under the current NBA collective bargaining agreement. After the Wizards match, Porter has two days to report and take a physical exam. The Wizards then have two more days to withdraw the match if they want to. The money would count against the Nets’ cap during that period because Porter would return to the Nets should the Wizards withdraw the match.
If Porter reports to the Wizards on Sunday after the match Saturday night, it could shorten the waiting period from 6 ½ days to 5 ½ days and free up the Nets’ money by July 11.
There is no mechanism that allows the Nets to withdraw their RFA offer sheet on July 8 if the Wizards match. The reason is that if Porter doesn’t pass the Wizards’ physical, he then reverts to the Nets. So, whether the Nets intend to pursue Olynyk or any other free agent, they will be playing with a short deck for several days even if the Wizards match their offer to Porter.