LAS VEGAS — Nets general manager Sean Marks made a value judgment when he chose to extend a maximum four-year offer worth $106.5 million to restricted free agent small forward Otto Porter Jr., knowing the Wizards were adamant about matching it. He could have gone after Kentavious Caldwell-Pope because the cap-strapped Pistons would have been unable to match.
That decision might come back to hurt Marks. The Pistons traded with Boston to acquire guard Avery Bradley on Friday and renounced the rights to Caldwell-Pope, making the 6-5 shooting guard an unrestricted free agent. He might not have been worth a max restricted free agent offer, but in the estimation of ESPN commentator Bobby Marks, Caldwell-Pope “now becomes the top unrestricted free agent on the market.”
Porter’s signing of the Nets’ offer sheet became official on Thursday, so the Nets can’t rescind an offer that reportedly ties up $24.77 million of their salary-cap space, which is down to a little more than $5 million now. Although matching the Nets’ offer will put the Wizards over the luxury-tax line for the first time in their history, an NBA source told Newsday they will match.
The Wizards have until 11:59 p.m. Saturday to match, but if they make it contingent on Porter reporting and passing a physical, they can tie up the Nets’ salary-cap space until Tuesday and possibly as late as Wednesday.
There is sure to be a bull market for Caldwell-Pope, and it is unlikely he will wait to see what happens with the Nets — who have serious interest in pursuing him — especially after they made Porter a priority.
Noting that Marks had struck out on three previous attempts to sign restricted free agents, the NBA source said of the Porter offer: “It’s not a smart play on their part. They should have gone after Caldwell-Pope because Detroit can’t match. Why not go after unrestricted free agents?”
The Nets included some wrinkles in the offer sheet that might give the Wizards pause, including a 15 percent trade kicker and a fourth-year player option. Porter also can veto any trade the first year, and 50 percent of his annual salary must be advanced by Oct. 1.
The Nets’ best hope might be for Wizards star John Wall to tell management he will leave as a free agent in a year if they make Porter the team’s highest-paid player. But if the Wizards match, the Nets not only don’t get their man, but Plan B likely is out the window, too.
Notes & quotes: The Nets allowed a 19-point third-quarter lead to dwindle to one but beat the Hawks, 75-72, in their summer league opener Friday night. Isaiah Whitehead and Archie Goodwin each had 14 points, Caris LeVert added 12 and undrafted rookie Nathan Boothe scored 11, including a late three-pointer that gave the Nets a five-point cushion. “Our defense was pretty good until the fourth quarter,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “We had a lead and let it slip, but the guys got stops when they needed to at the end.” . . . Trade acquisition D’Angelo Russell pleasantly surprised Atkinson by showing up. “We talk about culture and making the effort,” Atkinson said. “He could stay in beautiful L.A., but for him to come out here is pretty cool.’’
Atkinson explained why the Nets’ roster includes starters LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and rotation guards Whitehead and Spencer Dinwiddie. “We want to keep progressing and I want to keep progressing as a coach, which is why I’m coaching the team,” Atkinson said. “I want to be in the trenches with this group instead of sitting up in the stands socializing. These are our guys we’re going forward with and it’s a young core. So I thought it was important for them all to be together.”