NBA

Golden State faces harsh reality with Otto Porter in free agency

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The Golden State Warriors lost 2-1 to the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals when Steve Kerr changed his starting lineup, inserting Otto Porter for Kevon Looney. They won the next three games convincingly overall, claiming an incredible fourth title in eight seasons.

Golden State’s first championship of this ongoing dynasty, remember, was sparked by a similar strategic shift as the Larry O’Brien Trophy was on the line. Andre Iguodala replaced Andrew Bogut as the starter in Game 4 against the Cleveland Cavaliers seven years ago, a small-ball commitment that unlocked the Warriors’ offense, bolstered a switching defense and ultimately helped make Iguodala one of the league’s most controversial MVP awards. final. .

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Porter is obviously not Iguodala. The numbers and the eye test describe Kerr’s most recent decision to start small as far less striking than the first. Golden State’s new opening five has posted a net rating of -24.5 over the last three games of the series, according to NBA.com/stats. Looney’s presence as a switch defender, screener and rebounder was simply far more important than Porter’s against the huge, athletic Celtics.

Still, don’t discount Porter’s importance to the Warriors championship. He’s a dead-eye shooter who defenses need to pay attention to away from the ball, and remains a long, active and smart assistant on the other side of the floor, even if injuries have undermined Porter of the lateral quickness needed to constantly keep the ball in front. him.

Every team in the league could use a reserve wing like Porter, basically, and Golden State knows that. Unfortunately for the Warriors, that still doesn’t mean they’ll be able to retain him in free agency.

According to veteran reporter Marc Stein, Golden State is fully aware that financial constraints will make it “very difficult” to re-sign Porter once free agency is announced on July 1.

The hope in Golden State is that he can neutralize the inevitable outside interest in Looney and Gary Payton II while realistically understanding that Otto Porter Jr., after playing on a minimum contract, is going to be very difficult to retain. .

Porter surprised by signing a minimum one-year contract with the Warriors last August, despite several considerably more lucrative offers. His salary was $2.39 million in 2021-22, more than $7 million less than the mid-level exception other teams would have been willing to give him.

Player and team were undoubtedly under the assumption throughout the season that Porter’s tenure in the Bay would be brief. His ostensible plan paid off perfectly, with Porter proving to be a viable rotation player in a Championship side just before returning to the open market for what could be his last long-term contract.

The Warriors have non-bird rights to Porter, limited to offering him a starting salary worth 120% of his previous with cap exceptions. A contract starting at $2.9 million a year isn’t enough to meet Porter’s expected market, and the mid-level taxpayer exception of $6.4 million – Golden State’s only other way to bring back Porter – certainly falls short as well.

The only way for him to stay in San Francisco in the future if he is comfortable taking another one important discount, and Porter’s age and injury history suggest that securing the bag now is in his best interest.

The good news? Golden State isn’t exactly short of wings behind Andrew Wiggins and Klay Thompson, with Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody earning rotational minutes as teenage rookies. Owner Joe Lacob also looks set to dip even deeper into his pockets to re-sign Gary Payton II, according to Stein. Additionally, the Warriors will be an ever-popular potential destination for veteran free agents who value winning and the market over money, just as they were for Porter this time last year.

Porter played a key role in Golden State’s crowning glory. It’s now up to the Warriors to find his suitable replacement, whether on the open market or internally.

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