Parker or Portis? Wizards Will Likely Have to Choose

Washington Wizards Bobby Portis Jabari Parker (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images)
Washington Wizards Bobby Portis Jabari Parker (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images) /

In just twelve games, both Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis have made an immediate impact for the Washington Wizards. However, with little money to spare this offseason, Washington may be forced to choose between the two former Chicago Bulls.

The Otto Porter Jr trade wasn’t exactly an exciting or hopeful trade when it went down on February 7. Seen largely as a salary dump for the cash-strapped Washington Wizards, Porter’s departure marked the end of a failed era in the nation’s capital. Some may have been happy to see Porter leave, but his departure, plus the Kelly Oubre and Markieff Morris trades, officially ended Death Row DC as we once knew it.

The additions of Jabari Parker, 23, and Bobby Portis, 24, at the trade deadline were interesting if nothing else. The two expiring contracts gave the Wizards some much-needed offseason flexibility, and the promise of young, new talent injected intrigue into a so-far disappointing season.

But after a dozen games in Wizards uniforms, both Parker and Portis have shown enough to win over the fans and force the front office to consider something long term. The only question is will Washington be able to afford them?

Potentially Parker

If the Wizards want to keep Parker, there’s an easy way to do it. All they have to do is pick up his team option for next season. The only problem is that at $20 million, picking up Parker’s contract would eat up nearly all the available cap space that Washington will have this summer. Considering next season may be a bit of a lost one anyways, with John Wall expected to miss most or all of it, taking a one-year flyer on a guy like Parker might be worth it. No matter how expensive it is.

In his 12 games since joining Washington, Parker’s impressed with thunderous dunks and has become one of the team’s more reliable rebounders, even while coming off the bench. His surprisingly unselfish play—while a bit erratic at times (he’s already had five games with 4+ turnovers for the Wizards)—fits nicely with the “everybody eats” brand of Wizards basketball. And at 6’8″, Parker can fit in nicely with Scott Brooks‘ small-ball lineups.

With the Wizards, Parker’s averaging 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists off the bench with a 59.2 efg%.

If the Wizards really want to keep Parker, their best bet might be to pick up the team option. Once they decline the option, it opens the door for other teams to start negotiating with Parker. And those other teams can almost certainly offer more than what Washington will be able to afford. But then again, trading Otto Porter’s contract for cap flexibility, only to turn around and take on Parker’s $20M the next summer doesn’t exactly feel like progress.

Possibly Portis

With Portis, the Wizards may have a better idea of how much they’ll need to spend in order to retain him. It’ll probably be in the $16M ballpark. He reportedly turned down an extension from the Bulls last fall that would’ve been worth $40-50M. If that’s an accurate indication of what Portis is looking for, then it’ll cost Washington most, if not all, of their cap space.

Like Parker, Bobby Portis has come in and made an immediate impact with the Wizards, playing himself into the starting lineup after just five games. More than anything, Portis has provided a much-needed rebounding presence for one of the NBA’s worst rebounding teams. Not counting Dwight Howard, who has played just nine games this season, Portis is Washington’s leading rebounder, grabbing an average of two whole rebounds more than anyone else per game. His ability to step out and hit a three fits well into today’s NBA as centers roam far beyond the painted area.

Through his first dozen games in DC, Portis is averaging 16 points and 9 rebounds while shooting an insane 46.2% from three.

Have the Wizards finally found the “athletic big man” that John Wall so desperately begged for after last season’s playoff loss to the Toronto Raptors? It sure seems like it. Will the Wizards be able to keep him? Now that’s a different story.

We know Portis will be looking for something close to $16M, and if he wasn’t willing to give Chicago a slight discount after they drafted him, it’s unlikely Portis would show Washington any additional loyalty. Plus, the Wizards will probably already be devoting a combined $21 Million to their frontcourt even before giving Portis any money.

Ian Mahinmi, who hasn’t played since February 4, is due to make $15.9M. Howard, who hasn’t played since November 18, will most likely exercise his $5.6M player option. Having that much money sunk into two veteran centers will really dictate how the Wizards are able to spend. It might keep them from getting the center they really want.

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With such a strong impact in just a month of play, Parker and Portis are proving they may be worth keeping in Washington after all. But with Washington’s current cap situation and the money these two will demand in free agency, it looks like we might only get to see one of them in a Wizards uniform next season. And even that’s no guarantee.