We are less than a week away from the 2023 NBA Draft, and the decision deadline for key Wizards pieces Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis. Kuzma was already almost certainly declining his player option to become an unrestricted free agent. There was more uncertainty regarding Porzingis’s decision whether to opt-in for the $36 million contract for next season or test free agency.
The latest reports suggest that the Latvian center, coming off a career season, is leaning towards opting into the final year of his deal, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo! Sports.
This is relatively surprising, considering Porzingis was expected to receive multi-year contracts with more guaranteed money overall if he declined his option. For a player with an extensive injury history like Porzingis, it would have made sense to cash in while his value is the highest it has been in a long time. After proving he could stay healthy for an extended period of time and play close to an All-Star level, Porzingis could have been an attractive option for some teams with cap space, or the Wizards.
Porzingis leaning towards picking up his option suggests this wasn’t the case. Maybe the big offers he was anticipating weren’t on the table. If this was the case, he may reasonably think that he could do better next summer if he were to perform at the same level for another healthy year. Maybe teams are still cautious due to his injury history.
Despite all this, Kristaps Porzingis is a very valuable player. There is a reason he is nicknamed the Unicorn; there simply aren’t too many players with his skill set. A floor-spacing, volume-shooting center with the ability to protect the rim is a rare combination. Therefore, there should be demand for a 27-year-old player with that talent level, especially since the team that trades for him will have the opportunity to re-sign him to a longer contract.
Porzingis opting into that $36 million contract for next season gives him the opportunity to be traded to a team that couldn’t have afforded him in free agency. It opens up a variety of potential trading partners for the Wizards. Let’s explore a few of them.