This is a great time to be an NBA star, but even better for NBA scrubs. Thanks to the massive influx of TV money the last two seasons, players deep on the bench can command salaries that make Jon Koncak’s infamous deal look like a steal.
You might recall that Koncak signed a six-year, $13 million contract with the Atlanta Hawks in 1989, giving him a higher salary than Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. The center had averaged 4.7 points and 6.1 rebounds in 1988-89; he never matched those numbers again and retired in 1996.
But it’s not who you know. It’s when you’re due.
Koncak hit the jackpot thanks to good timing, while the opposite caused Steph Curry to be drastically underpaid until now. The same unlucky break makes John Wall the Wizards’ third-highest paid player entering next season. That sounds crazier than another NBA fact:
Mike Conley had the league’s highest salary at a point last summer ($26.5 million) until LeBron James surpassed him ($30.9 million).
The numbers make sense, though. Teams are required to spend 90 percent of the salary cap and the cap soared last season. That’s why a player like Otto Porter – good but far from great – got $106 million over four years in re-signing with Washington. The pact became official Thursday.
All things considered, he’s worth every cent.
Wall has reminded everyone that stars and role players are different, lumping Porter in the latter category. Few observers would disagree. A star is someone like Paul George, whom Wall openly lobbied for as Porter’s replacement. There’s no doubt which player is better, as George would’ve represented a significant upgrade.
However, four seasons from the Wizards’ still-improving 24-year-old is more valuable than one season from a former Pacer who is hellbent on joining the Lakers. Chances are that Porter never becomes George’s equal, but his production and potential beat a one-year rental.
Whether a Porter-George trade was remotely possible, the Wizards were wise to ignore Wall’s chatter and retain their small forward, even at the max price. Porter’s career-high numbers last season weren’t eye-popping – 13.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals. But his 3-point shooting (43.4) was fourth-best in the league and he excelled as a “glue” guy, doing all the little things and fitting in seamlessly.
Removing him from the Wizards’ 49-win team would’ve represented a clear backward step, a direction that’s all too familiar to the franchise.
Forget about the cost. Porter’s benefits to the team are worth market price. General manager Ernie Grunfeld’s shaky decisions last offseason (Andrew Nicholson and Ian Mahinmi among them) made significant roster improvement virtually impossible this summer. But at least he didn’t compound his mistakes by letting Porter walk.
The former Georgetown Hoya is more valuable to the Wizards than any other team. Porter has room to grow and the work ethic to do so. If he doesn’t become a true “Big Three”-talent, he can be used to attract one or exist as an elite contributor.
Looking at the salary obscures the truth:
Porter is a treasure the Wizards couldn’t lose.