You could probably make an argument that Daniel Murphy has been the Nationals' best player over the past two seasons. You could probably make an argument that Trent Williams has been the Redskins' best player in the same span. You could not really make the argument that Otto Porter is the Wizards' best player.
And yet here comes Porter, with a four-year, $106 million contract offer from the Brooklyn Nets that the Wizards are expected to match. That will, by average annual value, make Porter the second-highest paid athlete in Washington, behind only Max Scherzer. It will make his average annual compensation higher than those of Murphy and Williams, combined. And that's a little bit insane!
"No no no," the cool, reserved, unperturbed NBA analysts will counter. "Porter was one of the half-dozen or so best free agents on the market this offseason. We all knew he would get a max deal. His contributions go far beyond his relatively modest traditional stat lines. This contract might actually turn out to be great value for the Wizards. Only simpletons would think it insane that Porter is about to be paid more per year than John Wall, Stephen Strasburg, Josh Norman or Alex Ovechkin. If you want to argue that NBA salaries are crazy, fine, but there's no point in making an example of Porter. Notice how cool, reserved and unperturbed we are."
Nah. Nope. Ignore them. It's fine for your limbs still to tremble when you realize that Porter is about to be paid more per year than Wall (four-time all-star), Strasburg (three-time all-star), Williams (five-time Pro Bowler) or Ovechkin (eight-time all-star). Porter has slightly fewer than those 20 combined All-Star Game appearances. Like, 20 fewer.
Crude and basic stats such as points and rebounds per game are crude and basic, but Porter's averages of 13.4 points and 6.4 rebounds last season were previously reached by such Wizards luminaries as Marcin Gortat, Nene, Gheorghe Muresan, Tom Gugliotta and Andray Blatche.
In fact, in 2011, Blatche averaged more points per game, more rebounds per game, more assists per game, more steals per game and more blocks per game than Porter in his breakout year. Andray Blatche! And Porter is about to get paid $106 million!
Yes, that is totally cheap. Porter was the most efficient scorer in the NBA last season. He had one of the league's best effective field goal percentage seasons in decades. He was one of the top three-point shooters in the league. He can do many things well, protects the ball, is young enough to still improve, will never cause even a whisper of off-court discontent, doesn't demand attention, doesn't demand the ball, doesn't demand headlines, looks more like Lionel Richie than any other player in league history, shoots well from everywhere, and is Washington's best path toward continued success next season. In the context of the NBA, he deserves every one of those 106 million dollars.
Still! Never get so world-weary that $106 million for a team's third-best player won't knock that July 4 can of Busch Light right out of your hand.
"Look at our team. We are one piece away," Wall recently told ESPN's Marc Spears. "We have the point guard, we have the shooting guard, we have the center, we have the power forward. [Porter] did great for us. You can't take nothing away from what he did. But [Paul George] is a guy that can guard LeBron and go back at LeBron. It's a piece that you're going to need to win. If you don't have a guy who can do that, you don't have a chance. ... You got to add another star. You got to add another piece. You got to have three guys. And that's what it's looking like."
So Porter isn't the star, he isn't the piece, he isn't the third guy, and he's still getting $106 million, which averages out to $26.5 million a year, which means he will make more per year than Williams (five years, $43.25 million guaranteed) or Murphy (three years, $37.5 million) or Ovechkin (13 years, $124 million guaranteed) or Norman (five years, $50 million guaranteed) or Strasburg (seven years, $175 million) or Nicklas Backstrom (10 years, $67 million) or anyone else in town whose two eyes are the same color.
The most important sports contract in town is the one that may or may not ever exist for the Redskins quarterback; our Mike Jones estimated that it will take about $75 or $80 million in total guaranteed money for Washington to lock up Kirk Cousins, with an average annual salary of between $25 million and $27 million. Less than Porter money, in other words. We have all spent the better part of two years debating whether the best Washington quarterback in 30 years should receive the sort of money that the Wizards will, without blinking, hand to their third-best player.
Blame it on small NBA rosters, the salary cap, the NBA TV deal, the weak leverage of NFL stars, the timing of Porter's free agency, or the ingredients in a frozen Lender's bagel. Celebrate the likely Porter contract match as a victory for common sense and continuity and effective field goal percentage excellence. Feel inside your bones that this is all perfectly normal and unremarkable. Tell your skeptical friends that Porter is worth the price. Just don't try to convince me that Porter becoming the second-highest paid athlete in Washington is not insane.