- The Washington Times
Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Washington Wizards traded forward Otto Porter Jr. on Wednesday to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for forwards Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker and a 2023 second-round pick — a week after owner Ted Leonsis told a local radio station the team planned to keep its core in tact.

The move helps the Wizards shed Porter’s max contract — a four-year, $106 million deal signed in 2017 — and nets them two players who’ve shown promise. Washington was set to be repeat offenders of the luxury tax, but this trade now moves them closer out of it. They reduced this year’s tax bill from $8.96 million to $3.34 million.

The deal also comes in the wake of news that star John Wall will be out 11-15 months after tearing his Achilles, a major setback for the team and point guard who was already sidelined with a season-ending heel injury.

Last week, Leonsis told WTOP the goal for the Wizards was to still make the playoffs and they wouldn’t be trading Porter, Beal or Wall.

“I love when [fans] go, ‘Trade Bradley Beal, trade John Wall, trade Otto Porter,’” Leonsis said. “And I go, ‘Okay, for who?!’ We’re not trading any of those players.”

But with Wall suddenly sidelined for a longer stretch of time, the team appears to have shifted its strategy.

Drafted third overall in 2013, Porter developed into a solid defender whose strengths were shooting and defense. He’s averaging 12.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game this season.

But for his strengths, Porter frustrated the Wizards at times. Coach Scott Brooks often pleaded for the forward to shoot more, and former Georgetown star occasionally looked passive next to Wall and Bradley Beal. Porter also periodically dealt with nagging injuries.

By trading Porter, the Wizards’ path to the playoffs appears to have become more difficult — though it already looked like an uphill battle. Entering Wednesday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks,  they were nine games below .500 and 3 ½ games out of the playoff picture.

With Portis and Parker, the Wizards acquired two players who have flashed potential but also have struggled in the NBA.

Portis, drafted 22nd overall in 2015, is a power forward with a knack for rebounding and providing energy. In 2017, he was suspended eight games for punching teammate Nikola Mirotic in practice.

Portis is averaging 14.1 points and 7.3 rebounds in 24.1 minutes this season. The 23-year-old will be a restricted free agent this offseason.

Parker is also intriguing. Drafted second overall in 2014 by the Milwaukee Bucks, the Duke product was a natural scorer in the NBA. But his career was derailed when he tore his ACL twice in 2014 and 2017.

Parker, a Chicago native, signed with the Bulls in the offseason, hoping to get a fresh start in his hometown.

Yet, Parker found himself out of the rotation of a rebuilding Bulls team for an extended period before returning to the lineup recently. He struggled to defend and when benched, coach Jim Boylen said he needed to see effort from Parker in practice first.

Parker is on a two-year, $40 million deal, but the second year is a team option — meaning the Wizards can let him go after this season.

Parker is averaging 14.3 points per game in 39 games this year.

The move was first reported by The Athletic.

Despite Leonsis’ earlier claims, Brooks seemed open to the possibility of trading Porter when speaking to 106.7 The Fan earlier on Wednesday. The coach was asked if trading Porter, forwards Trevor Ariza and Jeff Green was on the table after Wall’s setback.

“I’ll just put it this way: Nothing’s really been not talked about,” Brooks said. “We always talk, and if there’s something that is going to help our team going forward, we have to look at that.”

Update: The Wizards were not done making deals before Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline, sending Markieff Morris to New Orleans Wednesday night in exchange for forwad Wesley Johnson.

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