NBA Wizards 

John Wall’s Maximum Extension: What did the Wizards do and Why?

Here I am, returning from a much needed vacation on the beach, itching to get back to you all on my thoughts about John Wall and the maximum contract he received from the Washington Wizards.

If you haven’t heard by now, John Wall has signed a 5 year, $80 million extension with the Washington Wizards. That deal marks him as their “designated player” for the life of this collective bargaining agreement meaning that they can’t give a five year extension to anyone else during this time.

This deal has been highly anticipated for months now, dating up to mid-March. Zach Lowe of ESPN’s Grantland network spoke with Wall on the contract issue and got his thoughts on his own value.

At the time, Wall was going through a slump when it came to his pertinent statistics and his overall floor game–he averaged 14.1 points per game on 41% shooting and added 3.6 turnovers per contest to those negative numbers. So when the question came up about Wall’s value in terms of a dollar amount, it seemed absurd to think that he was anywhere close to worthy of a max contract.

So when Lowe asked Wall if he felt like he was worthy of a max contract, Wall’s answer definitely took some for surprise–everyone but Wall, anyway. Wall gave himself the vote of confidence that any player should. Here’s what he said:

Zach Lowe: Do you feel like you deserve a max contract? That you’re a max guy?

John Wall: I feel like I am. I do, definitely.

via Grantland

Apparently, that was the spark that Wall needed to jump his season into gear. After that date, Wall averaged 24.3 ppg, 8.3 apg, and 8.7 free throw attempts per contest. He cut down on his turnovers and his jump shot was falling from the midrange area. Wall looked like a clear max player at the moment and that’s the most recent sample of data we have left from the regular season.

Now, Washington, DC is a city of skepticism. The negative will be taken before the positive because of the vibe the sports teams in recent seasons have given the fans. They’ve been through enough of the Gilbert Arenas’, Andray Blatche’s and Michael Westbrook’s of the world. They’re used to disappointment, so what Wall did toward the latter half of the season can be taken with a grain of salt.

But its because of that latter half of the season that the Wizards gave Wall the maximum extension that they did. It wasn’t important that they do it right now, but it was a deal that was bound to happen in either case. The performances that Wall had at the end of the year were only reassurance that there is superstar talent there.

The reaction to this deal has been all over the place. Some like it, some think that it was inevitable but didn’t need to happen right now, some hate it, some wish that the Wizards would’ve looked to move Wall instead of paying him so much. I’ll tell you why this deal is a good one for the Wizards and why they did it now.

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The first reason that this is a good deal for the Wizards is because of the market of Washington, DC. This town hasn’t been a basketball town for quite some time. The city hasn’t truly buzzed over an NBA team since 1978 and that was the end of an era for the Washington Bullets.

During the Gilbert Arenas-Caron Butler-Antawn Jamison triumvirate years, things were starting to return to old form. There was a vibe generated from this team, but that’s only because of what fans thought it could be. When looking back from a glass-half-empty view, that was a team that never won more than 50 games, couldn’t best the LeBron James Cleveland Cavalier teams on their worst day, and played little to no defense.

The hope for that team to do something in the playoffs was hollow at best–there was no real chance for that team to be something special. They were a joy to watch and Gilbert Arenas was incredibly fun to keep up with–especially if you were subscribed to his Agent Zero blog. But that all turned out to be a farce of sorts when the smokescreen cleared.

Then as that era started to break down, the Washington Wizards moved even further down the DC sports totem pole. If you ride around on any afternoon, you’ll hear all sorts of sports coverage from all areas aside from the NBA. Most prominent DC sports outlets won’t give the Wizards the time of day–they don’t seem to be worth it.

This John Wall deal gives the Washington, DC media something to talk about. Whether its positive or negative press, it gets the Wizards brand out further into the public. Although this used to be a basketball town, there is no debate that the top three sporting leagues are now the NFL, MLB and the NHL. The Wizards may be a not-so-distant fourth in the picture, but they’re still fourth.

John Wall has been the face of the franchise for the Wizards since he was drafted, but now he’s accomplished something notable that the casual fan will be able to talk about. Let the Kyrie Irving comparisons continue.

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This deal is also good because of the climate in the NBA when it comes to superstar players. John Wall isn’t largely seen as a max player. His career production doesn’t hint that he is, either. He’s only averaging 16.9 ppg and 8 apg per game. He and Chris Paul are the only players to do that, but Wall hasn’t shown the type of efficiency that Paul has nor has he produced the wins that Paul has.

Wall’s shooting and his turnovers are far more alarming than the Wizards will let on, but he’s still a very raw player still. Those 16.9 points and 8 assists come in his first three years when he doesn’t really know what the feel of the NBA game is completely. He’s still only 22 years old and should continue to improve his game as his career progresses.

The Wizards really went out on a limb with this deal–like most NBA teams do. They paid Wall for what they think he will do instead of what he has done. His production thus far is decent and shows that he is a starting caliber point guard. However, it doesn’t say that he’s a maximum extension player and the difference is very distinct.

Wall’s production during the season highlights this difference. In the former half of the season, Wall produced to the standards of an $8-11 million player. However, as highlighted by Tom Ziller of SB Nation, Wall’s production in the latter half of the season amounts to about $16.7 million according to SB Nation’s value scale.

Its very hard to find players who can produce even relatively close to that value. When you draft a player that shows this kind of potential, wrapping them up with huge deals isn’t a crime–these type of contracts are commonplace in sports.

Finding another player of Wall’s caliber would be hard–finding a player of Wall’s caliber for a lower price is nearly impossible. The Wizards did the safe thing–if there is a safe thing here–and paid a player who they were familiar with instead of looking toward free agency or trading for someone and crap shooting looking for similar value.

When a franchise like this one that has taken many a gamble in the last few years is faced with a decision like that, its a very easy one to make. You do what hasn’t burned you over the last few years. Building a solid core and making sure that you have players you believe in is key.

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Finally, Wall’s feelings may have been taken into account here. Even I will admit that this is of very little relevance to the situation. With as much as Wall has done for this organization, its still a business. Whatever decision the Wizards had decided to make on giving Wall an extension now or later would be what Wall had to deal with whether he liked it or not.

Still, giving him the extension now as opposed to later was a way of staying on Wall’s good side. The Wizards haven’t had a player of this caliber in quite some time. He’s still young and is a very talented player. The contract will last through 2019 and Wall will be 27 at that point–he may only just be hitting his prime as a player.

When it comes time to re-sign Wall again, he’ll remember the good gestures like this one. He’ll remember what the Wizards have done for him in the past and he’ll take that into consideration. Whether he stays or not, its still a good move to fall back on when the time comes.

This may not have developed into an Eric Gordon/New Orleans Hornets (or Pelicans, now) situation, but still, chancing Wall being upset with the franchise can be huge whether its right now or down the road.

Waiting to extend Wall would’ve been a good move. Its more than warranted and no one would’ve had a problem with the Wizards doing so. Wall is still young and has a lot of basketball left in him. Still, making sure that he’s happy was probably on the organizations mind.

Under Ted Leonsis, the Wizards have liked to have things done quickly and quietly so that there is no extra curricular antics. This was something that the Wizards have had to deal with in previous years with many of their other players. With their franchise player, a contract dispute would not have been a good thing.

In the past, this would be looked at as the Wizards being the Wizards. Now the times are changing and so are the attitudes that ownership takes. Leonsis likes to keep his players happy and we’re seeing that here.

***

All in all, I like this deal for John Wall and the Wizards. Going forward, the Wizards have locked up their player going forward. Wall is being paid the value that he feels that he’s worth and he’s doing it in a city that he’s grown to love. The situation looks good going forward for both parties.

Now all that needs to happen is for the Wizards to be in contention. That would only reassure the Wizards fan base that things are moving in the right direction and that the organization has a bright future ahead of them.

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