Courtesy of FOX Sports
John Wall has signed the Washington Wizards’ five-year maximum-extension offer worth approximately $80 million. The deal will begin in the 2014-2015 season.
Although I’m not one of them, there are plenty of people that don’t seem to believe John Wall is worthy of a max-offer. They’re not convinced that a guy yet to see 30 wins in a season, with zero all-star appearances and a nonexistent playoff record deserves the same type of contract structure as guys like Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose.
While I’ll admit the last paragraph does a good job of grabbing your attention, I’ve set out to acknowledge the criticism and debunk the argument against John Wall and his next half-decade in the District.
That’s not to say I’m unwilling to listen to debate, but rather in favor of the Wizards’ most recent hefty financial decision. And as any Wizards fan will tell you, that sudden urge to defend Ernie Grunfeld and the front office doesn’t occur very often.
He’s Not Worth It
Despite being one of the most lopsided arguments, it’s probably the most common when you ask people what they think of Wall’s new deal.
“He’s not worth $16 million a year, MAN!” Or, “Stephen Curry is only making $11 million a year, MAN!”
The entire discussion surrounding salaries in the NBA and everything that comes with them is a discussion for another day. Why a player like LeBron James can’t make an annual salary closer to what he’s actually worth is also for another day. But the most entertaining aspect of the whole thing that most people don’t seem to take into account is the fact the Wizards have nowhere else to spend the money.
If the NBA worked in such a way where any team could take their money and lure any player they wanted, then perhaps the argument would come off a little more solid. But that’s not the case. It’s a rarity to see a player on Wall’s tier hit the market, as their respective team usually locks them up before free agency sets in.
Therefore, the comparison of, say, Curry’s most recent deal and Wall’s most recent deal isn’t apples to apples.
In a vacuum, Stephen Curry ( or any other reasonable comparison ) being worth more than John Wall as a basketball player is for healthy debate. But in reality, Wall is worth every penny of the $80 million deal to ( specifically ) the Washington Wizards franchise.
Happy Player, Happy Production
Put basketball, money and statistics to the side for a second and discover your inner Jennifer Melfi.
Forget field goal percentages, assist-to-turnover ratio and perimeter defense.
Think about a relationship between a 22-year-old budding basketball player with superstar upside and a basketball business franchise with a desire to build something great.
Wall with Wizards owner Ted Leonsis – Courtesy of Evan Vucci
Not to say that it would have, but is waiting to pull the trigger on Wall’s deal for the sake of a couple million dollars per season worth any sort of breakdown in relationship between player and team, resulting in lost confidence, questionable loyalty, etc?
The couple million per season may seem like a lot — the $10-15 million over the length of the deal even more so — but given how valuable Wall is to the Wizards ( see above ), it’s not a chance worth taking.
Let’s Talk About Beal, baby.
Most people want to pull Bradley Beal into discussion, and it’s certainly relevant when talking contracts. But the Wizards don’t face Beal’s qualifying offer until the 2016/17 season.
Yes, Wall has become the Wizards’ designated player. Yes, NBA teams are only allowed one on their roster. But is Beal going to squawk about a decent four-year deal when it comes time?
If Wall is commanding the beautiful ship that Wizards ownership and the front office so envision, it would seem as though Beal signing his four-year extension in Washington should be his best option in four years anyway.
Beal signing the four-year extension in Washington should be his best option in four years anyway.
I’ll get into it briefly in a couple paragraphs, but isn’t that what Wall’s deal is suppose to do? Wall gets paid, Wall wins, Wall attracts free agents, Wall helps keep Beal in Washington as part of a promising ( maybe even accomplished ) young backcourt?
Aw hell, just put it to bed for now. We’ll talk about Brad’s contract when we need to talk about Brad’s contract.
Let the Stats Speak
And it’s easy to see how much better the Wizards are when John Wall was in the lineup.
In order to avoid throwing out all kinds of numbers proving the Wizards were better with Wall in the game ( as if you needed convincing ), just know that he averaged 20.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 8.4 assists and 1.5 steals per game in his 49 appearances last season following his return from a stress fracture in his knee.
Also, know this: Wall, Beal, Webster, Nene and Okafor formed one of the most productive lineups in the league last season. No joke.
Here’s to good health ( Nene ), growth ( Beal ) and progress ( Wall ).
Who Else Are You Going To Get?
That probably makes the extension sound more like a handcuff on the organization, and you could argue the point. But again, it’s not like the Wizards could’ve taken their money and just thrown it at any ol’ body.
More specifically, without a guy like John Wall there to help attract and gauge interest from potential free agents, how does anyone plan on landing a decent offseason buy in Washington?
I suppose — at least for me — it goes back to John Wall the professional just as much as it does John Wall the point guard.
For a guy still a month shy of his 23rd birthday, Wall establishes a sense of stability within the Wizards organization. He’s positive proof of a team that can draft talent, develop it and retain it, which in turn you hope to see lead to notable success.
And not to put his maturation on the back burner — since being drafted first-overall in 2010 — Wall’s growth off the court had just as much to do with this extension as basketball itself.
There once was a time when Wall brushed off the idea of tattoos, acknowledging that it posed a threat to his image and marketability. But he has tattoos now. Tattoos purposefully left off of his arms and strategically placed on “just his hiding spots.”
Courtesy of Wall’s Instagram
How about Wall teaming up with renowned trainer Robert McClanaghan over the summer? The same Robert McClanaghan who has helped the likes of Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love fine-tune their games.
Remember earlier in Wall’s career when he always talked about junk food and candy, never looking quite as toned as he probably should? All of that now long gone since hiring his own personal chef.
Anyone happen to watch Wall’s press conference on Thursday afternoon? If so, you probably remember the part when he talked about the loss of his father at a young age and the struggles he and his family went through in order to get where they are today. With his mother, grandmother and other family members in attendance, Wall emitted raw emotion and tears during arguably the highest point in his young life, recalling the early promise to his family that money would never change who he really was.
And perhaps taking another page out of hometown hero Kevin Durant’s playbook, Wall mentioned his plan to donate $1 million to a number of local charities with the help of the Wizards organization.
Remind yourself this is all coming from a 22-year-old.
This may not seem like anything more than temporary feel-good stuff for right now. But in the future — in two years or so — this is the kind of player you want leading your team, representing your franchise, attracting other high-character guys and eventually hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Money Well Spent?
As owner Ted Leonsis mentioned in so many words during the team’s press conference on Thursday, this deal wasn’t about the money. It was about commitment. It was about loyalty. It was about trusting and believing in John Wall to lead this franchise — both on and off the court — to prominence in the NBA.
And who can argue? Wall has shown progress on the court ( jumpshot, vision, pace ), off the court ( maturity, attitude, work ethic ) and he’s a reliable professional in terms of representing a sports franchise.
Although this extension is based more off potential, it’s not to be confused with an unsafe bet.
Will the guy be under a lot of pressure to live up to the $80 million deal? Without question. But he’s a young man with the poise to handle it and the growing talent to succeed.
“I am both proud and humbled by the belief that the Wizards organization, the fans and my teammates have shown in me since I arrived here three years ago,” Wall said in a statement. “I can promise all of them that I will repay that belief by representing the city of Washington and doing everything I can to get this team back where it belongs.”
And there’s your promise.