No. 1 Source of Wizards Fan Angst: Martell Webster's Free Agency
You’ve got this whole Wizards rebuilding project. Talk about angst. Are we in year three? Who knows. Has the can been kicked down a road of hope? Ted Leonsis has kept his kicking, and blogging, shoes on. In any case, the Wizards, clearly another lottery team, aren’t “rebuilt” just yet. Still on the schedule: another summer of, ‘Hey, we really mean it this time… playoffs.’
What about that draft lottery? An abundance of perpetual angst exists in Wizards Nation. And the Wizards and the draft lottery will tango once again; mark your calendars: Tuesday, May 21, 2013. In a supposed weak draft with somewhat of a core in place already, Ernie Grunfeld can probably leave his trusty gold coin at home. Winning the lottery is less relevant for the Wizards, especially considering how on Friday morning they had the third-worst record in the NBA. Now, they are eighth-worst and are less than 2.5 games out from 11th-worst (or 19th-best, depending on how you look at it). Nevertheless, there will be plenty of anxiety, perhaps some good, when the lottery balls drop in May while other teams are experiencing the post-season. [Worth mentioning: the Wizards currently have a 4.9% chance of winning the lottery.]
But what currently causes the most angst amongst Wizards fans? Martell Webster and the forthcoming decision — Webster’s free agency. The Wizards took a chance this summer by signing Webster to a one-year contract at the rate of $1.75 million. At the time, they had no clue it would end up like this. Now, Webster is one of the best 3-point shooters in the NBA. And so much more, especially to his teammates, as evidenced by the above video. On Saturday night, Webster tossed in 7-of-10 3-pointers and scored a career-high 34 points, also becoming the first Wizard with a 30-point game this season.
The question at hand: What will Webster be worth on the open market? And, as he continues to play up his value, can the Wizards afford to keep him?
Let’s breakdown some numbers. Webster is having one of the better 3-point shooting seasons in NBA history. If we plug in the following numbers to Basketball-Reference.com, we get mere 13 results: 3-point field goal percentage equal to or greater than 45 percent; 3-point makes per 36 minutes equal to or greater than two; and minutes per game between 25 and 35.
Those in the NBA who have accomplished this feat: Steve Nash, Brent Price, Jose Calderon, Jameer Nelson, Brent Barry (twice), Kyle Korver, Ray Allen, Jason Kapono, Anthony Morrow, Brandon Rush, Stephen Curry, and Webster.
Calderon, Korver and Webster are all putting up these solid numbers this season. And upon closer inspection, the numbers of Korver and Webster provide a comparison that’s almost scary close.
3P% – .459
FG% – .457
3P/36 – 3.0
eFG% – .616
PER – 14.1
AST% – 10.3
REB% – 7.4
USG% – 14.4
WS/48 – .145
3P% – .453
FG% – .458
3P/36 – 2.4
eFG% – .578
PER – 14.2
AST% – 10.6
REB% – 7.3
USG% – 16.4
WS/48 – .148
In the summer of 2010, after his eighth season in the NBA, the 29-year old Kyle Korver signed a new contract with the Chicago Bulls worth three years and $15 million. Korver was coming off his best 3-point shooting season by far in which he led the league from deep with a .536 percentage (the all-time NBA record).
Over his first two seasons in Chicago, however, Korver’s 3-point percentage dropped — .415 in 2010-11 and .435 in 2011-12. Last July, attempting to create more room to maneuver and to avoid the luxury tax, the Bulls traded Korver to the Atlanta Hawks for a trade exception and cash considerations. Korver has since reignited his 3-point shot and once again leads the NBA with a .459 percentage, which, as addressed, is mere fractions of a percentage point better than Webster’s.
While the NBA is a significantly different environment from when Korver signed his 3-year, $15 million contract, Webster is more than three years younger than Korver, and the Wizards must, in essence, over-value shooters in consideration of John Wall. (Webster, in turn, must think about how much of his value is connected to a passing point guard like Wall.)
Not counting the various cap holds, and assuming that Trevor Ariza takes his $7.7 million player option while Emeka Okafor does not exercise his early termination option out of $14.5 million, the Wizards currently have nine players on the books for 2013-14 totaling just over $57 million dollars [via Sham Sports]. Those players: Okafor, Nene, Ariza, Wall, Beal, Vesely, Seraphin, Singleton and Booker — getting rid of Jordan Crawford saved Washington over $2 million that they will be able to apply to Webster or otherwise.
Of course, there are future fillers to consider — A.J. Price, Cartier Martin and Jason Collins are all are making just under the $900K veteran’s minimum this season, for example — as well as whomever the Wizards might draft in 2013. Still, the Wizards will likely continue to be well under the $70.3 million luxury tax threshold (this season’s figure, next season’s figure will likely be similar).
Washington is not expected to be players on the free agent market this summer, anyway, since they essentially already committed that money to Ariza and Okafor. An unbalanced trade of salary could come into play, but that’s also unlikely. Wizards brass should loathe to add any long-term salary with the new CBA repercussions still being understood and falling into place, as well as a new contract for John Wall being very close on the horizon. Speaking of, the Wizards should not waste time trying to ink Wall to an extension this summer. They should let him play out his existing rookie scale contract for next season ($7.46 million), after which he would be Washington’s restricted free agent in the summer of 2014—when both the contracts of Ariza and Okafor will also come off the books. Washington also might as well do the same with Seraphin and Booker next season (slated to make $2.76 and $2.35 million respectively). Those two still need to earn their salt and are far from it.
So that leaves us with the 2013 summer. The Wizards should concentrate on retaining Webster, retaining Webster, and retaining Webster. They should also draft smart and seek intelligent fillers, clearly. But otherwise, this is essentially the team Ted Leonsis invested in. This is essentially the team Ernie Grunfeld built. Leonsis’ blog today indicating that “some goals” are being met is also writing on the wall that the same band will be back together next season (Grunfeld, Wittman, and all), with instruments much more in-tune and, hopefully, the maestro, John Wall, not on the shelf with a pre-stress fracture.
Now, surprisingly, another piece has fallen into Washington’s lap in Webster. And from the perspective of long distance shooting to the chemistry of cohesion, he is well worth a price tag similar to Korver’s, if not more. If Webster’s ultimate cost is three-years, $15-to-17 million, or even four-years, $20-to-21 million, then by all means, the Wizards better be ready to pull the trigger. At this rate, re-signing Webster should be a drop in the bucket, because Washington can’t afford to take a shortsighted view with a guy who can fill it up from deep.