Why the John Wall $80 Million Extension is #SoWizards
Hard to understand that if he were to accept less money from the Washington Wizards this summer—money on the table is currently said to be in the range of $80 million over five years—then it just might provide the flexibility down the road to make his team a winner. The benefits of success pay more dividends, monetarily and spiritually, than the difference between the current price and, say, 5-years and $65-70 million, which I think is closer to his value. (But at this point, it doesn’t let Wall tell his family, handlers, sponsors, and the rest of the league that he’s “max level,” which seems to be his point-of-no-return expectation.)
The most the Wizards could offer Wall estimates to around $85 million for five years, depending on 2014-15 salary cap numbers. Kevin Love got slightly more than $60 million for four years, but with a player opt-out after year three. Jrue Holiday signed a four-year, $41 million extension; Ty Lawson a four-year, $48 million extension; and Stephen Curry a four-year, $48 million extension.
Those teams are getting steals for talent in return, it seems. Too bad the Wizards had to select John Wall first overall in 2010, as that lucky privilege comes with a price. Wall recently told the Washington Post’s Michael Lee, “I always earned it, so I’m willing to do that,” in terms of getting paid like Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, and the latest max-type player, James Harden, who got a five-year, $80 million extension in a sign-and-trade to the Houston Rockets, a team that then managed to net a Dwight Howard star to pair with their five-year max star.
So goes the next great #SoWizards debate. Will John Wall be worth all of this?
There shouldn’t be much issue with giving Wall a five-year extension. Per the most recent CBA, teams are allowed to give just one of their own players an extension for that length of time; four years i
s the maximum for all other players.
If not Wall, then who? Not Bradley Beal, although it’s not outlandish to think that he will be the better player one day. Wall came first; the franchise is clearly constructing its makeup to specifically mesh with Wall’s unique set of skills; and he is the big brother (and longest-tenured Wizard).
It’s also not hard to understand why the Wizards want to lock-up Wall this summer as opposed to waiting to let the market help set Wall’s price in the summer of 2014. Yes, Ted Leonsis and Ernie Grunfeld would be (and are) bidding against themselves with a large contract extension this summer, but when the franchise has traditionally bid against itself on bad investments, they kind of have to pay up when something good comes along.
It still comes down to cost, not when and not how many years. Wall doesn’t understand that taking less than $80 million would help his team in the long run. He doesn’t understand this because he has an agent, Dan Fegan. His agent doesn’t care, because his agent has a reputation and percentages to keep; because he’s a power-broker; and because teams that want to win should plan on being a luxury tax payor anyway (according to presumed, general agent thinking).
As Grantland’s Zach Lowe puts it in a piece discussing Wall’s contract extension talks:
But there is some risk in angering Fegan. Teams live in fear of the power agents; they play a much larger role in trades and general team dynamics than a lot of fans might realize. Martell Webster is a Wizard, on a nice fat contract, in part because Fegan represents the trio of Webster, Wall, and Nene. Arn Tellem represents every player involved in the Tyreke Evans–Greivis Vasquez–Robin Lopez transaction, and that isn’t a coincidence.
It matters how Fegan gets along with the Wiz organization, and he’d obviously prefer his star young client to get as much money RIGHT FREAKING NOW as possible.
Fegan also represents: Dwight Howard, Amar’e Stoudemire, DeMarcus Cousins, Ty Lawson, Ricky Rubio, Moe Harkless, Iman Shumpert, Jimmy Butler, Chandler Parson, Alonzo Gee, and Anderson Varejao, among a slew of other sunsetting NBAers like Shawn Marion, Al Harrington, Jason Richardson, Kevin Martin, and Drew Gooden. Monta Ellis fired his agent mid-free agency because he wasn’t happy with the results, hired Fegan, and then almost immediately got a three-year, $25 million contract from the Dallas Mavericks. Not what Ellis wanted, but still blood from a stone.
Giving Wall an extension similar to what James Harden got is doubling-down on an already heavy investment. Wizards brass is hoping, and trusting, that Wall becomes an unquestionable star, and that he can do it on a big stage time and time again. Harden is a 3-point shooting, pick-and-roll savant. Wall is a very quick point guard who is athletically intimidating with pass-first instincts, but with a very unproven offensive skill set.
Wall makes his teammates better, and that brings added value beyond the traditionally narrow view of how, or why, to pay a star: either because he’s a dominant big man or because he’s a guard who can score a lot of points. Building around a point guard is not a path often forged.
When considering Wall’s improvement from his rookie year up to a 49-game glimpse last season, you also must consider who the Wizards have put next to him during his young career. Might have John looked better, developed faster, had his early teammates not been so incompetent? (Had he been thrown into Rajon Rondo’s situation as a rookie?)
In his first season, 58 percent of Wall’s minutes were with JaVale McGee on the court; 57 percent were with Andray Blatche; and 46 percent were with Nick Young. Seventeen percent of Wall’s total rookie year on-court development was spent playing next to all three of McGee, Blatche and Young at the same time.
As a sophomore, 57 percent of Wall’s minutes came alongside the Jordan Crawford experiment. But the percentage of his minutes spent playing next to each of those other three individuals dwindled—McGee to 41 percent, Blatche to 20 percent, and Young to 42 percent.
It took a season and a half for Wizards brass to understand they weren’t putting the right players around Wall. During Wall’s second campaign, only 7.7 percent of his minutes on the floor were wasted next to all three of Blatche, McGee and Young at once (down from 17 percent in 2010-11).
Or maybe Wall got hungrier to win and became a better leader playing in those frustrating times… we’ll never know.
Last season, his third, Wall spent the most amount of his minutes on the court next to Martell Webster (63%), followed by Emeka Okafor (59%), Nene Hilario (56%), and Trevor Ariza (41%), all new veterans under a vastly revamped strategy. There’s no wonder why the Wizards experienced success and a revamped John “Game Changer” Wall.
In the big picture, the Wizards are lucky to have a player like Wall to build around. He still has many flaws, but wanting to win, relishing in the pass, and having an ability to defend do not fall among them. In taking $80 million over five years from the Wizards and committing himself to the team through the 2018-19 season, Wall is making a hard-to-keep promise: that he’ll be one of the top 5 point guards in the NBA by 2015.
Wall’s agent is also making a promise that he will help grease the future wheels of prosperity by facilitating an easier path for Washington to acquire winning talent—game recognize game, and you can be sure that big-name free agents take a peek at the moneyline.
And the Wizards are making the promise that they will spend what it takes when the time is right, even if it means creeping into luxury territory for a spell.
When it’s hard to understand why Wall will inevitably be overpaid at the $80 million rate, consider these big promises that all parties involved are making. When it’s hard to understand the cost, that’s because it’s #SoWizards.