The John Wall Era Has Begun
As I wrote earlier, the Washington Wizards and point guard John Wall have agreed to a contract worth $80 million over five years — the so-called “max contract.” Wall is still under his rookie contract, which expires at the end of the 2013-14 season. The new contract will kick in for the 2014 season and extend five years.
Words can’t explain how blessed and happy I am! I want to thank my owner Mr Ted Leonsis, GM Ernie Grunfeld and the whole @WashWizards staff!
— John Wall (@John_Wall) July 31, 2013
The first question is whether or not Wall is worth $16 million per year and you’ll find plenty of people saying and writing that he is not. I agree with them. Wall is a good young player, only 22, and, after last season, it looks like he might get a whole lot better. It appears as if the best is yet to come for John Wall. For the sake of the Wizards and their fans, that had better be the case. But right now, he’s not worth $16 million. So why is he getting paid as if he is?
Some will say he’s getting paid because the Wizards are a bad franchise that makes a lot of dumb decisions. Certainly, there is plenty of history and evidence to back that up. However, there are other things to consider. For one, “worth” in a player is a very imprecise term. Some will say John Wall can’t be worth $16 million if Stephen Curry is only getting $11 million per year. That seems like a fair point, but it really is not. The Wizards can’t sign Stephen Curry. The rules of the NBA make it very difficult for teams to sign elite free agents from other teams — which is why it was so noteworthy and unusual when the Houston Rockets did it with Dwight Howard earlier this summer. If the Wizards declined to sign Wall they would not be able to sign Curry. So comparing the salaries of the two players doesn’t really help in deciding whether or not the Wizards made a wise move in re-signing John Wall.
Again, the max contract neighborhood is considered super-elite — the best of the best. Lebron James, Kevin Durant sort of neighborhood. They earn that kind of money. John Wall clearly isn’t as good as they are. Therefore, the argument goes, it’s stupid to give him that kind of money. Of course, that argument overlooks the fact that the Wizards don’t get to choose whether they want to pay Lebron, Durant or Wall. They have to choose between paying John Wall or losing John Wall.
Let’s be clear: The Wizards had a choice between re-signing Wall or starting yet another long slog of a rebuilding project. That would include probably needing to win the lottery soon — ideally in 2014 — and getting a player of Wall’s talent or greater. If Wall’s not the guy, they have to go find the guy and convince the fan base that they can do it in five years or less.
A better question to ponder is why the Wizards did this now. Wall is coming off a great 49 games in 2013, when his play improved rapidly thanks to a rapidly-improving jump shot and some superior decision-making. For those who knock John Wall, consider this:
2012-2013 PER for PGs (Basketball-Reference)
1. Chris Paul- 26.4
2. Russell Westbrook- 23.9
3. Tony Parker- 23.0
4. Kyrie Irving- 21.4
5. Stephen Curry- 21.3
6. John Wall- 20.8
7. Deron Williams- 20.3
John Wall was about as good and efficient last year as Irving, Curry and Williams — all considered elite guards. And Wall did it with very little talent around him and most of the talent that was there – Bradley Beal and Nene, for example — was injured much or most of the time.
But Wall has one more year left on his rookie contract. The Wizards had to sign Wall by Octover 31, 2013 or let him become a restricted free agent in 2014. Washington would still have had the right to match any salary offer he got elsewhere so keeping him would not have been terribly difficult, if that’s what they wanted to do. I would have had no problem with it. At the very least, it would have given the Wizards another season to evaluate Wall and determine whether they want to pay him the max contract or start all over. If he plays well in 2014, he could then get a max contract. If he didn’t play as well as hoped, well, that would be very bad, but at least the team would have more information. And if he suffered a catastrophic injury… Good things sometimes do come to those who wait.
Whether it was wise to sign Wall to this contract now will be determined by what Wall does this season. All things being equal, I don’t have a big problem with the contact, provided the Wall we saw from January to April last year is the Wall we’re going to get — and better — from now on. If that’s the case, Wall is clearly worth the big money. I might have waited until 2014 to make this decision, but I think those who are going to attack the Wizards for this contract are often doing so for reasons that don’t make a lot of sense.
It’s John Wall‘s team now. The Wall era has begun. For Ted Leonsis, Ernie Grunfeld and all the Wizards fans, let’s hope this era is a lot better than what has come before.
And now, enjoy this: