“I feel like I’m the player I want to be, but I still have a lot I want to do…I haven’t reached my potential yet.” — John Wall
News broke yesterday evening that the Washington Wizards front office and John Wall are closing in on a max contract to the tune of 5 years and $80 million. Wall will be entering the fourth season of his NBA career and with no playoff or All-Star appearances, the question on everyone’s minds is, “Does John Wall warrant a max contract?”
When asking the question if someone deserves a max contract, three main factors have to be taken into consideration: production (stats/winning), leadership/work ethic, and team fit. So let’s jump right in.
John Wall doesn’t have stats that jump off the paper at you. Not yet at least. Through his three NBA seasons, Wall has career averages of 16.9 pts, 8 assts, and 4.4 rebs per game. While Wall’s assist and rebound numbers have dipped ever so slightly every year in the league, his PPG, FG %, and FT % have increased. Last season. Wall averaged career highs in PPG (18.5), FG% (.441), and FT % (.804). The stat increases surely outweigh his slight decreases and for a Wizards team that lacks scoring, no one should be complaining. Plus Wall is still only 22 years old so we are still years away from the prime of his career.
Though Wall hasn’t taken the Wiz Kids to the playoffs yet, it’s quite obvious that they are a better team with him on the floor. Last season was a true barometer of that. When #2 was out of the line-up to start the season, Washington faltered to a 5-28 record. With Wall in the line-up, the Wizards boasted a 24-25 record. And when Wall, Beal, and Nene were all three in the line-up, Washington had a 15-7 record. The point guard position might be the most valuable position in the NBA, and it’s clear that Wall needs to be on the floor for this team to succeed.
Since entering the league three years ago, Wall has made huge strides in the leadership department. I’m not saying he was a poor leader as a rookie, but it’s pretty hard for a 19 year old to be a bona fide leader at such a young age, especially with a roster full of bone-heads. As he has progressed through his short NBA career, Wall has taken on responsibility for his team’s performance and has stated that it’s on him to get Washington back to the playoffs. The guy stays out of trouble off the court and seems to really care about winning, and not just being an NBA celebrity. Also, practicing with Team USA is a huge advantage for your franchise player. The experience is invaluable because you get to work alongside the best in the world and see how they approach the game. As a 22 year old point guard, John Wall is just fine in the leadership category.
Mr. Wall also seems to have a strong work ethic. You can see the improvements in his game year by year and can tell that he actually wants to become the best player he can. Last offseason was a prime example. He was working so hard that he encountered a stress injury in his knee. Plus this offseason he’s reaching out to Gary Payton — one of the best point guard defenders to ever play basketball — to further improve his game. John Wall certainly seems to have the leadership and work ethic that you look for in a franchise player.
Going back to the stats of what the Wizards did with and without John Wall in the line-up, it’s clear that he’s a top notch fit with this squad. While the front office could still do some tweaking to really play to his strengths, *cough* stretch four *cough*, they have done a decent job of filling out a roster that John Wall can really play with. They now have shooters that Wall can feed in Beal, Webster, and Glen Rice Jr. They have some nice down low options in Nene and Emeka Okafor. With the newest Wizard, Otto Porter they now they have another versatile wing-man who can defend and create scoring opportunities with or without the ball. This team is being molded to play to Wall’s strengths, and that should be the case whenever a team has a franchise point guard.
Even though most fans would like to see Wall’s actual stats be a little higher, all things considered he is worthy of a max extension. Washington couldn’t go out and pick up a replacement anywhere close to what John Wall brings to the table. He’s made very nice strides as a player in his first three seasons, and with the NBA becoming more of a guard’s game, you have to lock up a player of Wall’s caliber when you can. Could Washington save a couple bucks in they waited for him to enter restricted free agency next season? Maybe, but I doubt it. What’s the point of waiting to offer a player a max contract when you are almost 99% sure he will be getting offered that from another team? You might as well keep your stars happy, because disgruntled players can easily become less productive players.
When John Wall signs his John Hancock on the dotted lines it will make him one of the top five paid point guards in the league. He will be joining the company of Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, and Russell Westbrook. Wall is the youngest of this crowd by two years, and with his game improving each year, he sure seems worthy of the money he is about to receive.