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John Wall: To max, or not to max?

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For any professional athlete, being ordained as the cornerstone and foundation of a reeling franchise is usually a natural set-up for high expectations and tolling criticism. For John Wall, these factors have applied to his young career more so than most NBA players in recent years, and certainly more than anyone in his draft class. The unhurried progression and development of Wall’s game has drawn a sense of impatience and skepticism for a lot of fans and in a way, you can’t really blame them considering the rash of front office failures that have left the Wizards in basketball futility for the past few years.

The doctrine for success constructed by the Wizards’ brass, otherwise known as “The Plan”, follows a blueprint that would build a team through the draft and development of young players, combined with veteran leadership acquired through free agency. You know, sort of like what they do down in San Antonio and Oklahoma City. Using these guidelines, the Wizards were determined to surround Wall with a supporting cast that would pull the Wizards out of the league cellar and back to relevance. But unfortunately, things didn’t go quite in accordance to “plan.” The pieces that were thought to fit the puzzle were misshaped, eventually causing a rebuild within a rebuild as incompetence was driven out and a fresh flock of talent was brought in.

However, Wall had his own deficiencies as well. Often touted as the fastest coast-to-coast player in the league, Wall had trouble controlling that speed, which would lead to turnovers and the inability to finish at the rim. His jump shot has left us wanting much more offensively and at times, his true nature on the court as a leader and facilitator have been criticized as well (see David Falk). These are all questions that have created the melodrama surrounding the biggest question of all for John Wall: is he worth a maximum contract?

Our guys Saam and Trevor break down both sides of the debate, respectively…
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MAX HIM!

Signing John Wall is not only the best thing for this franchise to do in order to compete for an NBA title, but it’s more important to establish credibility around the league. In a time where the NBA evolves around super teams, no one knows what the next “title destination” will be. Allow me to elaborate.

While the premier destinations in the league remain the same, we never know how one signing or trade can alter perception around the league. Just a couple days ago after Dwight Howard left the Lakers and now is joining a solid core in Houston, the Rockets now look to be one of the premier destinations in the league for players. Who knows who’s willing to sign and/or make a trade with Houston to help them get another piece or two to make the Rockets the Miami Heat of the western conference. I know this is all dependent on Dwight Howard and the consistency of the other players on the team, but if all works out well, Miami Heat “fans” might just all decide to take their bandwagons to Houston.

I know there are a lot of hypotheticals involved, but if Washington wants to be a premier destination for free agents in the current era of today’s “super team”, it all starts with signing Wall to that deal. It may be too much money, but at the end of the day, you’re getting a top-10 point guard who has the potential to take a game over on his own and make all the players around him better. This team has built its nucleus from the draft and now it looks like the pieces are falling into place for them to be considered as playoff contenders. Add Otto Porter with John Wall, Bradley Beal and the other talented players the Wizards have, there’s no reason to think that they can’t entice other super stars to come to Washington and help bring a title here. I know some of you brush it off but look at the recent history with Boston and Miami – both teams rising from the bottom of the league to title contenders the next season, just with free agent signings.

The Wizards can’t afford NOT to give John Wall the max deal. In a basketball town where more than half the fans in that stadium come to cheer for the other teams, the few people that actually are wearing Wizards jerseys all have the number 2 stamped firmly on their backs. If you don’t think one player can turn a team from a last place team to a potential playoff contender, all you had to do was look at the Wizards before Wall and then after he returned. As he gained more confidence in his game, we saw every phase of his game improve. Even his jump shooting which has been criticized for most of his career improved dramatically as defenders were now forced to guard the other players on the perimeter. Wall truly brings a triple threat with him when he’s on the court. He can beat you with his speed from one end of the court and take it coast to coast. He can also push the tempo, draw the double team and hit open guys on the perimeter or down low. He can also play good defense and is not afraid to get physical and grab rebounds down low. In short, Wall possesses all the raw talent in the world to make him a super star in the league. All this for a guy who will be only be 23 when the season starts in October makes him one of the best young stars in the league. A guy that other players love to play for and someone who can draw free agents to Washington if the pieces around him are good enough to make the Wizards a contender. He needs that contract. The team needs him here and so does the starving and dying fan base

With Ariza and Okafor coming off the books after this season, the Wizards will look to resign Wall with that money and after that, they really won’t have any large contracts to worry about moving forward. In all likelihood you can say goodbye to the salaries of Jan Vesely, Trevor Booker and Chris Singleton. Other than Wall and Nene, the Wizards will be looking to make some moves in free agency and trade to add to their young super star core. Even Nene’s 13+ million will be off the books in 2 more seasons. The Wizards are starting to do this the right way. Washington is a market that’s starving for wins and it might be an enticing destination for potential free agents moving forward as they look to play along side two of the potentially best guards in the league in Wall and Beal. — Saam
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LET’S THINK ABOUT THIS FOR A SEC…

I have been tasked with the tough job of arguing the side of an anti-max deal for John Wall. Don’t get me wrong, I want the Wizards to lock Wall up for as long as they can, but I am not 100% sure he is worth the max at this point. While the potential to become a max-type player and recurring All-Star is certainly there, some holes in Wall’s game could prevent him from receiving a max extension.

His jumper, although thoroughly improved in his half season last year, is still a work in progress. He will need to develop a consistent outside shot in order to be considered an elite offensive talent. Health is also clearly an issue – Wall has missed 47 games during his 3-year career – and may be something Washington considers during negotiations.

If Wall does sign an extension this summer, the contract would not go into place until the 2014-15 season so it is totally conceivable that John can fill those gaps in his games and hit his potential as a max type player during this upcoming season.

In a perfect world, I would like to see the Wizards lock down their point guard with a long-term deal that is slightly below the max to give them room to operate in the future. That hope is probably slim, because it seems that the player almost always has the upper hand when it comes to contract negotiations in Washington. Just look at this off-season. Many were expecting Martell Webster to receive less than the full mid-level exception, but when the dust settled, Webster came out on top with the full MLE. I am not complaining about having Webster back on the team because I love the guy, I’m just trying to show an example of where negotiations might not be the Wizards’ strong suit. Other past examples include the Andray Blatche extension, the Antawn Jamison extension, and of course, the Gilbert Arenas contract.

Ultimately, I believe John Wall will receive his max contract. And when it is announced, I won’t be mad one bit. The Wizards have put all their eggs in one basket and made it known last year how important Wall is to the team and how they only have a chance at being competitive if he is healthy. This bodes extremely well for Wall and his camp in discussions.

In fact, just thinking about the Wizards without Wall has caused me to do a full on John-Wall-Flip-Flop routine that would have Jason Reid extremely nervous. Go ahead and pay the man, do whatever it takes to keep John Wall in DC long term. A message to Ernie Grunfeld: LOCK IT UP! — Trevor

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