NBA PM: Max Contract for John Wall?
There’s no question that John Wall is the most important player on the Washington Wizards. When Wall missed Washington’s first 33 games with an injured left knee, the Wizards went 5-28. They opened the season with 12 losses in a row, ruining their playoff hopes and ending their campaign before it started.
Since Wall returned from injury in mid-January, the Wizards look like a completely different team. They have gone 18-15 with the 22-year-old in their lineup, including impressive wins against playoff teams like the Atlanta Hawks, Denver Nuggets, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets.
Wall has played extremely well this season and made all of his teammates better. This March, he’s having arguably the best month of his career, averaging 20.1 points, 7.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2.1 steals while shooting 52.4 percent from the field and 54.5 percent from three-point range. Wall is certainly showing improvement and making his presence felt in Washington.
However, is Wall a franchise player who is worth a maximum contract?
Wall is still on his rookie scale contract, making $5.9 million this season and $7.5 million next season. This summer, Wall will be eligible to sign an extension of up to five years (if the Wizards make him their one-time designated player). Wall believes he’s worthy of a maximum extension and hopes to ink one.
“If they believe I’m their franchise guy, that I’m the max player that I feel that I am, they’ll do what’s best for them,” Wall told J. Michael of CSN Washington. “I feel like they believe in me. My coaches and my organization believe in me. The owner (Ted Leonsis) and GM (Ernie Grunfeld) believe in me. … They like what I’ve been doing lately.”
Wall is basing this on his on-court production as well as his off-court persona. He believes he’s a face-of-the-franchise player, a leader that the Wizards can build around and sell to their fanbase. Wall could also be an excellent recruiter for Washington in several years. He has built strong relationships with many of the league’s young stars as well as the nation’s top college and high school prospects.
“I feel like I’m a max guy, just on how I am as a person,” Wall said. “I feel like I make my teammates better. I’m just a leader. I like to lead and I feel like I can change the organization. That’s the way we’re going with this team and how we’ve been playing lately.”
While Wall believes he’s a max player, there are many people throughout the league who disagree with his assessment. Over the past year, Wall has had a handful of vocal critics.
NBA agent David Falk, who is a Wizards season ticket holder, made headlines recently with some scathing comments about Wall’s game.
“You guys are in dreamland,” Falk told Mike Wise of The Washington Post. “Because this team [stinks] so bad you guys want John Wall to be someone he will never be. Before Wall becomes Nene, I would trade him and get rid of him. I’m serious. He doesn’t have a feel for the game. He only knows how to play one speed. Magic Johnson had a great feel, a court sense, by the time he was a sophomore in college. Chris Paul had it by the time he was a sophomore in high school.”
“Let me ask you a question,” Falk continued. “Who’s bigger, Kyrie Irving or John Wall? John Wall. Who’s a better athlete? John Wall. Who’s faster? Who’s stronger? John Wall. Now, who’s a better player? Kyrie Irving. John Wall will never be as good as Kyrie Irving was in his first week in the NBA. … I just think people want him to be something he’s never going to be. He’s a big tease. He doesn’t have a good enough feel for the game to be an elite player. I don’t think he’ll ever be the player you think he is.”
Former head coach Stan Van Gundy has been critical of Wall’s game as well.
“John Wall is a talented guy, a very good player. I don’t think he’s good enough that you can build a franchise around him,” Van Gundy told Ben Standig of Comcast SportNet. “I don’t think he can be your best player, certainly not clearly your best player. You need one guy better than him or a couple of guys at his talent level for them to win. … I don’t see him as a franchise player even though he’s an All-Star – he’s not a good enough shooter yet and he’s not a reliable go-to scorer. In the NBA, your franchise guy has got to be a guy you can put the ball in his hands late in the game and he can get you a basket. I don’t see that from John Wall at this point in his career. Maybe it will develop, but I don’t see it.”
Wall has shown glimpses of brilliance and, at 22 years old, he still has plenty of potential. However, just how much room Wall has to grow is up for debate. Will he top out as a solid starting point guard or as a perennial All-Star? Will he be a franchise player that Washington can build around or a talented second option? These are the questions that surround Wall, the questions that will have his contract situation up in the air.
Washington may decide to let the market set Wall’s price, allowing him to become a restricted free agent and then choosing whether or not to match an offer sheet. However, Wall would much rather sign an extension and not have to worry about contract negotiations or free agency. He has said that he doesn’t want to test restricted free agency.
“Nah, I don’t plan on it,” Wall said of becoming a restricted free agent after next season. “I like it here. This is the city where my dad was born and raised. I want to give something back and start it here. I don’t like to follow. I like to lead my own way.”
Wall will almost certainly sign a long-term deal with the Wizards at some point in the near future. However, the amount and duration of that contract remains to be seen.
HOOPSWORLD’s March Madness Coverage
The 2013 NCAA Tournament is just hours away. Make sure you’re up to speed on all of the top teams and players by checking out all of HOOPSWORLD’s March Madness content.
Here are some of the articles and videos that you should read before taking in all of tomorrow’s first-round games.
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Are you an NBA fan who only watches the NCAA Tournament to get a look at this year’s draft prospects? Here is a look at 20 players to watch during March Madness as well as a list of prospects to keep an eye on during the opening round.
HOOPSWORLD will continue to push out NCAA Tournament coverage over the next few weeks so be sure to check back regularly.
Must-Read Article by Travis Heath
If you haven’t already checked out Dr. Travis Heath’s article about nonverbal communication in the NBA, be sure to give it a read. All season long, he has been producing excellent articles that present the NBA through a different lens. Today’s article is no exception. Here’s a preview:
What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
It is a classic scenario that can be seen multiple times in any single basketball game. A player is removed from the game by his head coach and moves toward the bench. Rarely is anything said by the player toward the coach (although this does occur now with more frequency than it did in previous decades). Instead, nonverbal cues tell the entire story.
I can think of one specific circumstance in which a player came off the court with his shoulders slumped, eyes rolling, and sort of flopped onto the baseline out of bounds while giving his coach the “stink eye.”
When I spoke to this player after the game he defensively noted, “I didn’t say anything!”
“You didn’t have to say anything. You might as well have given your coach the middle finger in front of 20,000 people because what you did was really no different.”
Therein lies the power of nonverbal communication.
So often it is nonverbal communication that is the undoing of both coaches and players in the NBA and yet it is something that is rarely discussed or addressed with specific interventions.
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