Signs point to Wall becoming max player

Signs point to Wall becoming max player
March 19, 2013, 8:00 am
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Is Wall worth the max?

Will the Wizards give John Wall a max contract?

According to several persons with knowledge of the situation who talked with CSN Washington, all the signals point to the answer being yes.

For the embattled point guard, of course, rewarding him with a max contract is a no-brainer.

“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 CSN. “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, who makes $5.9 million this season under a rookie scale contract, is due to make $7.5 million next season. Grunfeld can sit down with Wall’s agent, Dan Fegan, to discuss terms after July 1 when the negotiation period opens and extend him. Players with one-to-six years experience are eligible for a max deal that can pay them 25% of his team’s salary cap. For Wall, that would make his max salary $13.5 million this season and he would be eligible for 4.5% raises based on the first-year number each year of the deal.

Wall is eligible for as much as a four-year deal, unless the Wizards make him a designated player –- per collective bargaining agreement rules, each team can have one –- which would grant him a five-year deal.

In his third season, the 2010 No. 1 overall pick is showing signs that he's finally on the right track. Not surprisingly, the Wizards are 18-15 with him in the lineup after Monday's 119-114 loss at the Charlotte Bobcats.

Wall missed the first 33 games of the season with a stress injury to his left knee and struggled with his jump shot and turnovers. He is averaging 15.6 points, 7.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game and shooting a career-high 44.4% from the field. His overall three-point average still lags at 29.2%.

In March, Wall’s averages bump to 20.1 points, 7.7 assists, 52.3% shooting (77-for-147), including 54.5% from three (6-for-11). He also was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the first time in his career. 

But Wall goes beyond the numbers when making his case. 

“I feel like I’m a max guy, just on how I am as a person. I feel like I make my teammates better,” Wall said. “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.”

And that sums up Wall’s leverage. While he might not be on par with other players at his position statistically with similar experience such as Ty Lawson of the Denver Nuggets, Wall isn't far behind. Lawson averages more points (16.8) but fewer assists (7.0). His overall field-goal shooting is only slightly better (45.6%) though he’s a distinctly better three-point scorer (37%). Lawson signed a four-year, $48 million deal before this season.

Lawson, however, never has had to be a one-man show. He has had better talent around him, such as Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler, Corey Brewer, an All-Star in Andre Igoudala, and in the past Ray Felton and Carmelo Anthony. 

Wall hasn't had that luxury. He arrived in Washington in the wake of major overhaul as the team was pivoting away from Gilbert Arenas and trading key pieces from what had been a perennial playoff team. Only three players, Trevor Booker, Cartier Martin and Kevin Seraphin, remain from Wall’s rookie season.

And factor into that the recent history of the Wizards when it comes to allowing players such as Chris Webber, Richard Hamilton and Ben Wallace to leave, blossom and help other franchises become successful.

“An organization’s history is leverage,” one NBA agent told CSN Washington. “In negotiations, you use that. Definitely. And this kid has kept his nose clean on top of that." 

In losses to the Toronto Raptors and Detroit Pistons last month, for instance, Wall shot a combined 4-for-21 and had 14 turnovers. He had six turnovers in Monday's loss in Charlotte to kick off a four-game road trip. But Wall will point to how others benefit from his presence:

  •          Rookie shooting guard Bradley Beal didn't become a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate until Wall’s Jan. 12 return.
  •          Forward Trevor Ariza, a career 32.1% shooter from three, is making 38% since Wall’s return.
  •          Martell Webster, a career role player in his eighth season, is shooting 48.2% from three-point range with him in the lineup.
  •          Emeka Okafor had five double-doubles before Wall. He has 14 with him.

Teammates who expect to win matter, and he is surrounded by ones who can score. During a fast-break against the Phoenix Suns last week, Wall pushed the ball. Beal and Webster fanned out to the corners. The middle of the floor parted like the Red Sea as defenders went to chase them from the three-point line. Wall finished with a dunk.

"In the past everybody was coming to me. it makes it easy for me. I can finish," Wall said. "And if I know people are coming at me I got shooters to find.

“The two (previous teams) I had, they weren't bad guys. We just didn't have a lot of guys that were used to winning, and had that kind of mind-set doing it as a team and trusting each other. Having consistent, knockdown shooters is making my job a lot easier. Then my job is to keep knocking down my jump shot and making their jobs easier.”

Wall already has urged Leonsis to keep Webster, who is playing on a one-year, $1.6 million deal. The Wizards, however, don't have a lot of wiggle room under the salary cap. Ariza and Okafor, who account for $22.3 million for 2013-14, could exercise their player-options and leave as free agents.

Wall seems certain about his future. 

"Nah, I don’t plan on it," he said of becoming a restricted free agent after next season and wanting to test the market. "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."