D.C. Could Have Fallen Hard, BUT NOPE! The strapped-for-cash-Wizards could have been destined to lose John Wall but now D.C. does not have to worry for 6 years
I began writing this piece a few weeks after John Wall was “waiting” to sign his super max extension that the Washington Wizards offered to him. With Wall initially choosing to wait on the 4-year, $170 million offer, my initial thought was that John was as good as gone. If the franchise player was “waiting” to decide on an average of $42.5 million per season, then he would more than likely be ready to team up with someone in two years when he would be a free agent. Lets look back on what could have been if Wall hadn’t have agreed to sign his extension — and then we flip the script as to where D.C. can go now with Wall under the super max:
Washington D.C. has been a terrible sports city as long as I have been alive. The year I was born, the Redskins won their third Superbowl and have yet to reach the conference championship game since. The Gus Frerotte head butt, the Spurrier year, Jim Zorn, reaching back for Joe Gibbs, Bruce Allen, RGIII, and again JIM FREAKIN ZORN, the list goes on and on. The Nationals have given us great regular seasons paired with abysmal postseason defeats. We can even talk D.C. United who last won the MLS cup in 2004 — but I will be honest, I don’t watch soccer so United will not count in my book.
This brings us to the Washington Wizards who have given D.C. some of the biggest peaks and valleys in the last 15 years. The Wizards had an old Michael Jordan, KWAME BROWN, the Maryland boys (Dixon, Blake, Baxter), all before 2004. The team than made huge moves and acquired the first big three, sorry Miami lovers, by signing Gilbert Arenas before the 2003–2004 season, acquiring Antawn Jamison before ‘04-’05 and then trading for Caron Butler before ‘05-’06. Four straight playoff appearances ended with three first round losses and a second round loss. We were a few role pieces away from contending for a few more years with Eddie Jordan on the sideline but, D.C. does not get nice things. The franchise took a turn for the worse with a 1–10 start, firing Eddie Jordan and then the Arenas-Crittenton gun debacle tore that core down.
The savior came in the 2010 draft when the Wizards were gifted number one pick, John Wall out of Kentucky. The team would have to be built but Washington D.C. had its franchise player. The John Wall years got off to a rough 43–105 start in his first two seasons. Washington was in yet another valley; it felt as though we would never see John Wall play well for us and he would be gone in a few years. In comes Bradley Beal as the third pick in the 2012 draft. The Wizards core came together and the 2013-’14 and ‘14-’15 seasons ended with second round playoff defeats and yet another coach was fired.
In comes Scott Brooks to replace Randy Wittman. Brooks was considered the guy to lure Kevin Durant back to his hometown team but there was never a meeting. In a ballooned salary cap season, the Wizards spent more money on a backup center (Ian Mahimni) than what the team has already committed to its starting center (Marcin Gortat) and starting power forward (Markiff Morris) individually. They also spent money and gave two too many years on the contract (3-years in total) to an end-of-the-bench stretch 4/5 in Jason Smith. All seemed well in monument land until the Wizards crumbled in game 7 of the eastern conference semifinals because of Mahimni and Smith could not stop Kelly Olynyk for a short stretch. We all now know this game to be the Kelly Olynyk game — a game that got Olynyk $50 million this offseason.
With the cap this summer not expanding but rather retracting, teams now have to find a way to keep away from the luxury tax line instead of the salary cap to build their team. The Wizards had one major issue with this regressing salary cap this year, find a way to keep restricted free-agent Otto Porter. The pesky Brooklyn Nets stepped in and offered Porter a 4-year, $106 million max contract which the Wizards had to match to keep their team together. With this max deal, the Wizards will be right near that luxury tax line making the other free-agent deals they have completed this summer putting them over that tax threshold. This is the new business of the NBA — if you want to keep a roster together, you will have to pay the luxury tax to just maintain any amount of success.
With the backstory in place, D.C. can certainly fall.
John Wall, the Wizard’s most important player, the leader, the franchise could very well leave after the 2018–2019 season for many reasons. John Wall is also able to sign what has been called the “super-max.” Since Wall made an All-NBA team, he can receive an extension from his team early with “super” cap numbers instead of regular cap numbers. The offer currently on the table for John’s super-max is for 4-years at $170 million. Here though are a few of the primary reasons Wall might leave:
The Wizards could decide to blow the team up because they cannot commit money to a core that would have proven they could not make an NBA Finals. This is the situation Wizards owner, Ted Leonsis is long at thought over for his Washington Capitals. The Wizards can acquire young assets and picks for Wall, Beal and Porter — which could be the case, or they keep one around.
Boogie Wants to Team Up
The great DeMarcus Cousins/John Wall friendship cannot be overlooked. Cousins and Wall can get together and say they will play for a franchise that they can run together as the top two players. *side note — what if Cousins wants to come to D.C.? OH BABY IT CAN GET CRAZY!
The Absolute Salary Max
The absolute maximum a team can pay for its team can come into play with Wall’s super-max. If the Wizards cannot offer Wall the full super-max because of the absolute salary maximum, than John could very well say goodbye.
He is a man who knows where he really wants to be
John Wall may just decide to leave the Wizards just because he has other places in mind for where he wants to play. That is the double edged sword of unrestricted free agency. It is beautiful because players can feel free to play where they want but it stinks to high heaven because a team you love can lose its best player without a falling out or a trade to get something in return.
John Wall though, agreed to his super max contract this weekend and now Washington D.C. is free to thrive. John’s contract extension turns the page for all of D.C. sports. His commitment to this team proves that he is the centerpiece the Wizards need to build around. Other D.C. franchise players should take note (within reason).
The Wizards though now need to work on upgrading a roster without much money to do so. Before the extension, the team was already strapped for cash and nearing the luxury tax line. Now, the team is will be hitting that threshold yearly and cannot spend to make themselves sufficiently better. Right now the Wizards are a second round playoff team. Washington D.C. appears to be okay with that because of the postseason struggles — or lack there of — for the Redskins, Nationals and Capitals. D.C. should not settle because they have fortified one of the four pillars keeping area sport fandom up.
With the Redskins in disarray with their quarterback situation, the Nationals on the verge of losing Bryce Harper and the Capitals always falling way short of expectations, the Wizards can take the city by storm. With the core of Wall and Beal in tact now for four more years, the Wizards can work on finding their third piece — and no, Otto Porter should not be considered number three despite his massive $106 million contract (aka the cost of keeping a team together nowadays).
With a few bad contracts on the books, the Wizards can look to package one of them with a Kelly Oubre or first round picks to get a more valuable piece or to just get out of the length of some of these contracts and get an expiring deal — my preference is to move the backup center making $16 million per season…
The Wizards are ready to move forward and stay at the top of the Eastern Conference for years to come. It is time to compete and with Cleveland in disarray, the Wizards could capitalize on it.
Of all of the Washington D.C. sports teams, it is the Wizards, not the Redskins or Caps or Nats, keeping the District from falling at the moment. Washington D.C. has its superstar that WANTS to stay in D.C. and that is fully committed to end the District’s championship drought.
This post was originally posted on Medium.com/Section240 by John Amoroso on July 26th, 2017