John Wall Thinks He's a Max-Contract NBA Star, but What Do the Numbers Say?
John Wall is a funny man. Too funny, sometimes. Like when discussing his next contract, for instance.
The Washington Wizards' point guard will be able to explore restricted free agency after next season. Just as the Denver Nuggets did with Ty Lawson and the Golden State Warriors did with Stephen Curry, though, the Wizards will hope to iron out an extension before then.
But will it be a max extension? Or should he amble his way into restricted free agency, will a max contract be waiting for him?
Wall himself believes there should (will?) be.
When asked by Zach Lowe of ESPN's Grantland about his impending contract, Wall didn't hesitate in assessing his market value:
Have you started thinking about your contract extension talks yet?
I haven’t started thinking about that.
Really? The deadline isn’t that far away.
That’s true. Look, I’m just enjoying D.C. This hasn’t been going the way we wanted it to, in terms of winning, but I think we are building something here.
Do you feel like you deserve a max contract? That you’re a max guy?
I feel like I am. I do, definitely.
Normally, I wouldn't question Wall's judgment—okay, that's not true. But I would usually try to give him the benefit of the doubt. We continue to zero in on his deficiencies, but his 14.1 points, 7.1 assists and 1.2 steals in just 30 minutes per game is no joke.
Neither is the impact he's having on the Wizards. Washington is 15-13 with him in the lineup this season. Without him, the team is 5-28. Clearly, there's a case to be made for him as a viable cornerstone.
But as a max contract superstar?
Wall is going to get paid, and rightfully so, but he's most likely not (nor should he) be the recipient of a max contract, especially this side of the new CBA.
Even if the player in question is Kyrie Irving (it one day will be), I'm not sure I can throw max money the way of a player who has missed 47 games through his first three years (thus far). That's more than half a typical season.
For those who would argue that Wall navigated the lockout-truncated campaign unscathed, I hear you. I also wonder if we were to take his health out of the question, if even then he would deserve a max-level deal.
The answer is still no.
Should Wall stay the course for the duration of this season, he will become just the seventh NBA player to average at least 16 points, eight assists and 1.5 steals per game in each of his first three seasons combined.
Of course you are. And you should be. Putting one's self in the company of Magic Johnson, Tim Hardaway, Isiah Thomas and Chris Paul is never bad thing. It doesn't necessarily warrant a max contract either.
Wall is good, and often overlooked when it comes to his passing savvy, but max contracts are reserved for those who are great. Wall isn't great. The potential to be great is there, but you draft a player based on potential. You pay him for his results.
Washington's wunderkind hasn't generated the worthy results.
For his career, Wall is shooting just 41.6 percent from the field and 22.3 percent from deep. He's hitting on just 11.1 percent of his three-pointers this season, the worst mark among any NBA player who averages at least 0.5 attempts per game.
Not only is this disappointing, it opens Wall up to criticism. He told Lowe that his sweet spot was "everywhere." As we see from the numerous slabs of red in his shot chart, that couldn't be further from the truth. His sweet spot is near the right elbow.
If you're into small sample sizes, you could make a case for strong and weak-side corner threes as well, yet even then, that's hardly the "everywhere" Wall alluded to.
Evidence doesn't shift when pitting him against some of the recently extended point guards either.
Denver inked Lawson to a four-year, $48 million extension at the beginning of the season. Through the first three years of his career, he averaged 15.9 points, 6.3 assists and one steal on 50.2 percent shooting. He also connected on 39.3 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.
Then there's Curry, whose market value (like Wall's could be) was tapered by his health. Golden State locked him down for an extra four-years and $44 million. He put up 16.9 points, 5.7 assists and 1.6 steals on 47.7 percent shooting through his first three seasons. The three-point savant converted on 44.5 percent of his deep balls as well.
And yet, neither Curry nor Lawson was considered a max-contract player, so I've yet to see why Wall should be any different. At the moment, I'd be hard-pressed to believe he deserves to average $11 or $12 million annually like the aforementioned two.
But he's making history. He's joining the ranks of Paul, Magic and Thomas. That has to count for something, and it does. Even so, it's still not enough to justify him landing a max contract.
In fact, of those six other athletes, Wall (through his first three years) ranks second-to-last in field-goal and three-point percentage, and is set to become the only one who didn't see the light of a playoff berth.
If you're craving more food for thought, consider that since Wall has entered the league, he ranks 116th in win shares. Or as I like to say, he has accumulated fewer win shares over the last three years than point guards like C.J. Watson (7.5) and Jeremy Lin (7.1). Mr. Irrelevant himself, Isaiah Thomas, has more win shares (7.7) in his two seasons than Wall does in his three as well.
In case you're wondering if that's relevant, bear in mind that a top-tier point guard like Paul tallied 37 in his first three seasons.
Is John Wall worthy of a max contract?
It's seemingly unfair to compare Wall to Paul though, right?
To that, I repeat: Max contract.
Wall subjected himself to such comparisons because he fancies himself a superstar, a max contract in the waiting.
What I see, though, and what the numbers tell us, is that we're in the presence of a promising talent.
A talent who is bursting with potential and is a suitable pillar for the Wizards to build around, but who still falls well short of the lofty standard he has set for himself.
*All stats used in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference, Synergy Sports and 82Games.com unless otherwise noted.
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