Breaking Down What John Wall Must Do to Prove He's Worth Max Extension

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistJuly 25, 2013

Eat your heart out Brandon Jennings.

John Wall is about to become a wealthy man—an obscenely wealthy man.

According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the point guard and the Washington Wizards are nearing an agreement for a contract extension in the five-year, $80 million range.

So ends the speculation as to how much the Wizards will offer Wall, and so begins the debate as to whether he's worth it.

Skating by on potential is no longer an option. Putting pen to paper on an $80 million deal dictates that Wall must deliver as the superstar he and the Wizards obviously believe him to be.

Wall's max extension dwarfs the ones fellow point guards Stephen Curry, Ty Lawson and Jrue Holiday received last season. And it's more money than the oft-maligned Jennings could ever dream of earning.

To be clear, this five-year pact may wind up being the exact same contract James Harden inked with the Houston Rockets.

Think about that. Really mull it over. That's the type of player Wall is being compensated as, the kind of standard he is being held to.

Every cent of his new deal comes on the condition that he improves, and that his ceiling is similar to that of superstars like Harden and Russell Westbrook.

Convincing the Wizards to give him this extension was the easy part. Proving he's worth it isn't so simple.

Jump Shooting

Point guards that can't shoot aren't the most desirable of assets.

Not that Wall needs to rain down threes like his name is Stephen Curry, but a consistent jumper would make him much more dangerous.

At a time when three-pointers have become a key ingredient in sustained success, outside liabilities can be numerically detrimental. Versatility, especially now, is king.  

Not even LeBron James can get to the rim on every possession. In every superstar that doesn't inhabit the post, there needs to be a semblance of three-point familiarity. And yet, distance shooting is a foreign concept for Wall.

Through the first three years of his career, he is knocking down just 24.3 percent of his three-point attempts. More alarmingly, per, are his shooting percentages outside of three feet overall.

Below is a breakdown of how he has fared from the floor over the last three seasons:

SeasonAt Rim3-9 FT10-15 FT16-23 FT3PT

We're well past the point of Wall's shooting struggles being traced back to three-point shooting alone.

Last season was the first time he converted on more than 30 percent of his shot attempts between three and nine feet. That he's never shot above 40 percent (combined) away from the rim is also problematic.

The need for him to score from different spots on the hardwood will never go away. Paths to the basket won't always be open, and what Wall is able to do when they aren't will help define him over the life of this deal.

Consider this: Of the 735 shots Wall put up during the 2012-13 season, 303 came around the paint, or 41.2 percent. That means nearly 60 percent of all his field-goal attempts are coming from areas he's not even shooting 40 percent from for his career.

Last year wasn't an aberration either. More than half of all his shots have come outside the paint these last three years (shown below).

Of the 66 guards who started at least 25 games in the NBA last season, Wall ranked 60th in effective field-goal percentage (44.9), a metric that takes three-point shooting into account. And of the 59 who have started at least 100 games over the last three years, he ranks dead last (43.2).

And this is the guy who is going to be paid like Harden? When he's put up Jennings-like field-goal percentages upon stepping away from the rim?

Understandably, jump shooting isn't his strength. But it needs to become one, or at least not spell his doom like it does now.

Fact of the matter is, Wall is being forced to attempt more shots outside of his comfort zone than inside it. Such is the peril when you're not accustomed to scoring at a high clip outside of three feet.

Now being paid like a superstar without a glaring and easily exploited weakness, increasing his range is crucial leading into next season and beyond.

Washington wants to get its money's worth. Unless Wall becomes a marginally impressive shooter, that's not going to happen.

The Personnel

Wall can't ensure he lives up to the expectations that come with his new deal on his own. Washington needs to put him in a position to succeed.

Fortifying his offensive dossier is on him; catering to his strengths is on the Wizards.

Speed, of course, is the most potent aspect of his game. Very few players are as dangerous as he is in the open court or when attacking the basket.

Part of the reason he has carved out such a successful career to this point—he's just the seventh player in NBA history to average at least 16 points, eight assists and 1.5 steals per game through the first three seasons of his career—despite his lack of offensive flexibility is that he can get to the rim almost at will.

Players devoid of range who can't get to the hoop frequently are at an insurmountable disadvantage. Shooting woes haven't stymied Wall's impact because he isn't one of those players.

Still, in support of his skill set, the Wizards must surround him with athletically inclined players capable of running the floor for those times when he gets ahead of the defense and shooters for when the opposition collapses on him in the paint and he's forced to kick out.

To an extent, Washington has done just that. Both Bradley Beal and Otto Porter are the ideal running mates in transition and are able to knock down the three ball. They'll complement Wall nicely. Martell Webster, in all his overpaid glory, fits that bill as well.

Continuing to build the team along those parameters is essential. The Wizards ranked 11th in fast-break points per game last year (14.2) and 10th in three-point percentage (36.5), the latter of which is saying something considering how impaired a shooter Wall himself is.

There's a strong foundation there, but we need to see more.

Potential problems stand to rise in the frontcourt. Nene and Emeke Okafor aren't the swiftest of big men. Okafor is valued for his defense and rebounding, and Nene his scoring, but exploring the realm of stretch 4s and more agile centers is a route Washington must take if it wishes to join the ranks of the elite.

Which isn't to say either one of them needs to be dumped immediately. Think big picture. Even if the Wizards make the playoffs next year (there's a good chance they will), there's no championship to be won now.

Tomorrow is more important than today. Wall isn't going to live up to his contract overnight. His continued evolution will take time. And as time moves on, the Wizards must round out the supporting cast with those best fitted to play alongside their handsomely compensated cornerstone.

Win, Win, Win

Five years and $80 million is quite a sum to commit to a player who has never made the playoffs or been named to an All-Star team.

Impressed as we were by Washington's 24-25 showing with Wall in the lineup last season, that's still not a winning record. Those 29 games the Wizards won last year were the most victories the team has snagged during the Wall Era.

Along with the glitz and glamour that come with being paid like a superstar is the responsibility of leading like one. All the points and assists in the world won't mean a thing if he can't carry the Wizards to a playoff berth and eventually further.

Of the 336 players that have begun their NBA careers since 2010, Wall ranks 19th in win shares (10.2). Being in the top-six percentile of that grouping would seem pretty good, but remember that the Wizards are paying Wall to be more than "pretty good."

Notable players ahead of him in that department include Derrick Favors (10.3), Chandler Parsons (10.4), Gordon Hayward (11.5) and Ed Davis (13.5), none of whom have played for what you would call dominant teams or have assumed as prominent a role as Wall.

Injuries definitely play a part in diminishing his total and ability to account for wins, but the 10.2 shares he's amassed over the last three years don't stand out. Though the Wizards have been stuck in rebuild mode for quite a while, there should be some kind of encouraging distinction.

Wall could play for the Charlotte Bobcats and it still wouldn't matter. His 10.2 mark ranks 52nd among all guards since 2010, pinning him behind inferior talents like Beno Udrih (10.7) and Jodie Meeks (12.2), among others.

Superstars find a way to separate themselves from the pack no matter the situation. Harden went from playing in the shadows of Kevin Durant and Westbrook to leading a rebuilding Rockets to the playoffs.

On the verge of being compensated like Harden and others, Wall is going to be held to the same standard. Satisfaction won't be found in lottery finishes or inauspicious campaigns.

Washington is investing tens of millions of dollars in Wall to play and win like a superstar. Nothing less will suffice or allow him to live up to this lucrative extension.

Nothing at all. 


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