That's so Ernie: cliche said to explain a dumbfounded transaction made by Washington Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld. Used most often by exasperated Wizards fan. The cliche has also gained popularity with fans of the Raiders, Jaguars, Bobcats and trigger-happy Wall Street analysts. Often heard around and/or near the Verizon Center. The Wizards traded two first-round picks for the rights to Greg Oden—that's so Ernie! Ted paid twice as much for the same T-shirt—that's so Ernie!
According to Adrian Wojnarowski, the Washington Wizards are reportedly close to finalizing a five-year, $80 million extension with point guard John Wall. Ernie Grunfeld is so convinced of Wall's ability to lead this Wizards team that he is leveraging $16 million a year for the 22-year-old former No. 1 pick, who missed the first 33 games last season with a knee injury. Wall also missed 13 games his rookie season.
Rondo, Parker and Westbrook were All-Stars last season. Derrick Rose, injured all of the 2012-13 season, was the NBA's MVP for the 2010-11 season. Lawson has led the Nuggets to the postseason the last four seasons. Williams is a three-time All-Star. And Curry? He might be the best young point guard in the NBA, and he also set the NBA record for three-pointers in a season last year.
Somehow, Ernie believes that Wall deserves to be included in this group. Does Wall have the potential to be listed amongst these players? Yes. But has he proven himself amongst these players? No. Yet, the Wizards are willing to pay him as the league's best. That's so Ernie.
This deal smells like the Wizards' moves of the past—handicap the team on a not-yet-proven player. Everyone over the age of 25 remembers the 1996 Juwan Howard contract. It feels eerily similar to the six-year, $111 million contract the Wizards gave a guy named Gilbert Arenas. That's so Ernie.
This is not how the Wizards are going to take the next step. Ernie needs to take note around the league. Maybe it's time for teacher to become student. The Warriors signed Curry to a four-year, $44 million extension in 2012. The Nuggets did the same in 2012 by signing Lawson to a four-year, $48 million extension. These teams gave themselves a chance to build around their star player. This is a model the Wizards need to follow.
If Wall wants to win, he should have taken a smaller contract. Conversely, if the Wizards want to win, they should have offered Wall a smaller contract. 2014 NBA free agency will offer the Wiz a chance to add frontcourt depth and youth. Greg Monroe, Kenneth Faried, Ed Davis and former Wall teammate DeMarcus Cousins will be free agents next season.
While locking Wall up was a priority, the Wizards' aggression is not warranted. Wall is a very good player, but $80 million is steep for a player who is not top-10 in scoring, not top-75 in field-goal percentage and whose assists, rebounds and steals per game have declined since his rookie season.
If Wall didn't want to sign a contract on par with Curry and Lawson, then the Wizards should have waited. If Wall wants a max contract, let him earn his max contract. If Wall had played 82 games and put up Chris Paul numbers, then the Wizards could have in good conscience opened Ted's checkbook (and spent some of the capital's hard-earned money). Instead, the Wizards are going to dump a max contract on Wall, pushing optimism on their fans that the playoff drought is over. The Wizards will gamble once again. Just like they did with Randy Foye and Mike Miller, along with Arenas and Vesely. That's so Ernie.