The most interesting part of 2017 free agency for the Washington Wizards? How 2019 free agent John Wall reacts.
The four-time All-star will earn over $37 million during the next two seasons. The Wizards are ready to lock up the face of the franchise for more right now. Washington reportedly offered Wall a four-year, $168 million extension on Friday, according to ESPN.
The "supermax" offer, part of the league collective bargaining agreement, became an option after Wall made one of the All-NBA teams this past season. Only the Wizards can offer their leading man that lucrative deal based on having his rights.
Forget no-brainer. Seems like the only question is how quickly the NBA’s fastest player with the ball can put pen to paper, right?
Yet Wall didn’t rush. He’s practicing patience. The Wizards, who came up one game shy of reaching the Eastern Conference finals, have a good thing going. Wall knows this -- but he wants to see what’s next.
He wants to see what Washington does with current restricted free agent Otto Porter among other roster decisions before inking a deal that locks him with the franchise until 2023. If Wall and his agent, Rich Paul, keep on waiting days, weeks and months, fear rises. That’s especially true after what just unfolded with Paul George.
The Indiana Pacers traded George to Oklahoma City Friday. They traded their All-Star days after George informed the organization he would leave in free agency when his contract expires in the summer of 2018.
The gut punch news essentially forced Indiana into trade mode immediately rather than let George exit for zero compensation next year. With George viewed as a one-year rental, Indiana faced a depressed trade market. All factors essentially forced Indiana not to reload with one of the NBA's top players, but to rebuild without him.
If the Wizards don’t ink Wall to that extension, they could be the 2018 version of the 2017 Pacers.
Now, the situations are not identical. Washington won 49 games last season, the most for the franchise in nearly four decades. Indiana, an East Finals mainstay earlier this decade, barely snuck into the playoffs as the eighth seed.
Wall, who turns 27 in September, has an All-Star-level running mate in Bradley Beal. The Pacers lacked a proven second or third star. That George is expected to sign with one of the two teams based in his native Los Angeles in 2018 further limited Indiana's options.
Beal received a massive extension last year. Projections for Porter’s new salary projection are four years, $100 million. Other teams can make a run at the NBA’s fourth leading 3-pointer shooter in 2016, but the Wizards can and almost assuredly will match any offer.
Keep Porter and the Wizards would have their top draft picks from 2010, 2012 and 2013 signed for the next two seasons along with power forward Markieff Morris. All four starters enter the 2017-18 season 28 or younger. In the weak East, a Conference Finals appearance is within reach. Perhaps more if LeBron James ever ages.
Seems like Wall should be excited to re-up, right?
We’ll see. Last month Wall told ESPN he tried recruiting George to join Washington and in doing so inferred that Porter, while helpful, might not be enough. "We are one piece away," Wall said. "You got to add another star. You got to add another piece. You got to have three guys. And that's what it's looking like."
Whether you think Wall threw Porter under the bus or not, the larger point is his NBA worldview. Keep Porter and Washington’s financial wiggle room for adding another major star in the near future evaporates. Does Wall think Porter, a strong role player without massive upside, is worthy of Big 3 status?
Yet if Porter walks, Washington doesn’t have the adequate salary cap space to replace him now, meaning a standings dip is likely. Would Wall balk if the Wizards take a step back?
Washington must also bolster its woeful bench, but in the NBA, stars win rings. The Wizards were THIS CLOSE to reaching the East finals last season. John Wall views himself as a star. He wants that stage. Does he view this team with the same core returning good enough for contention or not?
That’s the intrigue and, depending on Wall’s view, the fear. Odds are he eventually takes the money and stays with the only NBA team he’s ever known.
Folks in Indiana probably thought the same with George two years away from free agency as well.