1. What grade would you give the deal? Is a little over five million dollars a year for four years a good deal for Martell Webster?
Amin Vafa: I'd give it a B+. I really like Martell, I like his on-court contributions as a 3-and-D guy (and boy did he hit those corner 3s), and I like his off-court contributions as a jokester-yet-serious-veteran in the locker room. I think, based on preceding years, the contract might have been a little much in terms of money or years, but I think sometimes it's worth it to keep a guy happy if he's part of a culture you're trying to build.
Mike Prada I gave it a C+ on the mothership. It's a fair deal if Webster stays healthy and plays close to the level he played at last year, but both of those things are potentially in doubt given Webster's somewhat unsustainable shooting percentages and his injury history (one foot injury, two back surgeries, one hernia surgery).
Umair Khan: It's obviously a tad bit high given Webster's injury history, but it's a gamble worth taking if you're the front office. I think the organization was given enough indication by the medical staff that his nagging injuries are a thing of the past -- heck we saw him regaining much of his athleticism while continuing to improve his play late last year before his abdominal strain. He may never eclipse those blistering shooting percentages from last season, but if he's even in that ballpark, it's worth it.
Bullet Nation in Exile: I grade the deal a B, purely for financial reasons. Webster's quotes about not being satisfied after agreeing to his new contract terms remind me strongly of Mike's Twitter reaction to the Tony Allen signing:
Memphis basically just paid the "player embodies our city and franchise" tax on Tony Allen.— Mike Prada (@MikePradaSBN) July 3, 2013
To me, Martell Webster is a championship-caliber role player and the kind of guy any team would love to have in their locker room. And this guy seems as loyal to the Wizards as a player can get in a league like the NBA. It seems like the Wizards overpaid, maybe made the deal too long. That partially guaranteed year at the end, however, is all the rage in the new CBA trade landscape, thus the comparatively high grade.
Thomas Pruitt: I give it a B-. It's not the amount he's making that bothers me so much as the length of the contract. While Webster is a perfect for the team and a high character guy, no one was going to break the bank for him and signing a role player to a long-term deal usually doesn't end well. For every Jared Dudley, there are ten James Posey's, Brian Scalabrine's and Courtney Lee's.
Jeff Newman: I'd give it a B, simply because an A-grade would have been appropriate had the Wiz gotten Webster to re-sign at a bargain price, and I think they instead got him for pretty close to his market value. Everyone seemed to be in agreement that the Wizards "needed" to bring Webster back, and obviously the team felt the same way. The Wizards probably overpaid a bit in order to get the deal done quickly and eliminate any risk of another team with an irrational affinity for Webster offering more than the MLE.
As Mike has noted, Webster is an ideal fit playing alongside Wall and Beal, but I think it's what Webster brings to the locker room that ultimately makes him worth this contract (though I gather that I place more value on intangibles than most). I only covered in person a few Wizards games for BF last season, but it was evident right away that Webster was the soul of the locker room, the one that kept the mood light and spirits up. I'm glad he'll be there for a few more years.
2. What kind of deal would you have tried to sign him to?
Amin: I'd probably have shaved off one year or shaved off one million per year and kept it the same length. Either gives the team more flexibility. And this contract is the first Ted Leonsis-era contract for a role player that has exceeded two years. So that's something to think about (either negatively or positively).
Mike: I would have preferred a three-year deal worth $12-15 million with a player option after Year 2 that would have potentially allowed Webster the opportunity to test the market again at age 28. Something a little less than the deal Chase Budinger will be signing with the Timberwolves.
Umair: Courtney Lee signed a four-year, $21.5 million deal last summer and fell out of the rotation this year in Boston. Danny Green signed a three-year, $12 million deal with San Antonio that same summer and is being talked about as one of the elite "3 and D" players in the league. It's a mixed bag and investing in a shooter is always going to be a gamble. You'd like to lower the price tag on any free agent, that's just the nature of the business, but there comes a point where you roll the dice on a guy and hope he continues to improve. Fortunately for the Wizards, their investment is on the cusp of his prime, has a good head on his shoulders, and has the respect of the entire locker room.
BNIE: Four years and $22 million, but with the last year team option, if I'm going conventional. To be honest, that simply may be a premium negotiated in exchange for the presumed tradeability of the partially-guaranteed final year. So while a conventional deal might have saved a little cap space, the Wizards using the mid-level exception at all signifies they don't intend to swim beneath the salary cap and who is really expecting significant free agency activity over the next few years?
Thomas: Three years, $15 million would have been ideal. That said, I'd rather have paid him $20 million over three years than $22 million over four. The only thing worse than overpaying is overpaying for a long time. I'd have rather Washington bit the bullet, gave him more per year and freed up more flexibility for the summer that Nene comes off the books.
Jeff: Ideally, three years and $15 million, but that's the "bargain price" that would have earned the deal an A-grade from me, but I think we've already seen plenty of players sign in free agency for more than what we might have assumed was their market value.
3. Where does this leave Trevor Ariza? Now that Washington is committed to Webster at a relatively high salary, should the team explore trading Ariza or just let his deal expire?
Amin: I think the Ariza-Webster-Porter small forward glut is not a bad situation to have. Last year, Ariza played some shooting guard in bigger lineups and he was able to defend the position pretty well (not to mention hit a corner 3 from time to time), so I'm not too worried about minutes allocation. I do think, however, Ariza is probably the most tradable and desirable asset on the team at the trade deadline. The Wizards should entertain offers that shore up defense and offense in the frontcourt or give the team a bit more salary flexibility going forward.
Mike: I think the Wizards would be smart to explore a trade of Ariza for either a frontcourt player or a combo guard with a similar salary that won't be on the books for much longer than next year. Some reasonable options include Brandon Bass (two years, $13.3 million left), Ramon Sessions (one year, $5 million left), Andre Miller (two years, $9.6 million, the second year guaranteed for only $2 million) or a Luke Ridnour/Derrick Williams combo (combined $9.3 million next year). Bigger targets like Ersan Ilyasova and Thaddeus Young are also options, but I worry about all the years left on Ilyasova's deal and I think Young's a pipe dream.
Umair: I honestly see no point in trading Ariza. Should you trade him at the deadline, pick up a serviceable big man, and risk any flexibility you may gain next summer with Okariza coming off the books? Unless the need for a pick and pop big is that glaring barring the signing of Antawn Jamison, what good does it do your playoff team losing their best wing defender in a conference featuring Paul George, LeBron James, Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson, and Carmelo Anthony? There's absolutely a chance that Otto Porter fills that need, but don't bank on it. I'd much rather take my chances by going small for extended periods of time than making a quick fix to the rotation.
BNIE: The team MUST explore trade options for Okariza at the deadline this season if they want to make the move to fringe contender status with John Wall's impending max extension. Writing on this soon.
Thomas: I'd continue to bring Ariza off the bench as a supersub or start him, so long as he plays 25 or so minutes per game. Webster has historically been far less effective as a shooting guard than he has as a small forward, but I'd still play him there from time to time due to his ability to shoot. It's not that big a deal that he can't take shooting guards off the dribble now that his role is pretty much limited to shooting threes and running baseline to baseline. I'd also experiment with smaller lineups with Webster, Ariza and Porter on the court next to Wall with Nene or Okafor in the middle.
Long-term, I'd like to retain him if it's at all possible, but I'm not sure it'd be practical. Ariza's presence was one of the keys to last year's out-of-nowhere rise in defensive efficiency and I'd hate to see him go. That said, if we can flip him for a serviceable third big -- maybe Marreese Speights or Glen Davis -- I'd be happy.
Jeff: I'm not sure you'll be able to get anything in return for Ariza's contract that will be better than the cap flexibility you gain from simply letting his contract expire. Add in what he adds to the squad assuming it makes the playoffs, and I'd prefer just holding onto him. Now, his contract plus Okafor's expiring deal might be enough to get back a decent long-term piece, but I've heard/read a lot of people suggesting the team re-sign Okafor to a smaller salary after this season. I'm more in the camp of either trading Okariza or letting them walk, and trying to get younger and more skilled in the frontcourt moving forward.
4. On the one hand, Webster had a career year last year. On the other hand, he's 26 and reaching his athletic prime, and has shown himself capable of putting up a reasonably similar performance in the past when he's been healthy. Will he be as effective at any point during this deal as he was last year?
Amin: If Webster is healthy, I believe he'll be effective. If he's not healthy, then Porter and Ariza will be playing a lot more minutes. I'd much rather Webster be healthy and knock down an automatic corner 3, but if he's not, then I'm OK with the the contingency plan.
Mike: I'm going to say no, mostly because it's hard for any shooter to put together a year as good as Webster's last season. Even the best perimeter shooters don't post 60% true shooting percentages in back-to-back years. A reasonable expectation is for Webster to be 85 percent of the player he was last season throughout the duration of his contract.
Umair: If your standards entail carrying a true shooting percentage matched by just 12 other players, then no. But the threat of him on the floor will always keep defenses on their toes even if he's 75 percent of the player he was a season ago. On a team looking to surround their star guard with more misdirection, motion and transition opportunities, Webster's primed to remain a productive rotational player.
BNIE: Martell was durable last year, and I've no idea how sustainable that is. Stat-wise, shooters have up years and down years; last year was way, way up. I think he'll fluctuate like any other shooter, but given the fact that last season stands as an outlier suggest that, for now, expecting last season's results is premature.
Thomas: Assuming his health holds up, I'm actually really optimistic here. Webster's had some uneven performances throughout his career, but I believe a lot of that was a constantly shifting role and being put in less than ideal situations. In Portland he was still developing, was probably hoping to be more than a 3 and D type due to his draft position and was surrounded by more health-related drama than Nurse Jackie (I'm here all night folks!). In Minnesota, he was asked to be a shooting guard in a triangle offense that made no sense for the team's personnel and saw his back issues get so bad that they required surgery. Now that he's a valued player with a clear role on an up and coming team that saw it's greatest success with him playing a key role, I think we're going to see the best he has to offer.
No, he might not post a true shooting percentage in the 60s again, but considering the form on his jump shot and how many open threes Wall, Beal and Nene should create for him, I don't think it's impossible.
Jeff: Like everyone else, I think it might be a bit optimistic to expect Webster to duplicate his numbers from last season. If he does, than he's a bargain even at 4yrs/$22mil. He and the team seem to think he's over the chronic back injuries that plagued him earlier in his career, but if they return than it will obviously cut into Webster's time and effectiveness on the court. It's certainly a gamble (like any FA transaction), but one I'm willing to take.
5. Three years from now is Webster going to be more valuable as a player or as an expiring contract?
Amin: If he's 26 and has already disciplined himself into a solid role player without straying into trying something he can't do well, I think at 29, he's going to have solidified a reputation in the league as a great 3-and-D role player. And while a $5 million expiring contract can be enticing -- depending on what the team needs at the time -- a player of his ability will be pretty useful (unless for some reason Porter becomes the same player and is more enticing since he's younger).
Mike: I think he'll be most valuable as a trade asset with his non-guaranteed deal, sadly. I just worry about that body holding up for four years straight. Much like DeShawn Stevenson, I see Webster giving the Wizards good years at the front end, then breaking down by the time his contract finishes up.
Umair: I think as Okafor and Nene become a thing of the past, the opportunities to surround their young nucleus with shooters will be at a premium. That's just the price this franchise has to pay by pairing a young backcourt with such an old frontcourt. Naturally they'll look to the draft to replace their decrepit big men while renouncing the rest, but there will be an affluence of shooters at their slated draft spot as well as several free agents they could look into with their cap space. So naturally the plea for Webster's services will dwindle, and his contract will become more and more of a problem. I'm still more optimistic than most regarding his longevity, but the reality of a high priced shooter isn't so promising, and the likelihood of finding an equally productive player on a more reasonable deal is high.
BNIE: It depends where the Wizards themselves are. If they're fringe contenders and Martell is fully established as an integral bench player on that squad, he'll be more valuable as a player, unless the Wizards have a chance to significantly improve the roster, at which point his expiring deal would likely prove enticing to potential trade partners.
Thomas: He's a good enough shooter and smart enough defender that his game should age well, so I think he'll be more valuable as a player. Expiring deals are useful, but usually as throw ins to match salaries when draft picks and guys on their rookie deals are being swapped for superstars. Unless Washington is in a place to add a superstar, I doubt the team will be able to get anyone who's that much better than him for an expiring contract.
Jeff: Assuming his back injuries truly are behind him and he's been able to stay healthy, I think Webster will l still be more valuable to the Wizards as a player, but his long-term value will be greater as a trade asset that could either return a draft pick or younger player to assume Webster's spot on the bench.
How do you feel about the Webster deal? Sound off in the comments and tell us what you think.