John Wall's breakout 2013-14 season has caused lots of people to say things like the great David Aldridge did in an NBATV segment the other day.
"John Wall is making a mockery out of everybody who thought he wasn't worth a max contract"- @daldridgetnt
— Ben M (@BenAgent0) March 18, 2014
Ah yes, the max contract debate. You'll recall a lot of criticism for the Wizards handing Wall the most they possibly could have last summer when he had only shown he deserved it for half a season. "Why rush" was a common question asked, and I understand why. The "risk" in actually negotiating with Wall was minimal, and even if he hit restricted free agency, the Wizards had the right to match any offer sent their way.
All this was true then. But at the time, I still shrugged for this reason:
That said, the end result is paying a very good player slightly more than he should be worth in a completely open market, and I never think that's a huge problem.
The reason here is simple: it's much easier to find a player 75 percent as good as a mid-level guy for 50 percent of the cost than it is to find someone 75 percent as good as John Wall for 50 percent of the cost. Hell, it's almost impossible to do the latter because teams don't willingly give up valuable players that approach Wall's level. Yes, every dollar counts on the salary cap, and it'd be nice for the Wizards' future if Wall made Stephen Curry money, but Wall was always going to be this franchise's building block. You have to be OK giving those kinds of players a little extra to keep them.
If you see how this year has played out, this makes more sense. Wall is not perfect -- he still turns it over too much, loses focus defensively at times and has traded a better perimeter shot for fewer drives -- but he's a significant better player than he was even last year. And barring injury, it was always a good bet that he'd improve to this level. He works his ass off, has supreme talent and character and was finally playing with real teammates. The franchise goes nowhere without Wall, so why bother overthinking the summer's negotiation?
We might have reached this point anyway had Wall not received the max contract, but at the end of the day, the order doesn't really matter. Wall's here for five more years, he's proving he's worth his contract and the Wizards now are able to deal with other problems.