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Why the Wizards can’t renegotiate and extend John Wall’s contract right now

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past month, we’ve seen a very unusual trend emerge in the NBA, where two star players have agreed to renegotiate and extend their current deals, rather than accelerate their path to free agency.

First, the Rockets signed James four year, $118 million extension, with a player option for the 2019-20 season. Then, earlier this week Russell Westbrook agreed to a three year, $85 million extension with the Thunder that includes a player option for the 2018-19 season.

Renegotiating and extending was a win-win for both sides. James Harden and Russell Westbrook get to cash in like the players who were fortunate enough to hit free agency during this summer’s cap spike, and the Thunder and Rockets get to keep their stars under team control for several years.

Per CBA rules, players have to wait three years from the date they sign a deal before they can sign an extension. So John Wall is eligible to make a similar move this summer since he signed his rookie extension back in July of 2013.

On the surface, it seems like it would make a lot of sense. Just last year, John Wall pointed out he was making the same money as Reggie Jackson, thanks to how the cap has risen since he signed his max extension in 2013. Renegotiating now would allow the Wizards to pay John Wall like a true max player in the new CBA climate and put him on equal footing with Bradley Beal on the Wizards’ salary sheet.

Unfortunately, there’s a catch, as CBA FAQ details:

Only teams under the cap can renegotiate a contract, and the salary in the then-current season can be increased only to the extent that the team has room under the cap (and cannot increase the player's salary beyond the maximum salary).

So thanks to the Wizards’ spending spree this summer, they don’t have any cap room left to renegotiate and extend John Wall’s contract. What’s more, the Wizards aren’t projected to have enough cap room in 2017 or 2018 to make such a move unless the Wizards unload some salary or there are major changes in the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement next summer that would allow teams to renegotiate and extend players if they’re above the salary cap.

Long story short, John Wall probably isn’t going to sign an extension with the Wizards before he hits free agency in 2019 because they just don’t have the cap space. Certainly, this makes things a little more uncertain than the Wizards might like, but to be fair, there also would have been a level of risk had they agreed to an extension.

If the Wizards kept cap space clear to renegotiate and extend Wall this summer, they would have had less cap space to add talent to their team. For all we know the Wizards could have come to Wall with an extension offer and he could have told them he’d rather see the team use that cap space to surround him with more talent.

Either way, Washington is entering a three year stage where they need to prove they’re the best spot for Wall to spend the rest of his career and hope the players they added this summer are enough to take them to the next level. Because if they aren’t, the team doesn’t have much flexibility to give him the roster or the salary he deserves between now and when he hits the open market.