John Wall isn't making it easy for those who would argue that he's not worth a maximum contract extension when he becomes eligible in July. But the debate shouldn't be framed in those terms.
Wall's career-high 47 points in Monday's 107-94 win over Western Conference contender Memphis are powerful evidence in his favor, especially with five of his Wizards teammates sidelined with various ailments.
Even though the Wizards are headed for the lottery, Wall has every reason to play lights out. But there's a difference between wanting to fill up the box score and doing so efficiently -- shooting better than 50 percent from the field with eight assists -- in a dominating victory.
The NBA's collective bargaining agreement says the Wizards can use the designated player exemption only once at a time. For Wall, who is averaging 21.7 points and 8.0 assists in March, that equates to a starting salary at 25 percent of the salary cap and a potential fifth year on the end of his deal.
The market says the Wizards shouldn't have to go there. Last summer, Ty Lawson (16.9 ppg, 6.9 apg) got four years and $48 million from Denver, Stephen Curry (22.5 ppg, 6.7 apg) got four years and $44 million from Golden State and Jrue Holiday (18.4 ppg, 8.6 apg) got four years and $41 million from Philadelphia.
The NBA is also littered with case studies for max extensions (Andrea Bargnani in Toronto) and max contracts (Rudy Gay in Memphis, Joe Johnson in Atlanta) that were regrettable from the moment they were signed.
Wall knows that if he becomes Washington's designated player, Bradley Beal can't when he's eligible in two years. At the level they've each played since January, each deserves the max. Together, neither can afford it.
More importantly, what Wall has endured in three years with the Wizards had a singular purpose. After the Grizzlies game, he said as much.
"I'm not no MVP," Wall said. "I'm just grateful to finally be able to play good, to be healthy and help to change things around. Like I said, if this team is healthy from the start, we'd be easily a playoff team. That's how we feel and how we're playing."
The Wizards will surely remind him at the negotiating table this summer.
- Craig Stouffer