Does John Wall have the potential to develop into a franchise player? Is he worth a max-contract extension? If so, should he get a four or five-year contract?
With the Washington Wizards and Wall in serious contract negotiations according to multiple sources, these are the type of questions that will be talking points in the blogosphere.
Still, the most important decision for Washington is deciphering if Wall is a franchise player off the court. It’s often forgotten, but the NBA is a business first. Winning comes second to filling the stands and making a substantial profit from basketball revenue. Case in point: teams off-loading talented players in order to skirt the punitive luxury tax penalties the new collective bargaining agreement put into place. For a recent example of this, look no further than the Los Angeles Lakers.
With Kobe Bryant’s status up in the air after tearing his Achilles tendon and Dwight Howard bolting to the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles’ roster is significantly bereft of talent. So what does L.A. do? They amnesty Metta World Peace and replace him with the mercurial Nick Young. The lone defensive presence on the roster booted out the door in favor of an NBA also-ran with a Kobe complex.
Doesn’t make too much sense, right? That is until you follow the money. Keeping World Peace on the roster would have cost Los Angeles north of $14 million in luxury tax penalties for the upcoming season. Even for the storied and deep-pocketed Lakers, fielding a respectable team comes second to the all almighty dollar.
Even with that said, the moment Bryant returns to the court fans will flock to Staples Center. This is to be expected when you have a franchise player on your roster. Franchises with max-players can go through lulls where their teams aren’t contending, but they shouldn’t have lulls in terms of attendance.
Winning is often considered synonymous with good attendance, but that’s not always the case. The Chris Paul led New Orleans Hornets were one of the best teams in the league but one of the worst teams in average attendance. Prior to last season, the Golden State Warriors were lottery regulars who ranked in the top ten of average attendance.
Fans want to see their teams win, but keep in mind that they can do so at home. It’s an entertaining game experience and/or a must-see player that takes them from the couch to the arena.
Paul may not be a must-see player—or a franchise player on a championship team for that matter—but in winning games and attracting players who are must-see to come play with him, he is worth a max-contract.
In Wall’s three seasons with the Wizards they finished 23-59, 20-46 and 29-53. They also ranked 17th, 18th and 20th in attendance. The most notable free agent Washington has signed since his arrival is one Martell Webster. If you’re keeping count, that’s 0-for-3 for Wall on the max-player checklist.
While there’s no doubt that Wall possesses enormous potential, five years and $80 million is a lot to gamble on a player with such a shaky track record. Ultimately, Wall’s stock just isn’t worth that kind of an investment.