HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The Washington Wizards building their franchise around John Wall went from theory to reality the moment Wall’s signature went on that five-year, $80 million extension the two sides began working on recently.
Wall hasn’t made an All-Star team yet and the Wizards haven’t reached the playoff since he was taken with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 Draft. But the Wizards believe he is the key to their future and are paying him accordingly. Wall’s new deal will not start until the 2014-15 season. But Wizards’ general manager Ernie Grunfeld is making sure that the linchpin to the Wizards’ future doesn’t have to worry about free agency any time soon.
The Wizards found out last season what life is like without Wall when they sputtered to a 5-28 without last season while he was recovering from a left knee injury. They finished the season 24-25 with Wall in the lineup. He posted the best numbers of his career in those final 29 games, averaging a career-high 18.5 points and 7.6 assists while shooting a career-best 44 percent from the floor.
With Wall as the ringleader of a young core that also includes fellow lottery picks Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr., the Wizards are poised to make a move up the Eastern Conference standings next season.
Signing Wall through the 2018-19 season with a maximum extension might seem like a risky move to some without more evidence that he is going to be the type of player that can lead the Wizards into the mix at the top of the Eastern Conference standings. But the Wizards are avoiding a load of extra drama by avoiding restricted and unrestricted free agency with a player they have much invested in already.
They’ve seen what a healthy and motivated Wall can do, what sort of impact he can have on a team that ranks among the best in the league defensively. As his growth and maturation process continues, the Wizards are clearly focusing on Wall’s immense potential with this extension.
Wall is the first member of his Draft class to receive an extension but probably not the last. The Sacramento Kings have reportedly engaged the representatives of DeMarcus Cousins, Wall’s college teammate at Kentucky, in conversations about a deal for the talented big man. There is an Oct. 31 deadline for players from their Draft class to receive extensions.