McNeill on Wizards: Wall set to cash in

The Wizards have a tough decision to make this summer. (AP/Nick Wass)
April 8, 2013, 10:42 AM

John Wall is about to finish his third season in the NBA, yet he still remains an enigma, albeit a costly one who feels he deserves a maximum-contract extension this summer.

The lightning-quick point guard showed flashes of his potential during his rookie season and ran away with the Rookie of the Year award. This season he recovered from injury issues that caused him to miss Washington’s first 40 games to be the first Wizard since Antawn Jamison to win Eastern Conference Player of the Week honours.

Clearly Wall has made an impact on his team and the rest of the NBA despite playing less than 200 games as a pro.

As great as that resume looks, he’s also only played a full season once and that was during a lockout-shortened season. On top of that, his jumper hasn’t always been reliable and he’s shooting 42 per cent from the field over the course of his career.

The biggest reason to attach the superstar label on him is due to the fact he has yet to play a single game in the playoffs; just ask Mike James how easy it is to post gaudy numbers on a team that isn’t playing meaningful games late in the season.

Despite some durability issues, questions about his jumper and an inability to guide his team to the playoffs, Wall still feels that Washington should give him the five-year maximum contract extension two summers from now.

Gulp.

“I feel like I am,” Wall told Grantland’s Zach Lowe when asked if he’s worth a maximum contract extension. “I do, definitely.”

After proclaiming the equivalent of “show me the money!”, it appears Wall is willing to back up his bold claims. He shook off a slow start after returning from the injury which caused him to miss 40 games to average 17.6 points, 7.6 assists and 4.0 rebounds this season.

Those numbers look even better when you factor in he only averaged 14.1 points in January while shooting 43 per cent from the field and Wall bumped his scoring average to 22.1 points while shooting 48 per cent from the field last month.

Wall’s numbers this season are good enough for a PER of 20.56 which ranks him sixth among point guards in the NBA.

One of the areas for growth heading into this season was the need to get a reliable jumper so defenders couldn’t sag off of him anymore. Wall has already made more three-pointers this season (11) than last season (3). Last year he went 3-42 from beyond the arc and this year he has bumped that up to a more respectable 11-36.

The metric that all point guards are judged on — wins and losses — is where he has taken a huge leap forward. Washington struggled to a 9-31 start to the season and were languishing at the bottom of the standings, however, with Wall they have gone 19-16 since and have looked like a playoff team in the Eastern Conference.

Washington rallied for eight consecutive home wins after beating the Chicago Bulls back on Apr. 2. Not bad for a team that only had nine wins total over their first 40 games.

Even more enticing is the fact the team is 15-7 in games that Wall, Bradley Beal and Nene have played in together.

A big reason for the turnaround in Washington’s season is because the team has outscored opponents by 8.8 points per 100 possessions while Wall and Beal shared the court this season, a rate lower than only the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat, and easily the best of any Wizards duo that played at least as many minutes.

Granted, the sample size is small due to injuries to both players limiting the time the two have played together, but clearly Beal and Wall is a backcourt worth building around, but at what cost? Until Wall is able to play at a high level of consistency and stay healthy, he will continue to be an enigma that looks great in flashes but doesn’t warrant a maximum contract. However, with Washington needing a star and not having one outside of Wall, it looks like he’ll be able to leverage the Wizards into paying him what he feels he deserves.

The ball’s in Wall’s court the next two season and it’s up to him to see if he can prove he’s worth the max contract he feels he deserves. But, if the past two months are any indication, he’s well on his way to making Washington back up the Brinks truck to ante up to re-sign him.

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