The Washington Wizards, who have been in a championship drought since 1978, should be thanking their lucky stars that John Wall hasn’t packed his bags and relocated to another franchise. Ever since being drafted with the No. 1 pick out of Kentucky in 2010, Wall has yet to find himself surrounded by another NBA All-Star (Paul Pierce, with all due respect, was not in All-Star form while suiting up for DC). The Wizards have drafted 11 players since Wall, with only Bradley Beal and Otto Porter remaining on the current roster. Beal has yet to play a full 82 game season during his first four years, and Porter has found himself struggling to handle the duties of being a starter in the league. The Wizards ineptness in the NBA Draft has unsurprisingly translated to the free agent market. In an effort to surround Wall with talent for the 2016-2017 season, the Wizards managed to sign not one, not two, but three perennial backups that have yet to average at least seven points per game in their NBA careers, with center Jason Smith coming in closest at a career average of 6.4 points per game.
Prior to the 2014-2015 season, Wall signed a five-year max contract worth just over $84 million. Players such as James Harden and Russell Westbrook, who have similar contracts to Wall’s, were able to renegotiate their contracts this past summer, which allowed the Rockets and Thunder to be active in free agency and sign pivotal role players. The Wizards overspent in free agency, which means that they are over the salary cap, therefore unable to have any wiggle room to restructure Wall’s contract for the upcoming summer.
Despite the lack of floor talent and competent team management in our nation’s capital, Wall has dazzled in his first six seasons of play. With the exception of a knee injury that kept him out for a majority of the 2012-2013 season, Wall has finished in the top ten for assists each year. His consistency and steady stream of play has earned him three appearances in the NBA All-Star Game, where he is recognized as one of the top point guards in the Eastern Conference. Wall is the only guard from last year’s Eastern Conference All-Star team to miss the playoffs. DeMar Derozan and Kyle Lowry led the Raptors to a second seed in the playoffs, while Dwyane Wade and Isaiah Thomas led their teams to third and fifth seeds, respectively. Aside from Beal, who only appeared in 55 games from last season, the Wizards failed to provide Wall with another reliable scoring option. Big man Marcin Gortat put up 13.5 points per game last year, but no other guard on the roster managed to average double figures in scoring. The end of Wall’s five-year contract will eventually come, and the Wizards need to do all they can to avoid losing him in free agency. Beal, who has shown flashes of excellence when healthy, must be able to play a full season alongside Wall. Porter is entering his fourth year in the league, and he needs to step his game up and prove why he was worthy of being the third draft pick back in 2013. The Wizards are like a puzzle, and each piece must come together if they want to retain Wall and solve their quest for an NBA championship.