Washington Wizards: Nick Wright is wrong about John Wall

Washington Wizards John Wall (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Washington Wizards John Wall (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The Washington Wizards are now getting slandered amidst football debates. Leave John Wall alone!

In what was meant to mainly be a bashing of the Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff, FS1’s Nick Wright went out of his way to take some shots at the Washington Wizards, John Wall, and Wall’s contract. Hear it for yourself in this clip from Monday’s episode of First Things First.

"(The Los Angeles Rams) are now in the category the Washington Wizards are in where they have a player on their team with the single worst contract in their sport. What John Wall is to the Washington Wizards is what Jared Goff is about to be to the Los Angeles Rams — an anchor around their neck that brings them to mediocrity."

Luckily, Wall seems to have a good sense of humor about the whole thing, replying to the clip with a tweet of his own that read, “Lol funny guy.”

Wall’s right. The comparison is funny. It implies that John Wall is a bad, incapable point guard who does not help the Wizards win. Maybe it’s because of his recent absences, but people seem to have forgotten that John Wall is one of the NBA’s best and most exciting point guards.

The John Wall contract is now the go-to punching bag in NBA discussions. With Wall playing less than 82 total games over the last two seasons, and the super-max money still yet to kick in, it’s easy to see why. Questioning the contract, though, is only possible with a bit of revisionist history.

Let’s take things back to the summer of 2017.

Wall was 27 at the time, coming off an All-NBA season in which he averaged 23.1 points and 10.7 assists. The Wizards just finished a 49-win campaign, the franchise’s best since the 1978-79 season, and had gotten within one game of the Eastern Conference Finals. Wall was holding court over D.C. from the scorer’s table inside Verizon Center. The future looked bright in Washington.

Who isn’t locking that up for their franchise if they can? Unfortunately, things haven’t gone as planned since inking the deal. However, Wall has been nothing short of exceptional when he’s been on the court.

Wall Still Balls

Although he played in just 32 games, Wall was still playing at an All-NBA level last season, even through injury. Before getting shut down in December of 2018, Wall was averaging 20.7 points and 8.7 assists per game on a career-high 50.7 two-point percentage. His effective field goal percentage, 49.0 percent, was also a career-high.

Had Wall finished the entire season with an 8.7-assists-per-game average, he would have finished second in the NBA, tied with Kyle Lowry and behind only Russell Westbrook. Last season, Wall was one of just six players to average at least 20 points and seven assists per game. The others? Westbrook, LeBron James, James Harden, Jrue Holiday, and Nikola Jokic. Holiday and Wall were the only two not named to any of the All-NBA teams last season. Holiday was selected as a member of the second team All-Defense, however. Excellent company, no doubt.

Of course, there’s no telling if Wall will return as the same player he was when he left. Or if he’ll even be close to that. But some of the doom and gloom surrounding Wall seems blown out of proportion.

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis hit the nail on the head with his comments earlier this season. Wall is younger and had a less severe Achilles injury than Kevin Durant. The league seems to assume one of them will come back fine, and the other won’t. Why is that?

While Wall is no Durant, he’s still a multi-time All-Star who was playing at that level before his injuries forced him out. The guy had three double-doubles with at least 30 points in just 32 games last season. Let’s hold off on calling his career over for now.

Wall’s Expensive, But So Is Everyone

I get it. The Wizards are going to be paying John Wall a lot of money over the next few seasons. But with numbers like that, who’s to say he isn’t still worth it. With cheap young pieces and expiring deals up and down the roster, the Wizards have some flexibility moving forward. Everyone said they couldn’t resign Beal, that they had to move him with Wall’s contract looming on the books. What did they do? They worked out a mutually-beneficial extension with the All-Star shooting guard.

After Wall and Beal, only Thomas Bryant and Ish Smith are scheduled to make more than $6 million next season. Bryant will make $8.3 million during the 2020-21 season, while Smith will get $6.1 million. The following season, that list shortens to just Bryant. The Wizards are hardly handcuffed.

You might not know it with how Wall’s contract is discussed, but there are huge contracts all over the NBA. Klay Thompson is coming off a torn ACL, turns 30 in February, and the Golden State Warriors will owe him upwards of $37 million for three consecutive seasons starting in 2021. The Portland Trail Blazers have two seasons of paying Damian Lillard over $50 million to look forward to. He’ll be over 33 years old by then. And a 35-year-old Chris Paul will make $41 million next season wherever he ends up.

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Wall’s contract, with 20/20 hindsight, looks bad. But there are plenty of other bad ones to choose from. Tobias Harris, the zero-time All-Star, has secured three future seasons of over $36 million. Are we positive Joh Wall has the worst contract in the NBA? I’m not.

Since the Wizards were denied the Disabled Player Exception for Wall this season, we could likely see him before game 82. We’ll see if Wright is still calling Wall an anchor then. Or next year, when he returns to the court with Beal, Bryant, Rui Hachimura, and another lottery pick.