John Wall must improve before he will be worth a large contract from the Wizards. Getty Images
NBA news over the past few days has been led by stories of new contracts for players coming off rookie deals. Here are the deals recently announced, followed by what my salary formula suggests each guy is actually worth over the same number of years:
Ty Lawson, DEN -- 4 years, $48 million; Salary Formula: $55.7 million
Jrue Holiday, PHI -- 4 years, $42 million; $37.7 million
DeMar Derozan, TOR -- 4 years, $38 million; $19.0 million
Taj Gibson, CHI -- 4 years, $32 million; $42.3 million
Stephen Curry, GSW -- 4 years, $44 million; $42.7 million
James Harden, HOU -- 5 years, $80 million; $71 million
My salary formula combines total and per minute production. The Lawson contract makes a lot of sense -- he's been criminally underrated since his days at North Carolina. He's a superb PG and should provide Denver with good value for the money.
The Gibson contract looks like a bargain for Chicago. He's productive and is likely to see an increase in playing time as he takes over the PF position from Carlos Boozer.
Harden's contract is definitely not a bargain, but I think he'll be worth the money. His per minute production last season would suggest a contract valued at $78.4 million, which is close to the deal he got. And, I actually think there's a strong chance he's going to get better with more minutes and more touches.
Curry's contract is interesting. His per minute stats suggest he's worth significantly more than the deal he agreed to, but his injury problems are well-documented. If he's able to stay healthy, Golden State will get him at a relative bargain.
Philly overpaid a little for Holiday, but he's young and could still get better. I think they'd have been better off keeping the underrated Lou Williams, who signed a mid-level deal in Atlanta.
The only inexplicably bad deal of the bunch is Toronto re-signing Derozan. In my evaluation system, Derozan rated below replacement level last season -- the Raptors gave him $38 million.
So, what does this mean for the Wizards and John Wall? First, they need to keep in mind Tom Ziller's 5 rules for NBA contract extensions. Second, they need to do a serious evaluation of Wall's ACTUAL performance. Not what they hope he'll become. Not what he means to their marketing efforts. Not how it'll play in the media if he turns out not to be a franchise-level player.
Luckily, the Wizards don't need to address this question right away. Wall is entering his third season, and rookie contracts include options for a fourth season followed by restricted free agency. In effect, the Wizards can punt this decision to the 2014 offseason.
The big question is how much Wall improves this year and next. His overall performance improved a little from rookie to second season, but not enough to be meaningful. He has great physical tools, but his overall productivity was only average.
For argument's sake, let's say Wall doesn't improve a bit. If that happened, he'd still be a productive NBA player, but he wouldn't be worth a deal like the one Harden received, nor would he be worth the $50-60 million I've heard some Wizards fans tossing about. My salary formula would peg Wall's value at 4 years and $38.3 million.
What happens if Wall improves? As I mentioned in the link above, Wall's performance last season scored a 97 in my system where league average is 100 and higher is better. That 97 was 10 points better than his rookie year. Every 10 points in my system is worth approximately $850,000. Here's a handy little table estimating how much more Wall would be worth for each 10-point improvement in my rating system (and salary formula):
In short, it's in the best interest of everyone involved with Wall and the Wizards for Wall to improve his jump shot and cut down on his turnovers.