The Washington Wizards currently sit at 11th in the Eastern Conference with a 16-24 record. Washington has been a team that seems to always be in the media for all the wrong reasons. Whether it is a players-only meeting, or the team leader, John Wall, getting into it with the head coach, Scott Brooks. On December 29th, John Wall announced that he will undergo surgery on his left heel, which will sideline him for 6-8 months. This leads to more questions about the Washington franchise as Wall will officially miss the remainder of the 2018-19 season.
The John Wall Effect
What Got Us Here
The Wizards started off the season winning two out of their first ten games. This raised questions about the Wizards early in the season as they seemed to be very disconnected as a team on the court. There was more talk about turmoil in the locker room, as usual, and trade speculations started once again. In each of the last three years, John Wall has had some sort of procedure due to injury. This cost him from nine games to eight entire weeks. John Wall is very injury prone and is not the superstar who franchises would trade for.
Wall signed a massive four-year $169 million contract, beginning with the 2019/20 season. This gives him an average of $42 million per season, a very high price to pay for a player who can’t stay healthy on the court.
Washington currently has money tied up in contracts to Bradley Beal, Ian Mahinmi, and Otto Porter. Mahinmi is making $15 million over the next two years, and Otto Porter is making $26 million over the next three years. Those two contracts are very hard to move in addition to the Wall max contract. The only player playing well above his pay grade is Bradley Beal. He’s making $27 million per year and is under contract till 2021.
The Wizards are skilled enough without Wall to contend for a playoff spot in the east, but should they be content with that? This franchise has consistently been slightly above average ever since John Wall came into the league. With talented prospects coming into next year’s draft, there are talks that Washington should attempt to tank and get a high pick.
The other option would be to explore possible trade packages, for either Wall or Beal, to remain competitive in the foreseeable future. John Wall would be extremely difficult to trade due to the combination of injury history and massive contract. However, that may be the only way for a small market team to acquire an established superstar (e.g. Blake Griffin to Detroit). Bradley Beal seems to be the most desirable trade asset, but trading him away may be Washington’s indication that they are kick-starting the rebuild.
One last storyline to keep an eye on for the next 15-20 games, would be the emergence of the previously-known “Everybody Eats” Wizards. When Wall missed 41 games in the 2017-18 season, the Wizards were playing .500 basketball and seemed to be clicking. That is when they declared themselves the “Everybody Eats” Wizards, due to their willful ball sharing. It is worth shining a light on the possibility that this team would thrive more in the absence of Wall.
Washington is not discussing any moves as of now. This may leave fans frustrated, feeling that there does not appear to be an end in sight. The only absolute, for now, is that John Wall will not be suiting up for the Wizards for the remainder of the season. How this plays out is up to the front office.
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