WASHINGTON — These are tentative times for Wizards fans.
With the roster virtually set for the 2017-18 season, give or take a couple of role players, all that’s left is to wait and see how the remainder of the offseason shakes out for the rest of the Eastern Conference, and to see if GM Ernie Grunfeld makes an unexpected trade.
Oh, and there is the very minor issue of whether or not John Wall will stick around for the foreseeable future.
Wall has been in the news twice in recent weeks: He was offered a “supermax” extension in the same vein as the one James Harden just signed, a four-year, $170 million pact that would keep the star guard in D.C. through the 2022-23 season; and he publicly stated his recruiting of former Indiana Pacers star Paul George, who was eventually dealt to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
In theory, the fact that Wall is recruiting stars and pushing Grunfeld to swing a deal for a star is a good sign for his future in Washington. If he wants to bring other stars to his team, it would seem he is interested in sticking around. However, his comments didn’t seem to speak highly of Otto Porter, the team’s supposed third star.
“Look at our team. We are one piece away,” Wall said at the time. “We have the point guard, we have the shooting guard, we have the center, we have the power forward. [Porter] did great for us. You can’t take nothing away from what he did. But [George] is a guy that can guard LeBron and go back at LeBron. It’s a piece that you’re going to need to win. If you don’t have a guy who can do that, you don’t have a chance.”
Wall added: “You got to add another star. You got to add another piece. You got to have three guys. And that’s what it’s looking like.”
So it’s pretty clear from that quote that Wall doesn’t see Porter as a star. Perhaps that will change in time, as Porter is just 24 years old and will be with the Wizards for the next four seasons after being signed to a max contract of his own.
Adding to the confusion, Wall still hasn’t signed the massive contract offered to him. He is supposedly waiting to see how the Wizards handle the rest of the offseason before he makes a decision, but the fact that Washington has offered him nearly $200 million and he hasn’t leapt at the opportunity to sign his name is worrisome for fans around D.C.
On Monday, Wall doubled down on both of his recent statements.
Here’s what the star point guard had to say, per The Washington Post:
“Otto’s going to be a great player for us, a great role player for a lot of teams. There’s a difference between a role player and a superstar. It’s a big difference. There’s a lot teams that will make a lot of trades for a superstar,” he said. “Look at Kevin Love getting traded for Andrew Wiggins, you never know who that player going to turn out to be.”
“It’s what people are going to say about it,” Wall continued. “I love Otto as a teammate, but at the end of the day if you can make your team better, you can always do that. If people take it the wrong way, then so be it.”
Take that for what it’s worth. Wall apparently sees Porter as a $26 million per year role player. That doesn’t bode well for Washington’s “big three.”
Porter averaged basically 13 points and six rebounds per game last season, roughly comparable to role players such as Ersan Ilyasova and T.J. Warren, as well as “stars” such as Al Horford. But Porter is getting paid $100-plus million for his potential, not his achievements, and he has increased his scoring, rebounds and shooting each season he’s been in the league.
Wall wasn’t done there. When asked why he hasn’t signed his contract yet, he reaffirmed his love for D.C. and his desire to stick around.
“I’m just chillin’. Just trying to figure out to negotiate it and manipulate it the way you want it to be,” Wall said. “Everybody know where I want to play and where I want to be. Everybody took it the wrong way [when reports emerged that] I wanted to wait. It’s a big decision. I love D.C. Everything I do, I do it for the city of D.C.”
So that’s reassuring.
Wall seems as though he’ll eventually sign his contract to remain in Washington for the long term. But it’s also easy to infer some frustration with the direction of the team. As other teams around the league have swung for the fences this offseason, the Wizards remain stuck in the same position for the foreseeable future.
Washington will pay nearly $80 million next season to Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, and that number increases by several million dollars the season after — and that doesn’t include Wall’s salary, which could be more than $40 million. Grunfeld has very little flexibility moving forward, unless a big trade is orchestrated, and it’s difficult to see this roster as constructed competing against the likes of the Warriors and Cavaliers, and the revamped Celtics, Thunder and Rockets.
It’s always something in Washington.