Greg Oden was the most talked about signing in Blazer Land this week, and for good reason—who isn’t interested in seeing if he’ll even pan out as a productive pro?
Another contract signed this week, though, may be the one Blazer fans should be more interested in.
The Washington Wizards signed 22-year-old point guard John Wall to a 5-year, $80 million max contract extension just a few days ago. After leading the Wizards to a near .500 second-half record, locking up Wall was clearly priority number one for Washington this offseason.
As noted by Mike Prada, SB Nation NBA editor and lead editor at Bullets Forever (a Washington Wizards companion blog), much of post-signing press conference wasn’t necessarily focused on Wall’s individual successes. Instead, it looked into how Wall’s talent, development and now long-term commitment to Washington could ultimately attract talent in the free agent market.
Prada’s key point wasn’t about the organization’s ability to sign free agents with Wall locked up. Instead, it was about a Catch-22 for the rebuilding Wiz: If you need to spend money to retain young talent, how then do you find enough money to spend on marquee free agents?
Try replacing "Wall" with "Lillard" and "Wizards" with "Trail Blazers" and see if the point translates.
Chances are, it will.
The parallels between Wall and Lillard are uncanny. Both are scoring point guards in their early 20s, drafted near the top of their respective classes. They also were highlights of July’s USA Basketball camp. Finally, each is primed to be the next ‘face of the franchise,’ with big contracts either signed or [hopefully] set to be signed in the near future.
You have to wonder, then, if Neil Olshey and the rest of the front office are keeping a keener eye on the Wizard’s success now that they’ve wrapped up their franchise guard.
This question about resigning young players to large contracts seems to create a discussion on Blazer’s Edge every few years. Last year, it was Nicolas Batum. A few before, it was Brandon Roy. And, in a few from now, it will be Damian Lillard.
There are obvious differences between Wall’s situation and what Lillard’s could become. For starters, Wall is by far the best player on a team that has seen very little recent success. In Lillard’s case (at least for now) there are a number of other key players surrounding him, namely LaMarcus Aldridge and Batum. Even with hints of a roster shakeup, the fact remains that the Blazers’ roster is, as of today, better than the Wizards’.
The current offseason, however, has provided some very serious question marks: Is Aldridge a long-term fit in Portland? Is Batum’s value worth testing on the open market? Should Lillard be the player the Blazers build around? Whether you believe the questions are fair or not, there have been hints at them ever since Portland faded back into the lottery.
With Prada’s post looming over this discussion, maybe another layer should be added in:
Which current Blazer will most effectively lure others in the free agent pool?
In Washington, clearly that player was Wall. He’s one of the more dynamic young players in the NBA, and the team felt he could be the catalyst for change.
Portland could face a similar decision. Though the issue isn’t quite of the same magnitude, one does get the sense that the team is going through a slight identity crisis. With that, you have to believe Portland will be keeping an eye on how the Wall signing pans out in Washington.
Put simply, Portland may have learned a lot from dealing with Roy and Batum, but what happens with Wall could very well impact what happens in Portland. And in the coming weeks while you’re keeping tabs on Oden, see how the Wizards and Wall fare.
It may provide insight on how the Blazers deal with Lillard very, very soon.