If you want to know what Salary Cap Hell looks like in the brave new world of the 2016 TV deal, the Washington Wizards are a fantastic example, the single worst salary cap disaster since the mid-aughts Knicks.
John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter make a combined $70 million. Wall’s extension, which kicks in come 2019-20, will pay him $37.8 million a year, and with the way his health has been, he seems vanishingly unlikely to be effective in that player-option year in 2022-23, when he’ll be in for $46.872 million.
Beal is in the midst of a five-year, $127 million deal of his own.
Porter is in Year 2 of a four-year, $106.5 million Trojan Horse the Nets dangled in front of him during the 2017 offseason.
In 2020-21, the Wizards triumvirate will be making almost $92 million between them.
This…is Salary Cap Hell. And Wall and Beal are made of papier-mache.
So are the Wizards good? Well, if they stay healthy, those three guys plus Dwight Howard are a potential 2 seed.
2017-18 record: 43-39
2018-19 over/under: 44.5
Howard, as maligned as he is for his attitude and tendency to bounce from team to team leaving broken locker rooms in his wake, averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds in 30.4 minutes a game in Charlotte last year.
By contrast, Marcin Gortat averaged 8.4 and 7.6 in 25 minutes.
Gortat was a huge liability. Howard, assuming he and coach Scott Brooks don’t fight to the death in the locker room and that Howard doesn’t pout his way through another season where his stats have no bearing on the success of his team (Lakers, Rockets, and Hornets fans are nodding their heads right now)…
What, you want me to call Dwight Howard an asset? Yeah, right. If he’d suffered a career-ending injury in 2013, he’d have a better Hall of Fame case. There aren’t a lot of players who have bent over and screwed their legacy quite like this before.
But he’s better than Gortat. A dead cat would be better than Gortat.
Ian Can Cook And So Can You
The following is required by the Indiana Pacers Fan Code Authority:
I am delighted beyond measure that Ian Mahinmi is making $15.9 million this season as part of his four-year, $64 million contract. His cashing in makes me happy after watching him play a competent center position in 2015-16 (when he made $4 million.)
But I am absolutely thrilled that it isn’t the Pacers who pay him.
That is all.
Are We Absolutely Sure Wall, Beal, and Porter Are That Good?
The Big Four advanced stats tell a weird story about those three guys. Taking a simple average, the troika is averaging about an 18.5 PER, .13 WS/48, 2.5 BPM (and about a zero on defense), and 2.5 VORP, give or take for games and minutes.
That’s a good player individually, a borderline All-Star, but here’s the thing…
None of those guys are any better than that borderline All-Star average. They’re three above-average to good players in a league where you need two legit stars to be a real contender.
And they’ll make $70 million between them.
I do not for half a second believe that Wall, Beal, and Porter can stay healthy. I’m not convinced Howard will do anything other than sulk the first time the team loses four in a row as the normal ups and downs of a season say they will.
I don’t buy Scott Brooks as a good coach; the 2012 Thunder were a perfect storm, an accidental masterpiece really, and I posit that any semi-competent NBA head coach could take Westbrook, Durant, and Harden to the Finals. It’s the Doc Rivers Principle (see Celtics, 2008.)
All this means that the Wizards will have to be better than they were last year to clear the over for this year.
And…man, I really want to pass on this one. Are they good? It’s Plausible. Will they win 45? I give them…a better-than-even shot because they won 49 games in 2017 with basically the same roster they’re running out there now along with an upgrade at the center position.
Last three years? 41-41, 49-33, 43-39.
This year? I’ll go with 46-36. After all, the Cavs are gone. Over. But don’t bet that based on my advice.