Through four years with John Wall since he signed his deal and one year with Bradley Beal, the Wizards are a convincing 2-for-2 in handing out max contract extensions. Both Wall and Beal got paid handsomely and, despite their fair share of critics, each immediately got a lot better. They did something that is a lot easier said than done: once they got their money, they kept improving and in doing so made their contracts look better and better after actually signing them.
That's the best-case scenario for the Wizards and their front office deserves credit for both deals. They technically could have let either walk in free agency or traded them, as some in the media suggested they should. They chose to keep both for top-dollar deals and since have been rewarded for it.
Beal signed his new deal, a five-year contract worth $128 million, last July. It was a max contract for a guy who had never made an All-Star team and who had battled injuries, including last season when he only played in 55 games and only started 35. Naturally, some wondered if he was worth the money because of his problems staying healthy through four NBA seasons.
But in his first year under a new contract, Beal achieved newfound durability. He had some minor issues here and there, but managed to play 77 out of the Wizards' 82 games and then appear in all of their 13 playoff games.
"If anything, I'm proud of that. I'm happy for myself, being able to be healthy for a full year," Beal said. "Being able to be on the floor, man, that's all I wanted. Just being able to be here. I knew if I was healthy that I would have a successful year. I had that opportunity this season."
Wall knows something about proving his critics wrong. He signed his max deal in July of 2013, before he had made an All-Star team and after he played just 49 games in an injury-plagued season. In the four years since, Wall has been an All-Star each time and this past season earned his first All-NBA selection.
Beal was not seleced for the All-Star Game this past year, but did put up career-bests in points per game (23.1), field goal percentage (48.4), free throw attempts (4.4) and assists (3.5). Wall believes his backcourt mate made a significant leap in his game.
"I feel like he should have been an All-Star. He's proven to himself that he earned his money when everybody said he didn't," Wall explained. "It's the same thing I went through. Now all he can do is take that as motivation going forward into next season. He has improved dramatically in so many areas that helped us and helped me and my game."
The ways Beal improved were obvious. His free throw attempts and field goal percentage naturally went up because he got better at earning his own shots. His ballhandling was worlds better: he developed a deadly stepback jumper and a respected crossover, and gained confidence attacking the rim.
Beal attempted 23.8 percent of his shots at three feet from the rim or closer, a career-high. He took 41.8 percent of his attempts from three-point range, also a career-high. For Beal, it was simple, spread the floor or attack the rim with impunity.
Beal's ability to break down defenses off the dribble led to more open shots. It also allowed him to run point guard at times within coach Scott Brooks' system, something many shooting guards aren't capable of.
Still, for Beal, it's the health that stands out most.
"The same thing is going to happen next season. I just have to stay within my regiment. No days off. Just continue to focus on my body and make sure I'm doing the right things," he said.
Beal has long been a dangerous shooter and above average defensive player and those attributes continued to improve in 2016-17. Now he can scare opponents with his dribbling and passing abilities. Add it all up and he's developing into one of the more complete players at the shooting guard position. That sounds like somebody who is worth the contract he signed.