Wizards

Expectations will be higher for Bertans, but will his role change?

Wizards

There is always going to be a certain amount of risk in handing out a large contract in the NBA. The deals are guaranteed and have to be fit under the salary cap. The big deals that don't work have domino effects and can be crippling as a competitive disadvantage.

The Wizards have had some trouble in that regard, particularly in choosing who to pay outside of John Wall and Bradley Beal. The Wall contract gets a lot of attention, but it has backfired mostly due to bad luck. The Wizards, remember, signed him right after he made the All-NBA team and led them to their best season since the 1970s.

That one has hurt them, but it's harder to assign blame than it is for the deals they gave Ian Mahinmi and Otto Porter Jr. The Wizards will now hope for much better luck with Davis Bertans, who is the latest to slide into that third-highest paid slot on their salary ledger.

Bertans, 28, inked a five-year deal worth $80 million as the Wizards' top priority in free agency. He re-signed with them after a breakout season, his first in Washington. And the Wizards are now betting on that trajectory to continue, for him to at least be as good as he was in 2019-20 and, ideally, get even better.

Bertans made $7 million last season, which represented a bargain as he transformed from an efficient bench shooter to one of the very best three-point marksmen in the NBA. He exceeded the value of his salary, but will now have the challenge of meeting a higher benchmark.

 

Bertans won't be making a star's salary, but the expectations will naturally be higher. Bertans will now be counted on as a primary scoring option, not seen as a bonus contributor. He is as important as anyone on the roster outside of Wall and Beal and when Wall sits due to rest, he may have to assume the responsibility as the No. 2 option next to Beal. That may require an adjustment for a guy who has averaged 8.0 points per game in his four-year NBA career.

Porter is probably the best example, though an extreme one, to compare to Bertans. When on his rookie deal, Porter was widely seen as underrated, a guy who should have a larger share of the offense and receive more credit than he did. But once he earned a max contract, his off shooting nights and trouble staying healthy became magnified.

Like Porter, Bertans will be looked to for shooting. But the differences would be he's not getting paid nearly as much annually, and also that he is likely to still come off the bench. Bertans even said last week in a press conference he's perfectly fine with playing in the second unit.

"I really don't care about that. To me, if we win games, I'm happy. It doesn't matter if I'm playing 25-to-30 minutes or I'm not. Last season, I didn't start most of the games, but I did finish most of the games. In some ways, that's more important," Bertans said.

In fact, Bertans led the Wizards in fourth quarter minutes last season, averaging 9.9 per game. That was despite the fact he only started in four of the 54 games he played.

He may not be a starter, but Bertans can prove his worth as a closer. Bertans averaged more points in the fourth quarter last season (4.9) than he did in any other frame. He also shot 41.4 percent from three in the fourth. 

The Wizards will hope Bertans can change games by getting hot from long range, that he will make timely shots. Based on his track record, there is no reason to believe that he can't.

He will just be held to a higher standard than he was before.