This past Tuesday, Wizards forward Davis Bertans dropped a bombshell on the NBA universe by announcing that he will sit out the NBA restart in Orlando this Summer. In doing so, he became the first player to publicly opt-out and started a wave that has since included Trevor Ariza and Avery Bradley. At first glance, this is a disappointing development, since Bertans had proven to be a key contributor for a Wizards team desperately trying to keep their head above water and remain a relevant force in a race towards the playoffs. When the league paused back in March, they were 5.5 games back of the 8th seeded Orlando Magic. His absence will make cutting into that deficit all the more challenging. It is pretty difficult to overstate his importance to Washington and their undoubtedly stout offense.
How Lethal is the Latvian?
His value stems from his unique gift as a dual threat sniper. He is one of only a few players in the league that can pair a blistering rate of fire along with elite efficiency from beyond the arc. In the Cleaning the Glass shot frequency profile for Bertans, 77% of his shot attempts came from three, which ranked in the 97th percentile for all players at his position. Additionally, he posted a 43% conversion rate from three point range, which also ranks among the best of the league in the 94th percentile. The On/Off numbers there paint a similar picture. The Wizards offense generates 8.2 more points per 100 when he’s in the game as opposed to off. That efficiency differential puts him in the 96th percentile among his peers.
When you see him in action, his ability to demoralize defenses with a outside air raid is pretty much unfair.
Oh you need more film? Well then how about a compilation of all his long range hits:
Not only are his numbers (and highlights!!) impressive in a vacuum, he also brings a real, quantifiable boost to the teams‘ scoring numbers.
Consider this: Bertans has logged 1,584 minutes of action this season. When he was on the court, the Wizards had an offensive efficiency mark of 115.9 points per 100 possessions, along with an effective field goal percentage of 54.7. That offensive efficiency mark over the course of the entire season would rank second among all 30 teams, just behind the historic Dallas Mavericks. During the 1,505 minutes he spent off the court, the Wizards were only able to muster up 108.5 points per 100 possessions and their effective field goal percentage dropped by almost four percent to 50.9. Obviously, Bertans means a great deal to Washington's ability to get a high quality shot. For reference, the Wizards rank 12th in offense as a team (111.9).
His raw numbers and subsequent impact are indicative of a player who is commanding a large salary from his team, especially since he has several years of experience and in the midst of his prime at age 27. That will surely be the case soon, but for this season, he turned his near mid-level contract into a major bargain. In 2018, he signed a two year deal worth $14.5 million. That was actually a nice raise from the previous season, where he only made $543,000.
When you look at the fact that Bertans ranked towards the top of the league in so many important statistics and came from a minimum contract just a few years ago, a case can be made that Bertans has emerged as one of the best surprises of the 2019-2020 season. He has done very well to put himself in a position to secure a career defining payday in October when Free Agency finally kicks off. Due to the nature of his profession though, security is tough to come by. If he were to rejoin the Wizards in Orlando in a few weeks, he’d be putting that security and relative certainty in jeopardy. The 22 teams reporting to Summer training camp will only have a couple weeks of scrimmaging and workouts, plus eight regular season games (or 10 less games than they would have played if the season continued as normal) to get back into playoff shape. Not exhibition shape, playoff shape. That is a different animal entirely.
The risk factor increases tenfold then when you add in his injury history. Bertans has dealt with two ACL injuries in the past, which isn’t something to take lightly. In his mind, his reasoning probably goes a little something like this. What’s the point of risking major injury to put up 20 points per game on 40% outside shooting for a team already over five games out from the last playoff seed? The odds of even forcing a play in game against Orlando or Brooklyn would be slim to none if he participated.
Now that it’s been established that he would be taking a huge risk to get back to playing professional basketball, what would he be putting on the line? Well in simple terms, a long-term payday with huge annual earnings. It isn’t a perfect comparison, but Buddy Hield‘s production from last season would be a good reference point when trying to determine Bertans’ value on the open market.
Hield played more minutes and occupies a primary scorer role unlike Bertans, so it makes sense that Hield would have a higher point per game total. However, things become much more similar in regards to their shooting numbers. Their three point attempts per game are within one and their percentages from there are basically identical. All things considered these are both some of the best long range shooting seasons in the history of the NBA.
As Sacramento found out later that year, legendary doesn’t come cheap. Hield and his agent pushed for a max contract, and that’s exactly what happened. His rookie scale deal ballooned into a four year monster worth $94 million. While we can’t expect Bertans to gather quite that much on his next deal, since he will probably never function as a first or second scoring option on a winning team, he is still an unbelievable floor spacer with the ability to create for himself and play off of others. The majority of his three point baskets are of the catch and shoot variety, but he still pulled up 11.5% of the time, and it didn’t have a negative impact on his efficiency (40%).
So where does that leave him value wise? Well, a 3-4 year contract worth $18m-$20m annually would be a good start. Still shy of the $24m+ Hield will get starting next season, but that’s the idea. Bertans will almost certainly be looking for long-term security given his age and injury risk, so he'll probably push for that four year mark as hard as possible. The risk of a drop off towards the end of the deal is 50/50 since he'll only be 31 years old and doesn't rely very heavily on athleticism to get his points. On the other hand, he could end up with another knee injury down the line. To offset that risk, the Wizards could introduce a deal with a declining earning structure, similar to the one Aaron Gordon signed back in 2018. Another option would be to add a team option in the final year. Bertans probably wouldn't be a huge fan of that scenario, but if that's what it takes to get 4th year, he might be willing to compromise there.
Other players who will be sweating out Summer
That is a fair amount of technical jargon to review for one player in a very specific situation. Just imagine how much more complicated things will become when the variables are multiplied several times in the midst of the most uncertain time in the history of the NBA. As it stands, 210 players will either have a team/player option for next season, or be up for restricted/unrestricted free agency. Additionally, a select few will have much to gain or lose from the resumption of the season. Bertans may merely be the first domin