When the year 2020 is looked back on, when it comes to the Washington Wizards, one roster move will overshadow the others and that is the trade of John Wall to the Houston Rockets for Russell Westbrook. But no move had a longer shelf-life and process than the re-signing of three-point specialist Davis Bertans.
Early in 2020, the Wizards were fending off rumors and rebuffing offers leading up to the Feb. 6 trade deadline. As the Wizards were trending south in the standings, contenders tried to pounce and pry away one of the game's best shooters, as Bertans was due to be a free agent the following offseason.
General manager Tommy Sheppard could have sold high on Bertans, perhaps to get a first round pick in return. But he instead chose to keep Bertans and bet on the idea he could re-sign him months later and keep him as part of the Wizards' nucleus moving forward.
The timeline of those plans was affected by the coronavirus pandemic, as the season was paused and the offseason pushed back. Instead of negotiating a deal in July, Bertans and the Wizards had to wait until November. Along the way, he opted out of the restart bubble in August to preserve his health and free agent stock.
On the night free agency began, things didn't go quickly by modern NBA standards. They deliberated for hours into the night, finally coming to agreement on a five-year deal worth $80 million. Bertans got paid and signed up to be a part of the long-term future alongside Bradley Beal and, so we thought at the time, Wall.
Wall was swapped out for Westbrook, but the same principles apply to Bertans. He is now the third-highest paid player on the team and so will be held to a much higher standard than before. In 2019-20, his first season in Washington, Bertans was the sixth-highest paid player. At $7 million, he was in between Thomas Bryant ($8 million) and Ish Smith ($6 million).
The Wizards have had some trouble over the years finding value in that third slot. Though their ranking in team salaries changed by year, Otto Porter Jr. and Ian Mahinmi were essentially Bertans' predecessors in that role. Neither lived up to their contracts.
For Bertans, it will be about working just as hard and playing just as well as he did to earn his lucrative deal. The motivation to make life-changing money has been satisfied. Now it is up to him to stay healthy, driven and productive.
History has shown that can be easier said than done, especially for Washington players. Not everyone is Beal, who has continued to ascend despite signing two max contract extensions.
Bertans has a big number to live up to and whether he does could have major ramifications on the Wizards' future, as others have shown before.
More Wizards biggest stories of 2020: