Last year the Washington Wizards had a tumultuous season. Honestly, things have been a little turbulent the past few years there. God only knows what it will be like with Dwight Howard added to the mix. Underneath all the chaos lies an incredibly talented team led by an incredibly gifted player. That player is John Wall. Two years ago Wall had a career year averaging 23.1 points, 10.7 assists, and two steals per game on 45% shooting from the field.
The talent, the speed had always been there, but this was the year Wall put it all together. He became more efficient posting a career-high true shooting percentage, and PER. Wall was no slouch on defense either when he was engaged, he was a menace in pressuring ball handlers and ripping steals. All that added up to the Wizards being one game away from the eastern conference finals. Then Wall collapsed down the stretch in game seven at Boston, shooting 0-11 down the stretch.
Once again Wall and the Wizards could not break through to the conference finals. In the Wall/Bradley Beal era, they have had four playoff runs and the second round is the farthest they have gotten. The first year they were too young for the veteran Indiana Pacers, then the next year Wall hurt his hand and they lost to the Atlanta Hawks, I think they would have won if he didn’t. Then it was the game seven loss to Boston, and last year a first round exit to the one seed Toronto Raptors. The point is either an injury or a collapse has prevented them from getting to the next level.
Last year was rough for Wall and the Wizards. Wall only played 41 games due to chronic knee injuries and never looked healthy until the end of the season. Plus there were locker room issues. Wall and Martin Gortat had problems after Gortat implied the Wizards might be better without Wall when they were playing well with Tomas Satoranksy at the point. By the way, the Wizards, weren’t better without Wall, there ceiling never was as high, they just learned Satoransky was good, and the benefits of small ball lineups. Still, it created friction in the locker room, and that combined with the knee injuries affected Wall.
His numbers dropped to 19 points, nine assists and one steal per game on 42% shooting. Also, he posted career lows in rebounds at 3.7 per game and free throw percentage at 72%. Clear signs he wasn’t right. The injuries led to the Wizards having a tough season, and they finished 43-39 and the 8th seed in the east. Wall came back right at the end of the season and played four games before the playoffs. He looked good; in the playoffs, he was John Wall of two years ago.
Despite a rough shooting game in game one, Wall averaged 26 points, 11.5 assists, 5.7 rebounds, 2.3 steals, and 1.3 blocks on 44% shooting from the field, and 85% from the line on 7.8 attempts per game. At times Wall was the best player in the series, and he pushed the favored Raptors to six games. Wall was dominant in the two Wizard wins at home in games three and four. Washington ultimately lost, but we were all reminded the player Wall could be when healthy and engaged.
He didn’t shoot well from three but continually got to the basket, drew fouls and got back to playmaking at an elite level. In only six games he was sixth in playoff PER, and 19th in estimated wins added and value-added amongst all playoff players. Wall didn’t settle, or back down and remained aggressive while keeping his teammates involved. Watch this play!
Wall starts the play on the top left, and Gortat goes to set a screen, but instead darts away, so he doesn’t bring an extra defender near Wall, and so he can hit his man with a screen once Wall makes his move. Once Wall sees he’s got space, he makes his move by hitting Lowry with a crossover; two hard dribbles into the paint and then finishes off the glass going to his right whole drawing contact. You can see here that once Wall gets a sliver of daylight, his speed can take over.
Even though Wall played well, people often don’t remember when you lose. Going into next season, there is not a lot of optimism about the Wizards or Wall. People are scared Dwight Howard will blow up an already fragile locker room. They did get rid of Wall’s nemesis Gortat by trading him to the Clippers for Austin Rivers. A move I like by the way, Gortat was on the decline minutes the locker room issues, and Rivers will help with his ability to play on or off the ball.
Still, the pressure is on, and the clock is ticking in Washington. How many more runs will Wall and Beal get together? Wall signed a super max contract last July, and after this year he will cost the team $38, $41, $44 and $47 million respectively across the next four years. That is a lot of money, and at his best, I do believe Wall is worth that money. Doesn’t mean it won’t backfire on Washington.
Wall is still only 27, but injuries and some may say attitude issues are concerning. There were already trade rumblings. If things don’t work out, it will be a tough contract to move. So how can the Wizards get the most out of Wall this season? If Wall is healthy and locked in where does he rank amongst point guards in the NBA? Let’s dive in!
Next Up: What to Make of Wall on Offense