The Underappreciated Star That is John Wall

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If you were to ask someone to rank their top five point guards in the NBA right now, I can almost guarantee that John Wall won’t even be mentioned in the conversation.

Granted, with the incredible performances from players like James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Isaiah Thomas, Kyle Lowry, and Steph Curry it is hard to fit Wall on that list. However, Wall should absolutely be mentioned in the conversation. The man is a star and is proving it with a career-best year this season for the extremely hot Wizards.

As was the case with Harden, Wall’s stock took a hit among fans and analysts after the Wizards’ disappointing 2015–16 season that saw them finish 41–41 and miss the playoffs. And like Harden, Wall’s numbers actually improved for the most part, with him averaging (then) career highs in points, rebounds, and assists per game.

However, there were endless stories of locker room turmoil between Wall and coach Randy Wittman and fellow back-court teammate Bradley Beal. There were even reports of serious tension between the two back-court members in the off season, further putting the future of the Wizards in question.

In the off season, Bradley Beal signed the max extension with the Wizards and Scott Brooks was brought in as head coach, with the team hoping to turn things around after a tumultuous 2015–16 season.

Unfortunately, the beginning of this season was anything but that. With the Wizards starting 6–12, many began to doubt not only the hiring of Brooks, but also whether or not Wall and Beal could coexist in the same back-court. Wall began to drop in the eyes of many fans and analysts, as his play in the first two months of the season was anything but what you would expect from your star player.

Over October and November, Wall shot 38.5 percent from the field. His net rating in October was -6.4, and was a mediocre 0.4 in November. Also, Wall posted an Assist to turnover ratio of just 1.98 in November, which is a far cry from the 3.02 ratio he posted in January.

When you combine Wall’s sub-par play with a poor Wizards bench, you get the recipe for a disastrous start to a season. However, starting in December, things began clicking for the Wizards as the bench improved and Wall took his game to a whole other level.

In December, Wall’s net rating improved to 5.4, and then it took another jump to 11.2 and 14.7 (!!) in January and February. Wall’s scoring has decreased over the course of the season, from 24.5 points per game in December to 21.2 in January and 23.3 in February.

However, Wall’s passing has steadily increased during this time. Wall went from averaging 9 assists per game in November to 10.9 and 12.6 assists per game in January and February. Wall is a menace in transition, but he is looking for players to pass to on the wings more than ever this season, and it results in great looks for the league’s leader in three-point percentage (and Most Improved Player of the Year candidate) Otto Porter Jr.:

Wall is making plays like that on a consistent basis, making him a nearly unstoppable threat in transition. You have to worry about him blowing past you with incredible speed to finish at the rim yet be aware of where his teammates are in order to prevent open threes. Plus, Wall is still no slouch at finishing in the rim in transition:

I mean, how do you stop that?

For the season, Wall is averaging career highs in:

  •  points per game (22.8)
  • assists per game (10.6, good for second in the league)
  • steals per game (2.1 per game)
  • field goal percentage (45.2)
  • free throw percentage (81.2)

It’s safe to say John Wall is having a career season.

Wall is (obviously) a big reason why the Wizards have the best record (28–10) in the Eastern Conference since December 1. The Wizards have completely turned around their season, mainly due to the improved play of John Wall.

Now, we have to give credit to players such as Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, and Marcin Gortat. The Wizards starting five is the most played in the league, and it is one of the best. For the season, that unit is posting a net rating of 13, due to an offensive rating of 113.3 and defensive rating of 100.3. Those are elite numbers.

Beal and Porter are both having career seasons, averaging career highs in scoring (22.2 and 14.6 points per game respectively). Meanwhile Morris has had a very good season and Gortat is providing a much needed presence down low.

The Wizards are a very good team as is. With one or two moves to add bench pieces (hi Lou Williams), this team can be a threat in the Eastern Conference. They have one of the best starting units in the league and are led by a dynamic backcourt in Wall and Beal.

It’s time Wall seriously entered the MVP conversation. He is the best player on a top three team in the Eastern Conference, and is having a career year. The Wizards are on pace for 50 wins this season, which would be the first time they have accomplished that since the 1978–79 season! Wall is simply not receiving enough credit for his play and leadership this season.

There are many questions surrounding the NBA at this point. Hell, DeMarcus freakin’ Cousins was just traded! However, one thing that should not be questioned is John Wall’s place among the NBA’s elites.

All statistics provided by Basketball Reference and NBA.com

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