John Wall has been amazing all season long, and he is ready to take the Eastern Conference by storm.
John Wall completed his Easter Sunday dominance of the Atlanta Hawks with a shrug on the court and a statement off of it. Saying “this is my house” and emulating Michael Jordan after the game was a little premature, but his confidence might just garner some much deserved attention to one of the most underrated stars in the league.
On Sunday, Wall became just the third player ever to tally 32 points and 14 assists in a playoff game in 40 minutes or less. En route to taking a 1-0 series lead, Wall ran by, jumped over, and out-maneuvered an Atlanta team with absolutely no answer for him.
He went on a five-minute run in the third quarter where he scored or assisted on 19 of 20 consecutive Washington points, and all but ensured a Wizards victory. Wall didn’t rest on his laurels, and followed up his performance with another 32 points and nine assists in Game 2.
Through the first two games of the series, Wall has shown that he has the capability to take his game to another level when his team needs it the most. He capped off a great all-around performance in Game 2 with eight clutch points and 75% shooting during the final five minutes.
Casual NBA fans who might be catching their first glimpses of this Wizards squad might think his play over the first couple games is an aberration, but Wall has been quietly fantastic all season long. Right now he sits in that special zone where he has enough talent to match up with anyone in the league, but his reputation lags behind.
His play over the first two games against Atlanta was just the first sign that this perception was likely to change sooner rather than later. If the Wizards can keep playing this well, Wall will put on a show many more times over the next few weeks, and we need to prepare ourselves for him to make a statement.
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With as much parity in the East as there has been since LeBron left for Miami seven years ago, Wall is picking the perfect time to make the jump. Boston, Toronto, Cleveland, and Washington have all taken turns as the best team in the conference at different points this season, and all are capable of putting together a Finals run.
To start the season the Wizards struggled mightily, going just 2-8 in coach Scott Brooks’ first 10 games. Over the next 70, however, they have found their stride and been as good as any team east of Texas.
Lost in all the adulation of a season full of record breaking performances, Wall joined Russell Westbrook and James Harden as the only three players to average 20 points and 10 assists. Westbrook and Harden were clearly a cut above and are deservedly atop the MVP race, but we shouldn’t ignore the fact that Wall sits in that elite company.
Much like the teams with MVP candidates, the Wizards struggled mightily without their star on the floor. Washington was 9.6 points per 100 possessions worse without Wall on the floor this season, which was actually a bigger drop-off than that for Harden or Kawhi Leonard.
Washington’s bench as a whole struggled without Wall and was the second worst scoring unit in the league this season. He is not an MVP candidate and I am not arguing for him to be, but Wall was by far the most impactful player on one of the best teams in the league. Far more than any of his teammates, Wall was the determining factor in Washington’s success or failure whenever he was on the floor.
This graph shows just how well Wall performed as the offensive and defensive catalyst this season. It compares him with every other 2017 backcourt All Star in terms of their assist/turnover ratio on the x-axis, and how many blocks and steals they created on the y-axis.
Despite totaling the second most assists in the league this season, Wall took exceptional care of the ball and tied Kemba Walker for the best assist/turnover ratio among those 11 players. His ability to minimize mistakes is even more impressive when you consider all of the lobs he tossed this threw to his teammates this season.
While Wall’s scoring and passing ability are what he has primarily become known for, he can separate himself from the other All Stars on the defensive side of the ball. Coming out of the University of Kentucky in 2010, Wall’s world-class speed and offensive skill-set guaranteed the Wizards would take him No. 1, but it was his defensive promise that made him a potential generational talent.
We saw glimpses of his defense when he was at Kentucky, but he has come to realize that his ability in D.C. Not only did Wall lead the league with 2.1 steals per game, but he limited opponents to just 43% shooting on shots he contested this season.
His lateral quickness and expansive 6’10” wingspan let him recover from potential missteps faster than just about any player in the league. Even if you do manage to get past him (which is easier said than done), his 40-inch vertical added to his 8‘5” standing reach means he can get well above the rim to erase weak shot attempts.
Wall will continue to undoubtedly make eye-popping plays like this almost any time he takes the court, but he has the ability to become known for more than just athleticism and acrobatic finishes at the rim. Plenty of players have the showmanship to end up on SportsCenter every week, but Wall has the ability to become much more than that.
Wall already has the confidence that any great player needs, and he seems ready to push his game to the level needed to cement his reputation. The Wizards will go as far as Wall will take them this postseason, but through two games, the end doesn’t appear to be in sight.
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