As Langston Galloway missed a potential game-tying three-pointer with the game clock expiring on Tuesday night, I breathed a sigh of relief. In #SoWizards fashion, the Wizards won the game, missed a bunch of free throws to let the Knicks back in it, and played the worst end of game defense possible which nearly resulted in the game going into overtime.
As I took a closer look at the box score, I thought to myself: “This team would be fighting with the 76ers and Nets to stay out of the Eastern Conference basement if it weren’t for John Wall.” Seriously, the Wizards needed a 28-point, 17-assist game from their best player to hold off the 12th best team in the East. Wall was the high scorer for the team, assist leader, second leading rebounder, and played 11 more minutes than any other Wizard player.
Yet, John Wall is still one of the most under-appreciated All-Stars on a national level and also in Washington, D.C.
From last year to this, Wall has increased his scoring by 2.5 points per game, increased his three-point field goal shooting from 30 percent to 35.5 percent, and is averaging just a hair under 10 assists (9.9) per game which would make him and Russell Westbrook the only players in the NBA averaging 20 points and 10 assists. Yet, he’ll be an All-Star reserve backing up a guy (Kyle Lowry 21 points, 6.3 assists) who is averaging just .9 more points more than Wall but 3.6 fewer assists per game.
Wall is single handedly keeping this team afloat yet it is going largely unnoticed. That’s because the Wizards currently sit in 10th place in the East. The Wizards have been the most injury-plagued team this season. Only two players have played in all 50 games; John Wall and Ramon Sessions. He’s played through visible pain, injury, and has put up big numbers while doing so. The same cannot be said for other members of this team.
The Wizards have 17 wins since the calendar flipped to December and Wall has notched a double-double in 13 of those 17 wins and 29 for the season. On the flip side, the Wizards are just 4-5 since December when Wall doesn’t log 10+ assists, and they’re 2-5 when he scores less than 15 points.
Wall isn’t getting consistent help from his teammates outside of Marcin Gortat. Beal has been great since he’s returned from injury but… he always gets injured. Otto Porter has improved from last year to this but isn’t quite “there” yet. Garrett Temple is having a career-year and plays great defense but he isn’t going to give you more than 10-12 points per night. Long story short, If John Wall doesn’t fill up the stat sheet on a nightly basis, this team isn’t going to win many games.
Additionally, the Wizards don’t have many players who can create their own shots so it’s Wall’s responsibility to get everyone involved. Beal has improved his shot off the dribble, Gortat can score 1-on-1 on the block, Neal is OK when pulling up off the dribble, and Ramon Sessions can get to the free throw line. Outside of those guys; if they aren’t catching and shooting, it’s probably not going in. Notice how when the second unit is in, if Sessions isn’t cutting to the hole or Neal isn’t trying to create his own shot; there isn’t much movement. This often results in the Wizards blowing the leads Wall built up when he was on the floor.
Not only can few players create their own shots, they don’t help Wall out with his scoring. 81.4 percent of Wall’s made two-point field goals are unassisted this season and 69.3 percent of his made three-point field goals go unassisted. So Wall has to work just as hard to create shots for himself as he does for everyone else. He accounts for 9.9 of the Wizards’ 24 assists per game. The second leading assist man? Bradley Beal with 2.9 per game.
On top of all that, he plays the most minutes per game on this team averaging 36 per night. Only Gortat, Beal, and Porter play more than 30 minutes per game and Beal is about to drop out of that company with his minute restriction.
The Wizards currently have the best player this franchise has seen. He’s carried this team on his back through 50 games and are still in the playoff hunt. But if the rest of his teammates can’t pick things up, they’re going to waste one of the best seasons of his career.