John Wall is on an island, and help doesn’t look to be on its way anytime soon.
Wall, a three-time all-star, is having arguably the best season of his career. Wall is currently averaging 23.6 points, 9.6 assists, and 2.1 steals in 36 minutes of action per game; all team highs. If I had told you this prior to the season, one would assume that the Wizards would at least be a threat in the very mediocre, Eastern Conference. Instead, the Wizards are just 9-13and are struggling to beat some of the NBA’s worst teams. Yes, the Wizards have won six of their last 10 games, but that’s just a band-aid for the Wizards current and long-term problems.
Outside of Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, and Marcin Gortat are also having career years. Gortat has turned into a double-double machine. Beal has upped his scoring to 21.6 points per game and has stayed healthy for the most part. And Otto Porter has improved in nearly every statistical category and looks like the next player in line to receive a max deal at the season’s end.
Four Wizards players are having the best seasons of their respective careers but that’s where it starts and ends as the rest of the roster features average to below average players including a couple of guys who even NBA junkies forget are still in the NBA.
Instead of riding the momentum of the 2014-2015 playoff teams, Wall, in the seventh year of his career, is surrounded by one of the worst supporting casts in the NBA with even less fan support to speak of.
No wonder he’s calling out this team’s effort after poor and inexcusable losses. Wall realizes that he’s not immune to the mediocrity of this Washington franchise. The lack of exposure on a national scale has likely cost him a massive shoe deal, other endorsement opportunities, as well as being penciled into the All-Star game by the national media on a yearly basis. To make matters worse, he plays through a slew of injuries and is coming off double knee surgery only to be the second highest paid player on this roster whose checks are just slightly larger than Ian Mahinmi’s; a guy who’s played just 14 minutes this season.
John Wall is at the biggest crossroads of his NBA career. If he’s not OK with the way things are currently going (which he’s not), it’s time for Wall to force upper management to make a big trade that must gain his approval, or it’s time for John Wall to demand that he be traded out of D.C.
This doesn’t come without heavy consequences as he’s likely to take a bashing from the national media if he chooses either of the latter two options. However, if Wall wants to be part of a successful team and potentially win a championship; that’s what he has to do.
Kobe Bryant pulled this power move in the mid-2000’s after he’d consistently score 40+ points per night yet the Lakers never seemed to make it past the first round of the playoffs. At the time, Bryant wanted to play with a playmaking point guard and demanded that the Lakers trade then, an up and coming talent in Andrew Bynum for veteran point guard, Jason Kidd. That trade didn’t work as the Lakers didn’t want to get rid of Andrew Bynum however, Los Angeles ended up with a consolation prize in Pau Gasol. Not Bryant’s first choice but the move paid off since that Lakers went on to win two NBA championships in 2009 and 2010.
Just two years ago in 2014, LeBron James returned home to Cleveland. Some think that James returned home to Cleveland only if he’d be able to have his say in all trades and free agent acquisitions. Just after James arrived in Cleveland, news broke that the Cavs were shipping their number one pick in Andrew Wiggins and former number one pick in Anthony Bennett for a third star in Kevin Love. On top of that, the team went out and acquired JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Timofey Mozgov midseason just to ensure that the Cavs had enough firepower to make a run at the NBA Finals, and keep James happy.
That year, the Cavs made it back to the NBA finals, won the NBA Finals this past season, and can be penciled in to represent the Eastern Conference once again in this year’s NBA Finals.
Last but certainly not least, Kevin Garnett forced his way out of Minnesota in 2007 only to win a championship with the Celtics the very next season. Like Wall, Garnett was a once in a lifetime talent, stuck in a small market, on a team that never threatened to make any noise in the postseason outside of one run to the Western Conference Finals in 2004 where they lost to the Lakers. Things fell apart after that run so with no clear path back to the Western Conference Finals, Garnett left to chase a ring.
Even though Wall doesn’t have any rings, he’s in a similar spot to what Bryant, James, and Garnett experienced in their careers and has deserved the right to make such fierce demands. Wall navigated the Wizards out of the deep dark hole left behind by Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton. He led the Wizards to back-to-back Eastern Conference Semifinals appearances and was a broken wrist away from guiding the team to the Eastern Conference Finals. Keep in mind, the trio of Arenas-Butler-Jamison made it out of the first round just once and before that; the Wizards hadn’t reached the second round of the playoffs since 1982.
And let’s not forget about all of the charity and philanthropic events Wall is involved with off the court. Not sure if there’s been a Wizards player who was as active in the community as Wall is. Wall started the John Wall Family Foundation which provides mentorship, educational opportunities, and after-school activities for the disadvantaged youth in the DMV area. He’s participated in countless food drives and formed a bond with Miyah Telemaque-Nelson; a youngster who bravely battled but sadly lost her battle with Lymphoma. Last and certainly not least, Wall often spends extra time before games signing autographs for fans and has been known to stay after games to do the same thing, even after the ugliest of losses. Wall is a huge part of the DMV community and his work off of the court shouldn’t be overshadowed by what’s going on in-between the lines.
For Wall to stay in D.C., the front office will have to be overhauled as they’ve yet to nail a good draft pick (aside from the obvious ones) since 2010. Washington has whiffed on countless draft picks such as Chris Singleton and Jan Vesely, or have overpaid for guys like Alan Anderson, and now, Ian Mahinmi who never amounted to much in Washington. And if that doesn’t work, management has no problems making desperation moves and trading a top draft pick for a guy who had few to no suitors and has yet to play a quality defensive possession in 2016.
On top of that, they’ve only acquired one player through free agency in that time period (Paul Pierce) that has stepped in and contributed right away. Rather than overpaying tried and true players, management opts to let them walk assuming for some reason that they’ll hit a home run on their next draft pick or free agent acquisition.
Wall is under contract until the summer of 2019. Up until this point, he’s been quarterbacking a team with average receivers and a horrific defense only to result in big paydays for everyone around him. The time has come for Wall to put his foot down and demand change in Washington.