There are no more excuses for John Wall. I said this same thing last year before he was felled with an interesting yet non-devastating injury. But this year I mean it. He’s running out of things to ask for: A budding back court star, two crafty offensive big men (one who doubles as a great defender), shooters everywhere, a tanking conference. Surely there are places the team can improve, but the place it needs to improve most is at point guard. The Wizards are built such that John Wall is the focal point and the fulcrum on which the rest of the Wizards sit. This is his year, maybe not to lead a dominant team, but to be a dominant force. If he becomes the player everyone expects him to be, the $14 million plus that sits available to spend next summer becomes more enticing to those who will be on the move. All eyes on he.
Much rides on John Wall’s 2014 performance and this is what we need to see to call this campaign a success:
Count me amongst those who do not think John Wall’s improved jumper was a real addition to his game. How could it have been? He wasn’t working on honing his J while he was recovering from a knee injury, that’s for sure. None of that matters anymore, really. All that matters is that we continue to see sustained improvement. A 42% mid-range shooting John Wall is an all-star, undoubtedly.
Be a Star
As mentioned above, John Wall has to contribute this season on a level which he has so far barely scratched. Wall has two months or so of max player basketball under his belt, and that total number needs to triple by year’s end. With only one other true scoring threat on the roster, Wall will carry a heavy offensive load. Orchestrating an effective offense should be his number one goal. The defense may falter a bit due to Emeka Okafor’s departure, but there is less Wall can do on that side of the ball to make it up for any deficiencies his big men may have.
The offensive side of the ball is where Wall’s star will shine or diminish. The franchise is relying on him not to only grow into an efficient and effective offensive player, but also to flash enough skill to turn Washington into a free agency destination. Being a star is far less about winning immediate championships than it is about attracting the type of talent that can eventually win championships. With Wall and Bradley Beal, the Wizards are likely done finishing a season with great lottery odds. Add that to the missing 2014 draft pick and the Wizards are just about done building through the draft (or so Ernie Grunfeld thinks). Time to start attracting those free agents, Mr. Wall.
Obviously, making the playoffs is a team accomplishment and any slight injury to a starter will probably be enough to derail any playoff bid. Context will be important just as it was last year – Wall was injured and the team was bad. No surprise there. But now the Wizards have a max player. It’s officially time for Wall to be good enough to carry team of middling guys. Anything less will be a disappointment, especially considering next year’s first rounder was severed to ensure Wall has as much around him as possible right now. So while we’ll be looking for Wall to shoot it better and be a star, it’s all for the playoffs and establishing some legitimacy.