John Wall: A Star Is Born (Or Just Growing Up)


John Wall is said to keep personal slights from media personalities, journalists, and other NBA figures stored on his phone to remind himself to never stop working to get better and prove the doubters wrong. As dutiful Washington Wizards fans over the last 4+ years of his career, we are no different.

Anyone who’s followed this team can rattle off the degrading (and frankly, ignorant) comments made by everyone from Colin Cowherd, to Jason Reid, and David Falk. With anger that almost matches what Wall would display himself, we’ve argued and ranted to anyone who would listen about what this player’s potential, and what he would show the nation when his time came.

Results did not come quickly, and the team’s performance only fueled the fire of the ‘experts’ claiming that John Wall was more sizzle than steak and not a player worthy of the lofty expectations and max contract that are normally associated with a former #1 overall pick. Even the most loyal fans found it tough at times to back a gradually diminishing stance on the subject.

Some even wondered whether he’d ever pan out to be a consistent NBA All-Star, much less a franchise-altering acquisition. But the one constant in a roster that never took shape and a coaching staff that was in over their heads was Wall. He accepted the challenge that this team in this city could win basketball games and that it could be done with him at the ‘head of the snake’.

Now in his 5th season, John Wall is flourishing beyond a level that many expected. He’s raised his game amongst the NBA’s elite and has the Wizards humming along at a pace that would surpass the greatest teams in Washington basketball history. Wall’s mastery of the point guard position sometimes extends past the traditional box score, or even the advanced analytical one. Although his numbers have improved in nearly every category, it is his dominant two-way play that has become most representative of a balanced Washington team that does not shy away from the league’s toughest competition.

Wall is not a ball handler in the league of Kyrie Irving, or a shooter like Stephen Curry. He may not have the managed pace of Chris Paul or the explosiveness that mirrors Russell Westbrook. But his game is predicated on doing everything well enough to mask what minor deficiencies may come up in comparison to these other stars. His commitment to the defensive end has separated himself from his peers in a facet of the game that many of the league’s top players often consider optional.

Wall has added to his arsenal a focus towards on-ball and weakside help defense to go along with his highlight chase down blocks and open court steals. He has begun to use his athleticism to overpower weaker point guards and increased discipline has allowed him to stay in front of the quicker ones that have traditionally given him issues. Wall has even begun crashing the defensive glass more, identifying that Randy Wittman’s scheme often involves switching on pick and rolls, leaving big men out of place for rebounds.

Offensively, Wall has picked up where he left off as a passing savant. He continues to locate his shooters for tasty corner-3’s (despite working with a whole new cast of perimeter players) and has fed Marcin Gortat, Kris Humphries, and Nene for an array of easy layups and mid-range jumpers out of their trademark pick-and-roll sets. Wall is shooting his own jumper at a career high percentage inside the 3-point line. As his field goal percentage at the rim and beyond the arc improve (or even match modest marks from last year), he’ll find his efficiency metrics take an uptick and he’ll become more of a blog network darling than he is right now.

Despite Wall’s consistency on both ends of the floor, his greatest contribution to the team’s success may be his maturation as a leader. It’s hard to assume that role, even given his stature, when the roster includes veterans like Paul Pierce, Nene, and Marcin Gortat. But every single player understands that they’ll only go as far as Wall will take them.

They’ve deferred to the 24 year old budding superstar and watched him take flight. Given the unbelievable catastrophe taking place with Washington’s football team, it’s refreshing to watch a team of veterans and youngsters jell as well as the Wizards have. Much credit goes to the experienced voices in the locker room but Wall deserves his share for being willing to listen to advice and but also take charge when it’s time.

This article purposely did not come packed with any real statistics. In the most cliché of phrases, it is because Wall’s impact simply cannot be explained by just the numbers. If you are interested in finding out how he grades out on the court in terms of PER, Win Shares, RPM, or AST %, feel free to peruse or any number of sites that’ll share that information.

You’ll find career highs in nearly every category, but also not any one number that will blow you away. This is, in essence the beauty of who John Wall has become. Without needing eye-popping numbers he can dominate opposition for an entire game, as he did last night vs. the Clippers. If it is a gaudy stat line you’re interested in, he’s got that available as well; please see the 26-17-7-3 he threw up vs. the Celtics on Monday.

John Wall has become a great basketball player before our eyes, and to those who have stuck with him throughout, it’s a joy to watch on a nightly basis. He’s always been a great person, and the country got a view of that firsthand from his tearful interview about his young friend Miyah (R.I.P.). The Wizards have a franchise player they can stand behind, and one that will achieve success on the court and class off of it. Expect some phone memory to free up; the critics have been silenced.

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