Washington Wizards 2017 Season Review: John Wall

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 12: John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards shoots the game-winning three-point basket against Avery Bradley #0 of the Boston Celtics during Game Six of the NBA Eastern Conference Semi-Finals at Verizon Center on May 12, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 12: John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards shoots the game-winning three-point basket against Avery Bradley #0 of the Boston Celtics during Game Six of the NBA Eastern Conference Semi-Finals at Verizon Center on May 12, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

Washington Wizards fans were unsure of what to expect from John Wall heading into the season. He was coming off of double knee surgery during the offseason, and began the season on a minutes limit and not playing in both games during a back-to-back. Rather than using the surgery as an excuse, Wall proved that he was fully healthy for the first time in years, and ended with by far the best season of his career. He established himself as a superstar player, and on Friday signed a “supermax” extension that hopefully will keep him in Washington for six more seasons, while being paid a cool $207 million.

Regular Season Stats: 78 Games, 23.1 PPG (45.1 FG%, 32.7 3P%), 10.7 APG, 4.2 RPG, 0.6 BPG, 2.0 SPG, 4.1 turnovers per game, 36.4 MPG

Playoff Stats: 13 Games, 27.2 PPG (45.2 FG%, 34.4 3P%), 10.3 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 1.6 SPG, 4.2 turnovers per game, 39.0 MPG

Over the last month and a half, we’ve been posting individual player reviews for the guys that ended the season in a Washington Wizards uniform. So far we’ve reviewed every rotation player except John Wall:

Kelly Oubre, Jr.

Jason Smith

Tomas Satoransky

Trey Burke

Brandon Jennings

Bojan Bogdanovic

Ian Mahinmi

Markieff Morris

Bradley Beal

Marcin Gortat

Otto Porter

For years, Wizards fans had been both praising the talents of John Wall, and professing the improvements in his game he needed to make to take the next step. Those steps didn’t seem possible after the news in May 2016 that Wall would undergo surgery to both knees during the offseason. He would be expected to resume physical activity by August, which would only give him a month or so to get back into basketball shape.

It was a dark and concerning point in the history of the franchise. After two straight trips to the Eastern Conference Semifinals the Wizards floundered, going 41-41 and missing the playoffs entirely. Bradley Beal missed 27 games, and the team’s performance didn’t give it the anticipated pitch it could make to free agent superstar Kevin Durant.

With Wall uncertain for the start of the 2016-17 season, the team had no true expectations. They could be the team from two to three years previous, or a lottery team once again. Beal was expected to improve after receiving a max contract, but his injuries were of course worrisome. How could a team with constant injuries to its two best players make a dent in the conference standings?

More from Wiz of Awes

Thus, how Wall recovered from the surgeries would be huge for himself and the team. He promised to take his recovery from surgery slowly, as this was his first time dealing with surgery to his legs.

The offseason is when players do the majority of their development and make the biggest improvements. Wall spent most of the offseason strengthening his knees and legs, before progressing to running and on-court movement, which didn’t leave a lot of time to work on improving his shooting or conditioning.

The season didn’t start as Wall or the team expected, as the Wizards got off to a 2-8 start. The players met and discussed their frustration, while new head coach Scott Brooks assured president Ernie Grunfeld and owner Ted Leonsis that he would turn it around. Now I was confident the team would work its way back close to .500, but it was hard to expect much more.

During the 2-8 start, Wall missed two games as a precaution to rest, a one point loss in Orlando, and a 11 point loss in Chicago. Both games were against mediocre teams, and showcased what the team misses when Wall is forced to sit.

Despite a plan to have Wall rest for back-to-backs for at least the first month of the season, that game in Chicago would be the last game he he missed until the final games of the regular season in April.  As Wall continued to play, he got into “game shape”, and the team began to take off with him. He led by example with his play and effort, and his teammates responded. But not before a wake up call.

That wake up call came on December 6th at Verizon Center against the Orlando Magic. The Wizards were 7-12, while the Magic were 9-12. Fans were ready to see two disappointing Southeastern Division foes in a Tuesday night snoozefest. Instead, they witnessed the greatest scoring game of Wall’s career.

It was obvious early in the game that the team had no chance of sticking with the Magic unless Wall took on more of a scoring role, instead of his normal pass first instincts. The result? A 52 point explosion, in which the Wizards lost by 8 in a game they trailed by 15 at the end of the third quarter.

Wall shot 5-8 from three, 18-31 from the field, and made 11 free throws. He played 42 minutes in the game, and it was his third game with over 40 minutes played since the start of the season. We thought his body couldn’t handle the workload, but he showed it could.

After the game Wall was frustrated. His teammates were frustrated. Fans were frustrated. While the team lost, it was a defining moment in D.C.

Washington won nine of its next 12 games and began the 17 game home winning streak that finally got the Wizards into the national media spotlight, lasting from December to February. It was the second longest home winning streak in franchise history.

Interestingly, January, the Wizards’ best month of the season, was Wall’s lowest scoring month. While he was finally in shape and showing the talent that he was capable of, his teammates also came to his support. Markieff Morris had his best month of the season, averaging over 17 points per game.

Other individual highlights during the home winning streak included the 33 points and MANY clutch baskets against the Lakers and 36 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists against the Pacers. He also hit his first game winning shot against Chicago on January 10th. The same team he watched beat the Wizards earlier in the year while he rested.

The Wizards would go into the All-Star break in New Orleans with a 34-21 record, and Wall was rewarded, earning a spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team for the fourth straight season. Going into the break the team won an absurd 27 of its last 36 games, good for a winning percentage of .750.

Wall’s efforts in the first half of the season helped to turnaround the team, and set them up for unprecedented success, at least in my lifetime.

More from Wiz of Awes

The team struggled relatively coming out of the break, hovering around. 500 for the first month, but it was clear the Wizards would be a major threat come the playoffs. Washington famously battled Cleveland at full strength in the game of the year at home in February. In March, Washington went on the road, and beat Cleveland from start to finish.

The game didn’t mean much to Cleveland, as they were going through one of the worst months of LeBron James‘ career, and were still almost a lock to advance to the conference finals. But for Washington is was a chance at revenge. This time it wouldn’t be on TNT, but the team didn’t care. They believed they should have beat Cleveland the last time out, and confidence is a hell of a drug.

The Wizards wiped the floor with the Cavs. Wall led the way with 37 points and 11 assists, while shooting 14-21 from the floor. He also made my favorite play from the regular season, stealing the ball from James on one end before calmly walking up the floor to hit a three on offense. It was at the start of the game, and helped to establish the fact that the Wizards would not back down.

Those two matchups led to many wanting to see the teams matchup in the playoffs. Unfortunately that never happened. In the playoffs Wall only improved his game, increasing his scoring, three-point percentage, and blocks per game. In fact, Wall averaged 1.2 blocks per game in the playoffs, up from 0.6 blocks per game during the regular season.

We talk so much about Wall’s scoring and passing, but his defense definitely separates him from the competition. He was tied for steals per game in the regular season at 2.0, and made many highlight plays. He of course can improve on defense, and as his conditioning improves that will certainly come. For now, we can live with those highlights, including:

Amazingly, Wall’s blocks per game doubled in the playoffs, despite taking on a larger offensive workload and averaging 39 minutes per game. When locked in, he has the chance to be the best defensive point guard in the NBA and one of the best in league history.

In the playoffs he was matched up with Dennis Schroder, Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley, and had his share of wins and losses.

In the first round Wall had his way with the Hawks. He averaged 29.5 points per game and 10.3 assists per game while shooting 52.5 percent from the field, and 47.4 percent from three. He scored 32 points in the first two games of the postseason, and even though the series was tied 2-2 and close in game 5, it never seemed too much in doubt with Wall at the helm.

He had his best postseason game to date in game 6, scoring 42 points in the closeout game. While Schroder had success himself, Wall had two plays that buried him for the rest of the season. He dunked on him and asked him a very simple question.

Secondly, just like against LeBron, Wall showed his capabilities on both sides of the ball, with this block and basket against Schroder.

That sequence propelled Washington on a mini run to end the game, and proved that John Wall had made the leap.

True superstars shock you with their expertise even when you thought they couldn’t. Wall did that in game 6 against Atlanta and would do the same in his next game 6.

Heading into the Eastern Conference Semifinals against Boston the narrative was clear. Boston and Washington hated each other. Each had won both games on its home floor during the regular season.

Isaiah Thomas had taken the league by storm with his King of the Fourth performances. Avery Bradley was one of the most respected defenders in the league. Marcus Smart and John Wall had beef. Jae Crowder and John Wall had beef. The Wizards wore black to a game as evidence of the Celtics funeral. You know the storylines.

More from Wiz of Awes

The Wizards didn’t start the Boston series well, losing games 1 and 2. Well actually they did start well, leading by at least 15 points in the first quarter of both games, before letting the Celtics eventually come back and win. Wall was a big part in their successes passing for 16 assists in Game 1 and scoring 40 points in Game 2, but a troubling trend began.

The Wizards lack of a productive bench led to Wall and the starters wearing down more than usual over the course of the game. Those huge first quarter leads turned into deficits early in the second quarter.

At times Wall tried to do too much, but that was also a product of lack of bench production, and the success he had during the regular season. His 8 turnovers in Game 1 certainly crippled the team, and were a contributing factor in the 10 point loss. Still, with the 16 assists, his assist to turnover ratio wasn’t that bad.

In games three and four, he shot less than 40% from the field, but his defense helped the team blowout Boston on both occasions.

Of course the defining moment of his season and career came in Game 6. It was an elimination game at home and Wall shined when needed most. After a pedestrian first half with only three points, he scored 23 points in the second half, keeping the Wizards neck and neck late into the game. When the team and city needed him most he delivered. He hit the now famous pull-up three pointer over Avery Bradley, who had given him plenty of trouble in Boston.

After the buzzer sounded, he got on the scorer’s table, turned to the crowd and yelled that D.C. was his city. And he was right.

One Twitter user recently questioned Wall’s clutch abilities, and stated that Kyle Lowry was better that D.C.’s Point God. He specifically referenced Wall’s inability to hit a three in clutch situations. Despite Wall’s shot and playoff performances, he wasn’t sold. There was only one response to the nonsense.

Wall and Beal had the highest Net Ratings in the playoffs among Eastern Conference starting guards who played at least three games “in the clutch.” Wall specifically showed up in the clutch in both game 6’s and was a vital reason the team won 49 games in the regular season. A regular season that saw the Wizards win their most games in 38 years.

More from Wiz of Awes

Critics will always point to Wall’s finish in Game 7 against Boston. In 44 minutes of play he shot 8-23 and missed his last 11 shots. It was pretty clear physically he wasn’t where he needed to be. By the third quarter his legs were shot. He kept performing in other areas, but if you can’t put the ball in the basket, it’s seriously detrimental to the team.

The Wizards have attempted to fix the problem by bringing in backup point guard Tim Frazier, who should be Wall’s best backup since college. Wall’s attempting to fix the problem by having a career summer. He’s busy spending the time he was rehabbing last year, at gyms, yoga studios, on the bike, and in the boxing ring.

Last season we saw a John Wall who was finally healthy. Wizards fans have to be excited that next season they may see a John Wall in the best conditioning of his life.

Wall was rewarded for his efforts with a spot on the NBA’s All-NBA Third Team. He (and many others) thought he should have been on the Second Team. Extra motivation has never been a bad thing for Wall.

And if things weren’t great enough, his placement on the third team allowed the Wizards to offer him an extension using the Designated Player Veteran Extension. He signed that extension on Friday worth 4-years, $170 million.

The under promoted Wall seems to have it all right now. A new max deal. An expected high-priced shoe deal. A city and his teammates behind him. And Loyalty, Loyalty, Loyalty.

Grade: A

Next: In Depth Look at Wizards' Offseason Pickups

Now he’s back to focusing on his main goals. An MVP award and an NBA Championship.