Whether it’s now or later, John Wall’s return will cause a ripple effect in one of two directions for the Washington Wizards. Which path should Washington take?
It’s now been over a year since we’ve seen Washington’s star backcourt suit up together and take the court. But that dream may become a reality before the season’s end.
Wall’s timeline for his return from injury was 11 to 15 months. It’s now been 11 months since his Achilles tear in 2019, and he looks as quick and springy as ever.
But don’t take my word for it. See for yourself. Here’s Wall making a strong move to the cup in practice:
As exciting as it is for fans and the front office to see Wall inching closer and closer to his inevitable return, his progress still raises questions about the Wizards’ future.
No matter which way the front office plays it, Wall’s return will have ripple effects that impact the future of the franchise in one way or another. So what should they do? Let’s look at Washington’s star point guard, and the crossroads that have presented themselves with his return looming large.
New Star Power on the Washington Wizards
Washington has no bigger reason to push Wall back on the court, then for Beal’s sake. The only healthy member of the all-star backcourt isn’t so healthy any more. This season, Beal has missed seven games with leg soreness. Despite his best efforts, and a career-high year in scoring (27.7 points per game), the Wizards are still just 13-26 (.350 winning percentage).
To help make the Wall situation a little less complicated, Beal graced the Washington front office with an extension agreement back in October.
The word ‘grace’ is key because he most certainly did not have to sign off on two more years (plus a player option) with the Wizards. At the time, Wall was out, the roster was barren of talent (and injured), and there wasn’t an immediate improvement on the horizon. Things looked bleak in D.C.
But then the season started, and Beal was doing what he loved; dominating basketball games. Then the Wizards’ started to gel and take shape thanks to Troy Brown’s growth, Rui Hachimura’s rookie strides, and much more.
Still, as fun as it has been watching the Wizards’ young guys battle it out in the trenches, there’s no doubt that Beal will grow tired in Washington if things aren’t different next season. Hell, he might not even make it that long. Beal is smack in the middle of his prime, and will be trade eligible well before free agency, but not before the end of this season.
Which is why bringing Wall back for even 20+ games at the end of the year may be imperative. Beal is seeing day in and day out at practice how Wall’s recovery is shaping up.
But the most important thing to him (and every star talent across the league) is winning. By that point in time, Washington will undoubtedly be well out of the playoff conversation. They won’t be playing for the 2020 postseason. Not even close.
But even if playoffs are out of reach, there’s reason to play Wall. Bringing Wall back means seeing what you’ve got in him after being removed from NBA action for more than a year. It’s about what the team is going to look like for the next postseason. And Beal is more entitled than anyone in that locker room to a sneak peek. He signed an extensions when he didn’t have to. He should get a chance to see what he agreed to.
The front office would be wise to grant it, too. Otherwise, the Wizards are going all-in for the 2020-21 season with a player that will not have played regular season minutes in nearly two years.
Whether the Wizards would like to admit it or not, the success of this (and next) season may ultimately come down to their positioning in the 2020 Draft. Some call it “tanking,” but it sounds wrong in this context, given that it’s almost entirely indirect with Wall (and the rest of the roster’s) injuries.
If you’ve watched any Wizards games this season, you know they play hard. Unfortunately, They often just don’t have the talent to pull out a win.
As of Tuesday, Washington has the league’s fifth worst record. Due to the changes made to the lottery practice, that doesn’t exactly translate to the 5th overall pick anymore.
But it still does give them a higher chance at the number one pick, than say, the seventh or eighth worst team. And who knows? The Wizards could finish with the seventh worst record, and pull off a miracle. The New Orleans Pelicans had the seventh-worst record heading into the 2019 NBA lottery and somehow came away with the number one pick, Zion Williamson.
But their chances grow less and less likely the more games Wall plays. Circumstance is everything, and there’s no telling what the league landscape will look like at the end of the year.
Still, Wall is a proven winner. He was before the injury, and he will be after. No matter the capacity. Adding him to this Wizards team immediately makes them better.
So Washington will have to make the conscious decision to endanger their draft position by giving Wall the time on the court he undoubtedly needs before there’s real pressure to win.
The Wizards General Manager, Tommy Sheppard, has made it clear that there is ‘no rush’ in John Wall’s return for the Washington Wizards. But even if the Wizards are patient, they’ll still have a decision to make. By playing him, they get to see where John Wall is post-injury in semi-meaningless games. But by playing him, they jeopardize their hopefully high draft position, which could be crucial toward future success.
A ‘catch-22’ indeed. Your move, Mr Sheppard.