What would the Washington Wizards’ record be with John Wall?

Washington Wizards superstar John Wall has been out all season due to an Achilles tear, and the Wiz are 17-32. If they had Wall, where would they be?

What are we doing here, Washington Wizards fans? The trade deadline is just a day away, and the Wizards are talking about adding pieces despite the fact that they sit 4.5 games out of the 8th seed of the East.

So what are we doing? Are we letting ourselves get distracted by videos like this:

While it’s been clear from the get-go that the Washington Wizards mean to “retool” this season, recent comments by secondary star Bradley Beal and reports from Candace Buckner say we’re going after Clint Capela or Tristan Thompson in a couple of different trade scenarios. And I just want to hit pause here, just 24 hours before new General Manager Tommy Sheppard makes some kind of mistake, to ask our fans if we really believe that a trade like this and the return of John Wall will really put us over the top.

I know it’s hard, I really do, to give up on your championship hopes for a smarter, more strategic approach. But as I wrote previously, I believe even if Wall returns his skills will be greatly diminished.

However, it’s understandable that Sheppard and the Washington Wizards front office will press forward as if the 30-year-old will be fine upon his return next season. A miraculous return to form might be rare, but isn’t unheard of if you look at the example of Rudy Gay or look across sports and take Adrian Peterson as an example.

So the Washington Wizards faithful are moving forward with fingers in our ears and a self-satisfied grin on our faces. All right, I’m game.

But that got me thinking: What would the Washington Wizards record even look like this year if they had John Wall?  

It’s an interesting question and worth exploring, so in typical “me” fashion I dug into the numbers and compared John Wall’s numbers from last season, his diminished numbers from my article about his projected stats post-injury, and the numbers of current starters Ish Smith & Isaiah Thomas, and came up with a best vs. worst case scenario.

Must Read: Will John Wall be an elite player when he returns?

Specifically, I’m curious which of the 32 losses the Washington Wizards have suffered this season could have been turned around by John Wall logging the “starter” minutes.

The term “starter” in Washington at the point guard position has been an extremely fluid term, but I went with the player who logged the most minutes. As such, I identified 12 games where Isaiah Thomas logged an average of 27.4 minutes (but always more than Ish Smith) and 20 games where Ish Smith logged an average of 29.3 minutes in a “starter” capacity.

I compared each of their per 36 minute stats in those specific games to the per 36 minute numbers of John Wall from last season, then to John Wall’s projected per 36 minute numbers if he regresses at the “average” rate figured out in my previous article.

Here’s all their per 36 numbers side by side, by the way:

John Wall 2018-19 Per 36: 21.6 PPG, 9.1 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 3.9 TO

John Wall 2020-21 Projected Per 36: 16.9 PPG, 7.7 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 3.7 TO

Isaiah Thomas “Starter” Per 36 IN LOSSES: 19.1 PPG, 6 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 3 TO

Ish Smith “Starter” Per 36 IN LOSSES: 13.9 PPG, 5.5 APG, 1 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 1.9 TO

Using this data, I went ahead and compared, game by game, Wall’s Per 36 with the “starter” of that game, then I applied the Wizards the point difference, the assist difference, steal difference, blocks difference, and turnover distance in the following ways:

  • For points, I simply gave the Wizards the difference in points between the per 36 stats
  • For assists, each assist was worth 2.38 points. According to Basketball Reference, 38% of shots are 3-pointers, so each assist is worth more than two points as it has the potential to be three points (or more, but we’ll ignore that as it’s rare and tough to accommodate)
  • For steals, that’s going to be a denied possession. Each possession is worth about 1.09 points as I took the average 2.38 scoring per shot from above and multiplied it by the league’s 45.8 field goal percentage (odds they’ll get any points at all) so each steal will lead to a +1.09 point differential as they are denying the team a theoretical 1.09 points
  • For blocks, it was the same as steals, 1.09 points
  • For turnovers, it’s simply a lost possession, so it’s the opposite at -1.09 points

Obviously, there are some potential flaws here and we’re entirely ignoring the potentiality of fouls to be put on the line, but after applying this formula to EACH loss, here’s the number of wins added by John Wall:

Pre Injury Wall Numbers: 14

Post Injury Wall Numbers: 8

Here are the games we would have won with Pre-Injury Wall:

10/23 vs. DAL

10/26 vs. SAS

11/6 vs. IND

11/8 vs. CLE

11/17 vs. ORL

11/24 vs. SAC

11/26 vs. DEN

12/8 vs. LAC

12/10 vs. CHA

12/18 vs. CHI

1/15 vs. CHI

1/22 vs. MIA

1/26 vs. ATL

2/3 vs. GSW

Pre-injury Wall would have netted us a win in 50 percent of IT games and 40 percent of Ish Smith games. Our record would be 31-18, good enough for the current 5th seed in the Eastern Conference.

Here are the games we would have won if we had a Wall with diminished ability due to his Achilles injury:

10/23 vs. DAL

11/24 vs. SAC

11/26 vs. DEN

12/10 vs. CHA

12/18 vs. CHI

1/15 vs. CHI

1/22 vs. MIA

2/3 vs. GSW

Post-injury projected Wall with diminished ability would net a win in 33.3 percent of IT starts and 20 percent of Isaiah Thomas starts. Our record would be 25-24, good enough for the current 7th seed in the Eastern Conference.

Time to panic?

In reality, Wall will probably be somewhere in the middle of those numbers, so let’s split the difference and give them 11 more wins. That’s still only good enough for 7th seed in the East.

Of course, there are about a billion factors that we can’t take into consideration statistically. Like the fact that Bradley Beal is infinitely more efficient in scoring when he’s next to John Wall in the back court, or that the Wizards have been decimated by injuries all season on top of just Wall.

However, I think it behooves all Washington Wizards fans to take a breath, and really think. Do we think adding a rebounding center will truly put us in the conversation for a championship if John Wall doesn’t return at 100 percent?

The Wizards need to take this opportunity right now to build up assets for the future and allow the changing of the guard from the John Wall era to the next era, just like we had a passing of the torch from Gilbert Arenas in 2010. Not that John Wall can’t be a part of a championship level team, but we can’t expect him to carry the team like he has in the past.

The fact of the matter is that the Wiz unfortunately will not be a competitor immediately once Wall returns. Perhaps they can be a top 4 team in the East, but that just simply isn’t enough. It’s time to sit our starters and allow the young kids to play so we can secure a high draft pick and develop guys like Isaac Bonga and Troy Brown Jr.

If we can secure draft picks for guys like Davis Bertans or Ian Mahinmi, why don’t we jump all over that? The change of the guard from Ernie Grunfeld to Tommy Sheppard was supposed to be a shift in strategy, and an escape from this endless wheel of mediocrity, but it looks to me like we are falling into the same old traps again and again.

I sincerely hope the Wizards prove me wrong, wake up, and break the mold.

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