Waiting for John Wall
For two NBA seasons, we've seen John Wall score, pass, defend and wow us with some regularity, but we have yet to see him capitalize on his drafty-day promise. Skill sets as charismatic as Wall's beckon to be unleashed in their most comprehensive form, and yet for a variety of reasons, the young Wizard has yet to find a cohesive underpinning to his game; obvious though Wall's talents may be, his gifts continue to spiral around one another without mixing, merging or working through a consistent outlet.
But Wall's time is coming, and this season—Wall's first with a respectable core of teammates—figures to be an apt time for his emergence. If nothing else, an NBA player's third season is typically regarded as a career springboard; while the third-year trend can't be fairly generalized to all NBA players, there's enough reason to believe that Wall will begin to integrate the more complex mechanics of the pro-level game in the season to come. He's experienced failure, lived through the mess of the Wizards' busted culture and emerged from the muck with a still-optimal profile for NBA success.
These things just take more time for some prospects than others and, in Wall's case, also take a shift toward more favorable conditions. Maximizing one's potential alongside Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee and Nick Young is no easy task. Wall's new teammates may not be demonstratively superior to those three in terms of raw talent, but they give the entire team a stricter adherence to a very natural order. All is closer to how it should be with such a tremendous, ball-dominant guard at the center of it all, leaving Wall to grow into the role he was destined to fill without interruption.
The importance of a full offseason, training camp and a preseason period shouldn't be overlooked—particularly considering the turnover of the last few months. Swapping out McGee and Blatche for a player such as Nene isn't a lateral transition but a shift in the entire way the the offense and defense operate. It's instinct and aptitude in place of empty promise, and it should be fascinating to see what Wall can do with those kinds of materials after being given time to familiarize himself.
The same goes for his interplay with Bradley Beal, the efficient and patient shooter whom Wall has so long needed, and his chemistry with Trevor Ariza, who is actually a useful, effective player when the ball is taken out of his hands. Wall has Emeka Okafor helping to cover his defensive mistakes, Chris Singleton and Jan Vesely nudged into more comfortable supporting roles and a team without such consistent potential for distraction. Much is made of the power of the fresh start, but when a player is taxed on emotional and competitive bases as consistently as Wall was under the the initial stage of his NBA career, such a reset can make a profound difference.
Wall doesn't need to be rescued from the odd start to his career, but merely given the chance to escape into a game that already was his. It's a new day for the Wiz—one that brings refreshed promise and fewer obstructions. What we've seen to date from Wall is enough to crave more and enough to anxiously linger to see what the glimmers portend. And so the prudent wait—because, well, some talents are worth waiting for.
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