Since John Wall returned to the Washington Wizards, there's been a lot more hopeful basketball going on in the nation's capital, all thanks to a guard who we all forgot was supposed to be the next big point guard before the following next big point guard came along.
Wall was drafted out of Kentucky and would have easily been the 2011 Rookie of the Year were it not for Blake Griffin dominating the voting. At the very least, Wall is hanging around as one of the two best players from the 2010 draft and he's only going to get better.
His third season in the NBA has been a ton of progression for Wall in terms of intangibles and leadership, while his statistical progression has held steady, especially when you consider that he's spent the majority of the season with a bum knee.
Here he is just 33 games into his third season and he's already won a conference-wide award.
John Wall and LaMarcus Aldridge named NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week.— The NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) March 18, 2013
Even more impressive, the Wizards would, surprising as it may seem, be a playoff team given their record with Wall in the lineup at a boisterous 18-15.
Statistically speaking, Wall's numbers are flat from last season to this season, albeit in fewer minutes. He's averaging 15.6 points, 3.5 points and 7.5 assists, with a combined 2.2 blocks and steals.
He's of the new breed of point guards who rely on an extreme amount of athleticism to get to the rim, play defense and just out-run and out-jump opponents in general.
While Kyrie Irving has been compared to the likes of Chris Paul, Wall is more along the lines of Russell Westbrook, only with a difference.
There's always the complaint about Westbrook that he's constantly handling the ball too much, taking the game away from his teammates, and playing hero-ball. Wall doesn't seem to have that gene.
He's not afraid to take the big shots, but he's not going to force the issue either.
What makes Wall so impressive is not just his level-headed play, but his natural feel for the game and his ability to get all his teammates involved.
Wall is a tall 6'4" with long arms that can snap the ball around like a whip, allowing him to find the best angles as his teammates shuffle around the court in confusion.
Even with the league's worst offense backing him up, Wall is able to throw together nearly eight assists per game, something he's been able to do withe ease since his rookie season.
In fact, Washington's offense has never been ranked better than 25th in the league in terms of points per 100 possessions, yet Wall is able to make the most out of his teammates, and find them when they're open.
Given the progression of Bradley Beal and the surprising outburst from Martell Webster (and his 62.6 true shooting percentage this season), along with a solid draft, a full season of Nene, and perhaps a free agent or two, Wall could have the weapons to turn this Wizards squad into more than just a defensive bunch.
That defensive side of the ball has perhaps been where Wall's progression has shown the most. He was always good at picking off steals and leaping for a block, but this year he's done a much better job of actually staying in front of his man.
He's become less of a gambler and more of a planner, and it's shown.
Wall has the tools to become one of the best defensive point guards in the NBA, and he's already not too far off.
Sure, he's a horrible three-point shooter, but he doesn't force the issue. After jacking up long-balls all throughout his rookie year, Wall backed off and decided to shoot only wide-open threes, otherwise he was driving or kicking.
That's got to be the best quality of Wall's game. He's an incredibly smart player who knows his limitations, allowing him to work tremendously well inside his limitations.
We may talk about Irving and Damian Lillard as the next big point guards, but Wall is going to be the first one of that bunch to grab a maximum contract, confirming that he is the next big point guard.