When Will NBA Fans Give John Wall What He Deserves?
Yet Wall's name is often omitted whenever there's a debate as to who the best young point guards in the NBA are—an odd circumstance for a man who put up 47 points, eight assists and seven rebounds against one of the best teams in the league.
Wall's Player Efficiency Rating this season (20.20) ranks sixth among all point guards, and he has been nothing short of phenomenal so far during the month of March (21.8 PPG, 8.0 APG, 4.5 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 52.3 FG%), earning Player of the Week honors for the period ending March 17.
As the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, great things will be expected of Wall until the day he walks away from the game of basketball. The problem is that nearly three years into his career, we still don't have any idea of how great he can be.
Wall has missed significant portions of two seasons due to various foot and knee injuries, and when the former Kentucky star has been on the court, he hasn't always been surrounded by a talented supporting cast.
Things are different these days: Rookie shooting guard Bradley Beal is the perfect complement for Wall's ability to blow past opposing defenders. Emeka Okafor is a consistent force in the middle who handles most of the Wizards' dirty work, and Martell Webster has blossomed into a consistent long-range threat.
The playoffs are out of the question for Washington this season, but there's more hope in the nation's capital these days than there has been in years. And Wall is the main reason for the increased sense of optimism. In turn, he's likely to receive more than just a pat on the back for his services.
"I feel like I'm a max guy, just on how I am as a person. I feel like I make my teammates
better," said Wall when asked about his contract status during a recent interview with J. Michael of CSN Washington.
Wall's impact on the rest of his team is undeniable: Since the 22-year-old point guard returned to the lineup back on January 12, the Wizards have been playing at a .568 clip.
When Wall is on the court, Washington is 8.8 points per 100 possessions better than their opponents. Conversely, when their star point guard is on the bench, the Wizards shoot less than 42 percent from the field and average just 88.4 points per 48 minutes.
While Wall was recovering from a stress injury to his left patella earlier this season, Beal averaged just 13.1 points per game and shot a paltry 36.7 percent from the floor. Since Wall's return, Beal is averaging 14.9 points per game and is shooting 45.6 percent from beyond the arc.
But while Wall excels at making his teammates better, there are still some notable deficiencies that are hard to ignore. Detractors will point out that Wall doesn't have much of a long-range game to speak of, but despite a much improved jump shot, the third-year point guard is shooting a mildly respectable 45.5 percent from the floor since his return.
Furthermore, Wall's career turnover rate of 18.7 percent doesn't exactly scream "ball security", and according to 82games.com, opposing point guards have typically outperformed him this year.
From a purely statistical point of view, one can in fact make a case against Wall receiving a max deal. Denver's Ty Lawson and Golden State's Stephen Curry have had comparable careers to Wall, and neither of them signed a max contract this past offseason.
Philadelphia's Jrue Holiday made the Eastern Conference All-Star team earlier this year, and his four-year, $41 million deal appears to be in line with both his abilities and future potential.
But Wall's value to the Wizards goes far beyond mere numbers in a box score. He isn't just the cornerstone of Washington's foundation—he's the kind of player who can convince free agents to come play for the Wizards.
Allowing Wall to walk would mean starting over from scratch, and a franchise that has won just one playoff series in the past 30 years simply isn't in a position to begin the rebuilding process yet again.
"If they believe I'm their franchise guy, that I'm the max player that I feel that I am, [the Wizards' front office will] do what's best for them," said Wall.
Washington isn't foolish enough to let their star point guard walk without offering him a contract that's commensurate with his true value to the team. But it remains to be seen if Wall will ultimately get the respect that he deserves from NBA fans.
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