Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The Washington Wizards were 5-28 without their franchise player.
But since John Wall returned on Jan. 12 from a stress injury to his left kneecap, the Wizards have gone 22-18.
How’s that for a difference-maker? That’s like a shooter going from 15 percent to 55 percent.
Wall, who has started in 33 of his 40 games played this season, is averaging 18 points, 7.8 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals in starts this season.
The former No. 1 overall pick in 2010 is as efficient as he is fluid, and he has raised his shooting to a career-best 44 percent this season. In March, Wall shot 48.4 percent.
Doubt regarding Wall’s ability to lead a franchise whirled in December when former coach Stan Van Gundy told ESPN 980’s The Sports Reporters that Wall wasn’t the type of talent that could lead a team on his own. Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post quoted Van Gundy:
He’s certainly got talent, but I don’t know that even John Wall is a great player to build your franchise around. I don’t know WHO you’re building around, so it’s tough to even think about what the construction of your team is. That’s just a bad basketball team.
Steinberg revisited the subject on March 28 when he quoted Van Gundy, again on ESPN 980, as now saying that he’s on the fence regarding his previous comments. The coach-turned-analyst discussed the Wizards’ turnaround with a healthy Wall:
And if you look at the numbers, they’re the ninth-best team in the league if you compare defensive numbers and offensive numbers — the ninth-best team in the league, fourth-best team in the East since he’s come back. So this is a team that you could project, with John Wall, could be not only a playoff team but be sitting with home-court in the playoffs. And they were the worst team in the league before he came back. Nobody else has done that for a team.
The comment of note in Van Gundy’s latest quote is the mention of Wall’s ability to make Washington a playoff team in the Eastern Conference.
It seems rather evident that if Wall were healthy all season, the Wizards would be readying for the postseason.