The NBA regular season has ended, and once again, the Washington Wizards have found themselves missing the playoffs, as they came in 12th in the Eastern Conference with a 29-53 record.
The Wizards have been hoping that their young core would mature quickly and help to lead them to their first postseason berth since the 2007-2008 season, but they have yet to see the improvement necessary to take the next step forward.
The team's success almost entirely falls upon the shoulders of the 22-year-old John Wall, who has been showing improvement in each of his three seasons in the NBA. Although Wall has provided the Wizards with consistently strong play at the point guard position, he has yet to develop into a franchise-level player capable of carrying his team night-in and night-out.
Washington does not have a strong enough supporting cast to win a significant amount of games without Wall, which became a major issue this year, as the young guard was not fully healthy until the last few weeks of the season.
Even though the Wizards will not be content with the overall performance of the team this season, the performance of Wall as the season came to a close should provide them with great hope for the upcoming year.
Over the last two months of the season, John Wall averaged an impressive 22.7 points per game on 46.4-percent shooting, 7.8 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals over 36 minutes a game. Over those 26 games, Wall was extremely aggressive, using his athletic ability to drive the open lanes and create high-efficiency opportunities at the rim.
Wall has always had the athletic tools to be a great player. However, until recently he didn't have great control over his speed and power, which often led to missed opportunities and poor play execution. He has shown greater control over the last few weeks of the season, and his decision-making has advanced greatly from last year.
The better decision-making has made for an increase of efficiency in Wall's game. His shooting percentage improved yet again this season, allowing him to became a consistent offensive threat when healthy.
He is still greatly lacking an outside game, as he attempted fewer than one three-point shot a game. However, he hit them when he took them more consistently, converting on 34.7 percent of three-pointers.
Although Wall continued to demonstrate his strong ability to run the offense this season by creating great scoring opportunities for his teammates, he still needs work on limiting the number of turnovers that he allows each game. He greatly made up for these mistakes at the end of the season by averaging 1.6 steals per game, but this particular flaw should be an area of focus for him to take his game to the next level.
In addition, Wall made great strides in his defensive efficiency this season, as he posted a career-best defensive rating of 103 points allowed per 100 possessions, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
His newfound defensive intensity and efficiency on offense is leading to a stronger overall performance on both ends of the floor for the Wizards. This is apparent in the 24-25 record that the team had with Wall in the lineup, in comparison with the 5-28 record they posted without him.
John Wall demonstrated toward the end of this season that, when healthy, he is more than capable of carrying the Wizards to a low-seeded playoff berth. If Washington can bring in a few impact players over the summer, they will likely be able to compete for a spot in the postseason as early as next year.
For now, though, Wizards fans can take solace in the fact that John Wall appears to have taken another big step toward becoming a franchise-caliber talent in the NBA.