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John Wall: Wizards Would've 'Beat the S--t' Out of LeBron James' Cavs in '17 Playoffs

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 18, 2023

WASHINGTON, DC -  NOVEMBER 3: John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards and LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on during the game on November 3, 2017 at Capital One Arena in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Nobody from the Eastern Conference could fell the Cleveland Cavaliers in the four years LeBron James was back with the team. John Wall believes the Washington Wizards could've conquered the beast, however, if provided the opportunity in 2017.

The Wizards lost to the Boston Celtics in seven games in the 2017 Eastern Conference semifinals, thus missing the chance to battle with the Cavs in the conference finals.

Wall said on the Run Your Race podcast that Washington "was gonna beat the s--t" out of LeBron and Cleveland (warning: video contains profanity):

Tidal League @TidalLeague

"They did not want to see us!" - <a href="https://twitter.com/JohnWall?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JohnWall</a> <br><br>2016/2017 Wizards would have been a tough matchup for <a href="https://twitter.com/KingJames?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@KingJames</a> and the Cavs. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LeBronJames?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LeBronJames</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/johnwall?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#johnwall</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Wizards?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Wizards</a> <a href="https://t.co/2UMNUxVLco">pic.twitter.com/2UMNUxVLco</a>

The five-time All-Star compared the Cavaliers and Wizards' respective starting fives. He said he and Kyrie Irving were a wash and conceded James and Kevin Love were better than their Washington counterparts. But he contended the Wizards had an edge with Bradley Beal over J.R. Smith and Marcin Gortat over Tristan Thompson.

Wall also thought his squad had a deeper bench than the Cavs, who were leaning on aging vets (Kyle Korver, Iman Shumpert, Deron Williams, Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson) as reserves in the postseason.

Wall's assertion is flimsy at best, though.

For one, he lists off Trevor Ariza as one of the Wizards' starters when Ariza was on the Houston Rockets at the time. The 6'8" forward was on the team from 2012 to '14 and didn't return to the nation's capital until midway through the 2018-19 campaign.

Otto Porter Jr., not Ariza, would've had the thankless task of matching up against LeBron.

There's also the obvious fact the Wizards couldn't get past the Celtics, who were subsequently brushed aside by James and the Cavaliers in five games. Washington allowed Boston big man Kelly Olynyk to score 26 points in an elimination game, but it was going to solve the most unsolvable player of his generation?

That leads to the biggest flaw in Wall's logic.

You simply can't go player-by-player and compare the Cavs to any Eastern Conference rival during that run because the presence of James superseded any rational evaluation.

Cleveland should've had a harder time against the Celtics in 2017 because Boston was a more cohesive squad. The same could be said for the Atlanta Hawks in 2015 and the Toronto Raptors in 2016.

Time and again, the Cavaliers had one thing no other team did: LeBron James. And that was largely enough because the four-time MVP was a cheat code.

Unless LeBron planned on defecting to the Wizards, they almost assuredly would've met the same fate as the Celtics in 2017.