After what will be almost two years since suffering his season-ending Achilles injury, five-time All-Star point guard John Wall is primed for a big-time comeback.
Could that lead his Washington Wizards team back to the postseason?
December 29, 2018 marks the day official reports were made that Wall was going to see a specialist to address some recurring pain in his left heel. He then made the decision to undergo surgery.
This was his 10th major injury, added to a litany of wrist, knee and quad issues that have plagued him since entering the league 2010.
But as a competitive player that is anxious to get back on the court, Wall believes that his time away from the game has given him the time to truly get healthy. He expects to immediately put the league on notice in his return.
“I’m gonna be better than what I was before, and the scary part,” Wall told Matt Barnes on the All The Smoke Podcast. “Damn near the whole five years I was an All-Star, I played with two bone spurs in my knee and heel. People don’t know that. They ain’t even get the best of John Wall yet. They got a clip of him.”
The last of what we saw from Wall came in a 32-game sample size last season, in which he averaged 20.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.6 rebounds, nearly two steals and about a block per game while shooting 50.7 percent from the field.
This was coming off a tough six-game series the previous postseason where the Wizards fell to the Toronto Raptors in the first round despite Wall averaging 26 points, 11.5 assists, 5.7 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 1.3 blocks.
Wall was considered one of the best point guards in the league and amongst the best facilitators in NBA history.
Aside from the injuries, Wall’s biggest struggle has been his inability to consistently hit from the perimeter. With the league average being about 35-36 percent from behind the arc, Wall has been a subpar 32.4 percent for his career.
Similarly, Wall relies on his athleticism and quickness, allowing him to thrive in the open court and finish strong above the rim. But that same reliance has made them all dependent on such drives. They generally neglect taking three-point shots at a high rate and don’t hit them efficiently.
Evolving this paradigm (as we’ve seen Rose begin to do) will be critical for a player like Wall to develop as the 28-year-old begins to creep into his 30s. His speed will start to dwindle (if it hasn’t already from this latest injury), and his ability to shoot will become more necessary for sustaining longevity.
In the meantime, Wall will be coming back to a much different team than one he last played with. Led by the likes of Bradley Beal, Rui Hachimura and Davis Bertans, Washington was sixth in both points per game (115.6) and pace of play (102.8). They also were among the top half of the league (12th) in offensive rating (111.9).
Although the Wizards do not have a deep bench, they have a handful of potential scorers with the ability to convert at a high level off of feeds from a player like Wall.
Wall’s combination of basketball IQ, ability to facilitate at an elite level, and two-way tools will fit in nicely with this new, athletic, fast-paced playstyle.
But, the biggest impact will come from his ability to coincide with Bradley Beal.
Although Wall has been around Beal’s ascension to stardom, the latter rose to new heights this season , displaying unlimited potential as an offensive threat. In spite of being snubbed in the All-Star voting, Beal had a historically great season, joining Lebron James and Michael Jordan as the only players in the last 40 years to average 30 points and six assists at age 26 or younger.
As part of a young, dynamic backcourt where both guards have the talent to be “The Man”, trying to balance out one another could pose difficulty as they both enter 2020-21 with something to prove.
Luckily for Wizards fans, Wall believes that his bond with Beal outweighs any personal egos.
“Ain’t no John Wall without Bradley Beal,” Wall said. “Ain’t no Bradley Beal without John Wall. We make each other so well on the court, and it works easy for us.”
With the emergence of Milwaukee Bucks’ reigning MVP forward Giannis Antetokoumpo; fellow legit contenders like the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers; the joined forces of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in Brooklyn; and the rise of young teams like the Atlanta Hawks, Wall and Wizards will have a tough road to the postseason.
But if Wall is right that his best is yet to come, Washington could be a surprise in what will be the most competitive Eastern Conference we have seen in years.
Hello, my fellow hoop fans! My name is Jalon Dixon, but my friends call me Jay. Basketball is a 24/7 obsession that I can never get enough of. Whether it be NBA, WNBA, college hoops, high school basketball or even AAU, I watch it all. My passion is to create conversation for the forever-growing basketball community. Expect a handful of hot takes, some mock drafts, player/team breakdowns and plenty of quality content. The recipe is the perfect balance of analytics, the eye test and a sprinkle of opinion just to show the writer’s inner fan. My motto is “Always embrace conversation”, so my DMs and inbox are always open for a fiery barbershop-style basketball debate or two.