Let’s get something straight. I’m not writing this as a disappointed Wizards fan after a game seven loss to the Celtics in which Kelly Olynyk owned the fourth quarter. I’m not writing this as a biased fan after watching John Wall sink the game-winning three pointer in game six in person at the Verizon Center.
I’m writing this as a self-declared NBA aficionado, a fan who has watched in awe as John Wall has developed from an athletic prospect to a five-tool bonafide superstar.
In today’s NBA, the ideal point guard’s game must be extremely versatile. The model point guard should be able to sink jump shots like Stephen Curry, attack the rim like Russell Westbrook, handle the ball like Kyrie Irving, pass like Chris Paul, and defend like Mike Conley. The position is ever-changing, especially with Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons unique assets of floor control and height.
John Wall is not the best player in any of the ideal areas a point guard should have, except for arguably defense and passing. He’s not going to give you 30 points a game or 10 rebounds like Westbrook. He’s not going to hit 402 three pointers in a season like Curry. He’s not going to give you a 6’11 frame like Antetokounmpo.
But what Wall will give you is the quality of a true floor general, that excels on both sides of the ball, and leads his team and city with heart and passion.
Why Wall is the best in the Eastern Conference:
The Eastern Conference has seen many pure point guards come and go in the past decades in Chauncey Billups, Gary Payton (past his prime), and Jason Kidd. None of these guards excelled in every single area, but they displayed the textbook definition of a point guard: the leader of the team on both ends of the floor, with or without the ball in his hands.
The starting point guards in the East from the 2016-2017 regular season were as following (* Denotes All-Star):
Isaiah Thomas* (Boston Celtics)
John Wall* (Washington Wizards)
Kyrie Irving* (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Kyle Lowry* (Toronto Raptors)
Kemba Walker* (Charlotte Hornets)
TJ McConnell (Philadelphia 76ers)
Elfrid Payton (Orlando Magic)
Goran Dragic (Miami Heat)
Dennis Schroder (Atlanta Hawks)
Jeremy Lin (Brooklyn Nets)
Derrick Rose (New York Knicks)
Jeff Teague (Indiana Pacers)
Reggie Jackson (Detroit Pistons)
Matthew Dellavedova (Milwaukee Bucks)
Rajon Rondo (Chicago Bulls)
The East All-Star roster had five point guards, all of which plays the game with unique style, skill, and tempo. Isaiah Thomas, the final pick of the 2011 draft, has blossomed into one of the game’s best scorers, even at the small frame of 5’9. Kemba Walker has been a human highlight reel the past two seasons, lighting up teams with his shifty handles and acrobatic finished. And we know what Kyrie Irving did in last year’s game seven of the NBA finals, but in case you need a reminder:
What sets Wall apart in the East is his ability to put up huge numbers in the five important areas- points, assists, rebounds, steals, and basketball IQ- needed to play at a high level. Wall was the fourth-highest scoring point guard in the East, behind Thomas, Irving, and Walker. Although his ranking may not be in the top three, Wall still averaged a career high 23.1 points per game on a career high 45.1% from the field, including a career high 52 points on December 6 against the Orlando Magic and their defensively skilled Elfrid Payton. His 6’4, 210 pound frame gives him an advantage over most other point guards, which gives him strength in addition to his outstanding slashing and finishing abilities.
In addition to his jump in scoring, Wall continued to assert his dominance as the indisputable best passer in the conference. Once again, Washington’s leader averaged double-digit assists with 10.7 per game, second in the entire NBA only to James Harden, one of the top two candidates for the 2016-2017 MVP award. This contributed to his exceptional assist-to-turnover ratio after averaging just 4.1 turnovers per game. His combination of deadly speed and gifted court vision has left NBA fans in awe with some of his ridiculous dimes.
Wall’s defensive prowess is also something that is unparalleled in the East. Once again, Wall tallied a career high, this time in steals with 2.01 per game, just .02 behind Draymond Green for the highest average in the NBA. His knack for anticipating passes and playing the passing lane led to steals and fast break points for the Wizards, both of which are both crucial to success in the modern NBA where the game is played at a much higher tempo.
But perhaps Wall’s most valuable asset is his dedication to his team and to improving his game. Six seasons ago, Wall entered the NBA as the number one overall selection with doubts surrounding his ability to become a well-rounded player, as he did not show great signs of passing ability and offensive ability beyond slashing in the paint. These doubters and skeptics never stopped Wall, as he has developed a consistent mid-range jump shot, and has increasingly improved his three point shooting.
Wall’s dedication and love for his new home in Washington, D.C. is something that is not found in many other players in the league. He proudly calls D.C. “his city” as he has brought winning culture back to D.C. after being a dismal sports town until his arrival. He has given every ounce of effort to making the Wizards a perennial playoff staple, while embracing the area’s unique community through philanthropic actions within the community. Wall is truly the exemplary player and role model for children and adults alike to aspire to be.
After a poor start to the season, the Washington Wizards took the NBA by storm. This wasn’t by coincidence. It wasn’t chance and an easy schedule. It was the heart of the team that led them to the fourth seed in the East and a deep playoff run. The heart of this team is none other than John Wall. As Wall enters the statistically proven age of which the All-Star level NBA player begins his prime, look for Wall to conquer the East and make his way to the top of the entire NBA as one of, if not the, best pure point guard of the modern NBA.