Over the past 7 seasons, we have witnessed the methodical climb of John Wall from the NBA’s version of the Flash to legitimate NBA Superstar. Through a combination of factors and situations, Wall’s progression has seen a steady but slow climb. Wall has been putting his head down and working his way up the chain. In many ways, his organization has failed him throughout his career, but John Wall is too good to be denied.
2010 - 2013 - Young Buck
Dougie-ing his way into national media recognition, John Wall was appointed the savior of the franchise when the Wizards picked him at #1. He had the unenviable task of sharing the court and same position as previous team alpha/weirdo/shoe pooper, Gilbert Arenas. Through this period of finding his way, he was also dealt the strike-shortened season of 11-12 and suffered a kneecap injury in the 2012-2013 season that left him out of the first 33 seasons. During this period, the Wizards were in a serious identity crisis, building a poorly constructed team, with GM Ernie Grunfeld striking out on all of his nonobvious draft picks. More on him later.
Receiving the not ideal situation of sharing the backcourt with Arenas, carrying a poor and oddly-constructed roster, while trying to find his place in the league, and learning to not kick it into turbo on every possession, Wall managed to put together his best statistical season after coming back from injury in 12-13, averaging 18.5 points, 7.6 assists, 4 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 0.8 blocks (great from the PG position). He did all of this while also improving his efficiency with a true shooting percent of 52.1. He was learning how to really play at the highest level.
2013-2016 - Emerging Star
This era was defined by 3 straight All-Star appearances and 2 playoff births, getting to the 2nd round once. Looking deeper into the numbers Wall took control on the team, leading in scoring all 3 years, moving his assists into double digits, increasing steals, effective field goal %, and 3 point attempts. The Wizards slowly built a solid team around Wall with the likes of potential star Bradley Beal, 3 and D wing Trevor Ariza, and a legitimate big man in the Polish Hammer, Marcin Gortat. Along the way, they added Otto Porter and Markief Morris while losing Ariza to free agency.
2016-2017 - Next Level
23.1 points, 10.7 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 2 steals, and a true shooting % of 54.1 combined with a 49 win season and a hotly contested 2nd round against the East-leading Boston Celtics solidified Wall as a top talent. In the playoffs, he took his scoring to over 27 points and hit a highlight reel game-winner against the Celtics. That series also showed Wall being leaned on too hard with fatigue setting in and definitely affecting the final outcome.
How Management Failed Him
GM Ernie Grunfeld should not have a job in the NBA as a GM. Somehow he has been able to coast off of once finding Michael Redd in the 2nd round, and drafting obvious future stars. In between this, he has managed to botch most first-round picks with the likes of Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton, Juan Dixon, and um...Alexey Pecherov. He then managed to mix in solid trades that helped fix problems he created through his poor decisions (trading away this year’s first rounder to get bench help in Bogdanovich and more importantly, erase the mistake of signing free agent Andrew Nicholson). Through all of this poor team building, Wall has finally found his way to leading a very good team, surrounded by Beal, Porter, Morris, Gortat, Kelly Oubre and a slightly improved bench.
2017-2018 - Elite
The team has remained relatively the same as last season. The good news is that the rest of the Eastern Conference has quickly declined during the offseason. The Cavs are dealing with some notable turnover and the Celtics had the unfortunate luck of Gordon Hayward’s seemingly season-ending injury in the opener.The Wizards are locked into this current team with Wall, Beal, and Porter all signed through the next few years, and they have almost nothing to show for a young core to help supplement. They made some solid smaller moves including signing a much improved backup backcourt in Tim Frazier and sharpshooter Jodie Meeks. Both players will help the team and thrive playing off of Wall. With better help, expect Wall’s minutes to decline from 36.4 last year to closer to 35. This should help keep him healthy and rested enough so we don't have a repeat of last season’s playoff exit. There will most likely be a dip in his stats, particularly scoring, but he should still post elite point guard numbers. With a hefty 17 nationally televised games, including a prime Christmas day game in Boston, Wall’s exposure will be at an all-time high. NBA fans will finally witness and truly appreciate Wall’s elite speed, athleticism, and vision, and they will be watching him carry a team towards the top of the east.
John Wall has experienced a gradual buildup to his superstar status. He was frequently failed by management in building the right team around him. Despite it, they are solidly in the top 4 of the eastern conference and for the first time have a legitimate shot to pass the 2nd round and even get into the NBA Finals (still a longshot). Wall’s game has continued to evolve and grow while maintaining an impressive and unshakeable belief in himself. The stage is set for national exposure and Wall is ready to make that last leap and be included in MVP conversations.