Projecting John Wall’s Career Assist Rank


John Wall’s 2016-17 campaign was the finest of his seven-year career. He established career highs in points, assists, and steals while shooting a career-best 45 percent from the field, leading the Washington Wizards within a game of the Eastern Conference Finals. Wall’s assist tally was particularly impressive as he upped his assists per game for the fourth straight season, finishing third in the NBA in total assists behind only possession-consuming dynamos James Harden and Russell Westbrook.

Wall’s 831 assists last year raised his career regular season total, in seven years of NBA play, to 4,610. Only 26 years old, Wall now ranks 72nd in career NBA assists – directly behind Wilt Chamberlain, Joe Dumars, and Jason Williams. Among active players, Wall ranks 12th in career assists, behind Chris Paul, LeBron James, Deron Williams, Tony Parker, Rajon Rondo, Jason Terry, Russell Westbrook, Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson, Jose Calderon, and Raymond Felton. For his age, Wall ranks fourth all time; the table below shows the assist totals of the five players that reached 4,500 assists before their 27th birthday. 

Rank

Player

Assists Before Age 27

Career Total

1.

Isiah Thomas

5,557

9,061

2.

Magic Johnson

5,202

10,141

3.

Chris Paul

4,771

8,251+

4.

John Wall

4,610

4,610+

5.

Stephon Marbury

4,584

6,471

As a pass-first point guard, Wall is perfectly positioned to catapult up the career assist standings. Wall’s gaudy assist tally over the last four seasons - 721, 792, 789, and 831 – has allowed him to ascend the assist rankings rapidly.   While injuries make projections a precarious endeavor, Wall’s future is remarkably clear, despite playing in a uniquely transient era. The extension Wall signed this offseason places him on the Wizards for the next five seasons, through the 2021-22 season, with a player option for the 2022-23 season. 

It is conceivable that Wall will rank in the top ten in career assists by the time his extension concludes after the 2022-23 season. Wall will reach 9,596 assists before his 33rd birthday if he replicates last season’s assist tally for the next six seasons. If Wall manages this feat, the assist leaderboard would likely have him at number ten, behind six retired players and three current players

Rank After 2022-23

Player

Career Assists

1.

John Stockton

15,806

2.

Jason Kidd

12,091

3.

Steve Nash

10,335

4.

Mark Jackson

10,334

5.

Magic Johnson

10,141

6.

Oscar Robertson

9,887

Current Players

Chris Paul

 

LeBron James

Russell Westbrook

10.

John Wall

9,596

One can argue that this projection is overly optimistic. Wall played 78 games in 2016-17, above his average of 70 games coming into the season. Additionally, Wall averaged 10.7 assists per games, surpassing his career average of 9.0 before the 2016-17 season. But, even if Wall records only 630 assists (nine a game for seventy games) per season for the next six years, he will reach 8,390 assists by end of the 2022-23 season, likely putting him 12th all time (the same ten in the chart above as well as Gary Payton and Isiah Thomas).

While Wall’s game is heavily reliant on his elite athleticism and acceleration, traits that do not generally age well, there is no reason to think that his career will end after the completion of his current contract extension. Even if he manages a few injury-plagued seasons through his mid-thirties, Wall will continue to climb the assist rankings. If Wall reaches age 33 with roughly 9,000 assists he will be less than two full seasons behind a quartet of passing legends – Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, Mark Jackson, and Steve Nash.

If Wall remains relatively healthy and continues his elite passing play it is certainly possible that he finishes in the top five of career regular season assists. John Stockton and Steve Nash’s assist totals are likely out of reach and banana boat compatriots Chris Paul and LeBron James should enter the top five before their careers conclude, but everyone else is within reach. For Wall to reach the top five he likely will need to pass Russell Westbrook, a probable event given that Westbrook is less than 700 assists ahead of Wall despite being two years older. While most of Wall’s career remains unwritten, the all-time assist rankings could look like the chart below when Wall leaves the NBA.

Rank

Player

Career Assists

1.

John Stockton

15,806

2.

Chris Paul

12,500

3.

Jason Kidd

12,091

4.

LeBron James

11,500

5.

John Wall

10,500

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