What We Learned From John Wall's Absence


At the onset of John Wall’s injury, it set up an interesting exercise as to how the Wizards could do during his absence. Based on the 9 games he was out, the Wizards were more or less able to keep the train from going off the track going 4-5 across 9 games (7 away games) and not hindering the team’s standing too much in the Eastern Conference. Since coming back, the Wizards are playing well, going 2-1, including a revenge game against the Los Angeles Clippers and a competitive and close loss to the Cavs. Obviously, the team is much better with Wall on the court, but what else did we learn? Here are some quick hits on what we learned about the other players on the team.

Yes, Bradley Beal is a Star

Beal was expected to step up with Wall down, and he answered the call with exuberance. A few duds during this period kept him averaging 23.4 points per game, not the 30 I was expecting. He showed off his lethal scoring with a career game, scoring 51 against Portland. That was to be expected. What he also showed was that he can now lead a team effectively, keeping games close and managing to win nearly half without his superstar backcourt mate. He’s not at Wall level, but he has shown he can hold his own.

When Given Time, Mike Scott Can Fill It Up

Scott's minute fluctuated during this period of the schedule, which might be my current bone to pick with coach Scott Brooks. He has shown that when he gets burn he becomes one of the best scorers off the bench. Drilling 3’s and clutch shots, he stretched the floor to the tune of 7.8 points in only 16.5 minutes, and had a huge game against the Clippers, scoring 22. Having the Regional Manager to come off the bench or for the occasional spot start is a big man luxury that the team has rarely experienced. Unfortunately, the Wizards signed him off the scrap heap to a 1-year deal. Scott is gonna get paid next season.

Otto Might Still Be Best As a 3rd Wheel

Most eyes were on Otto, where I previously hoped that he would become the new Beal while Wall was out. His play was inconsistent and frustrating at times. Averaging just 14.6 points on an inefficient 43% shooting is not going to cut it when Wall is out. Porter had a slight uptick in shots, but he never seemed to take control or demand the ball like most Wizards fans have been craving. Maybe it's his personality, but he has never shown that type of assertion, so it may have been naive to think this situation would change things.

Satoransky Should Be the Backup Point Guard

Sato had been an afterthought for the team after a disappointing rookie season. For anyone on the team, he was the player who could most capitalize on Wall’s absence. He did just that. Averaging 8.4 points on an efficient 53% shooting, while averaging 4.4 assists and only 0.2 turnovers per game (ridiculous 20 assist/turnover ratio), he displayed all of the versatility and efficiency that fans had been hoping for when he joined the team. He outplayed Frazier most nights and carved out a role for himself, proving to many that he is the better player than Frazier. The telling stat is their minutes comparison. After the first game without Wall, Frazier played more minutes than Satoransky once, with Sato averaging more than 2 more minutes per game. It does open the question of why Brooks had played him so sparingly up to this point.

Gortat is Declining

The aging center has had less of an impact this season. With his play seemingly declining, the old man (he’s actually only 33 years old) was expected to increase his scoring to help fill the void. He struggled to score, averaging 6.3 points on 44% shooting. He did manage to continue average rebounding (7.1 per game), but his blocks have been non-existent (2 total across the 9 games). Oddly enough he had 2 games with 4 steals each, pushing his average for this period to 1.2 steals per game. His game will continue to not age well, and the Wizards will have some major questions coming up with Gortat’s lack of scoring or defensive production. To be fair, being without Wall probably affects Gortat’s offensive game more than most as he is pretty reliant on their solid pick and roll game.

Markieff is Still Not Right

Being one of the more skilled offensive players on the team, Markieff was also expected to step up his scoring. What we got instead was extreme inconsistency. He had huge games with lines of 23 points and 21 points. Contrast that with games of 2, 2, and 6 points. That’s not good for a starting power forward, even if the minutes have been slow to grow, averaging 23.8 minutes per game during this period. Coming off of injury, he was expected to slowly ramp things up. When Wall went out, it seemed like the ideal situation for Markieff to flex. He didn’t fully respond and it leaves questions about why his overall play has worsened from last year. With Gortat’s scoring down, the team needs him more than ever. Also of note is his pitiful rebounding, averaging 3.3 rebounds during this period, which for a 6’10 enforcer, makes little sense. It was never his strong suit, but those are point guard rebounding numbers. Hopefully, it’s just taking the rust longer to shake off, but his play has been concerning.

Positives and Negatives

When situations get difficult, peoples’ true colors shine. With Wall out, players strengths and weaknesses were amplified. On the positive end, Beal played well as expected, while Scott continued to show his value, and Satoransky surprised everyone with quality play. On the negative aspect, Porter didn’t truly step up and the starting frontcourt continued to disappoint. Hopefully, the Wizards won’t have to worry about being without Wall for the rest of the season. With his time off, certain players have stepped up from their existing roles, shown they are deserving of more minutes, and more money, while others have been disappointing, struggling with consistency and may be liabilities as the Wizards aim for the playoffs.

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