An uneven and disappointing start of the season just got worse with the injury to John Wall's knee. Here's how things need to come together to keep the team afloat.
Following the Wizards incredibly disappointing game against Portland, they will be without John Wall for at least the next 7 games due to inflammation in his left knee, though that might be a conservative estimate. Wall has had his injury issues in the past and knee problems, in particular, can be tricky. Even in the best case scenario if he is able to return in 2 weeks, he will most likely need some time to work back to 100%. Currently 10-9 on the season, the season so far has been very up and down, with the team currently having difficulties closing teams out in the 4th quarter. Still, Washington has the potential to be in the mix to be in the top tier of the Eastern Conference as the dust begins to settle.
John Wall brings so much to the table, in terms of running the offense, scoring, aggressive defense, finding open players, driving the lane, an insane amount of blocked shots for a point guard, general leadership, and highlight reel plays. You can’t truly replace him with any one player, but with the combined efforts of the entire team, the Wizards can stay afloat maintaining a .500 record during this relatively winnable stretch of upcoming games.
Beal makes his All-Star Case
Bradley Beal has been enjoying a career year in scoring (24.1 ppg) and has really worked on adding driving to the basket to his game, to the tune of 5.7 free throw attempts per game, which is a 25% increase from last season. Being the Robin to Wall’s Batman throughout his career has allowed him the freedom to develop his specific skillsets without the burden of the team relying on him in the same way they rely on Wall. Now Beal gets to take control and put the team on his shoulders, increasing his scoring load (could flirt with 30 ppg during this period) and taking on more responsibilities as a ball handler, where he could average more than 5 assists per game. These next few weeks will be truly Beal’s time to shine and be his personal campaign to make his first all-star game.
Frazier runs a consistent and productive offense
While Beal will take on more responsibilities, Frazier will serve as the team’s main facilitator on offense, and he marks the first time Wall has had a truly competent backup. While never approaching what Wall can do in any way, he will be a steadying hand and run an efficient offense. Like Wall, he excels at setting teammates up and will show his worth during Wall’s absence. His per 36 numbers show 7.6 points, 8 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 2 steals, and 3.3 turnovers. We can expect similar per game numbers, with a slight increase in scoring and probably fewer assists than those averages for the time being.
Markieff gets up to speed
Morris has gotten off to a slow start this season after missing time with an injury and suspension. His production is way down, averaging 9.8 points and 4.6 boards, but a big part of that is his inability to stay on the court. He may still be dealing with residuals from nagging injuries, working his way back into game shape, or a combination of the two. Markieff is one of the few guys on the team that can truly help in replacing some of the scoring load lost from Wall being on the sidelines. The Wizards really need him to sort out whatever is limiting his minutes and get his playing time closer to the 31.2 minutes per game he averaged last season. Finding his rhythm with Gortat will also be important to maintain decent offensive output.
Porter needs to transform into the new Beal
With a surprisingly low usage (17.3%) for such an effective and efficient player, Porter must now step up and be the secondary go-to scorer for a team that will badly need it while Wall is out. Frazier and Beal should still get him plenty of catch and shoot opportunities, but this is a time where he will need to expand his game and figure out how to create shots on his own as well. As the current highest player on the team, he won’t have to put his team on his shoulders like Beal, but he will need to slide into that 1B role and pick up more of the slack.
Oubre steps up his defensive intensity
Wall is a unique defensive player. He gambles too much, which leaves the Wizards underperforming rim defenders in a tough spot too often. What he does bring is incredible athleticism, explosion, timing, and foot speed. He has the ability to truly lock down opposing point guards and his knack for chasing down blocks from behind is unprecedented from a point guard. In previous seasons he had the record for blocks per game from a point guard at 0.7 and this season so far he has been averaging an absurd 1.1. It might sound ridiculous, but he might be the best rim protector on the team. With Beal carrying the load offensively, it's up to the dynamic Oubre to step up his defensive intensity and provide consistent lockdown defense, gritty defensive play, and the occasional sensational highlight defensive play. With his wingspan and ability to excel defensively in short bursts, he can help fill some of the void from not having Wall on the court. While he’s at it, he should keep hitting those 3’s too.
Satoransky can prove why he’s on the team
Tomas Satoransky came into the league with some hype after excelling in Europe. His size (6’7) is a rare commodity at the point guard position and his athleticism and explosiveness have him in consideration for the dunk contest. He has the ability to play the 1, 2 or 3 which is a huge plus, but up to this point, he has not proved his worth. Whether that’s due to lack of opportunity or lack of trust from the coaching staff, he has not been able to show much. It’s gonna take all hands on deck to help keep the team on the rails while Wall is out and Satoransky should see a decent minutes increase and hopefully show off his versatility.
Overall Team Effort
While nobody is coming close to replacing Wall, the team can come together and maintain their roughly .500 record. This is an opportunity for every other player on the team to step up and show what they're capable. Beal can elevate to become a true star, Porter can show he has the chops to be the #2 option when needed. The other starters can help carry more load and the bench has an opportunity to showcase skills in a way they might not have had up to this point. Looking ahead to 2-3 weeks into the future, hopefully, the Wizards can hand over a decent record, something like 15-14, back to Wall as he attempts to lead this team back into the East elite conversation.