Note: I’m aware John Wall won’t be playing tonight, but this is about the state of the Wizards, and Wall is in integral part of that conversation. So. Enjoy.
One of my good friends has been dating a girl for nearly a year. She is his first girlfriend in a very, very long time, and as is wont to happen in such situations, he got very invested in the relationship very quickly. This led to the usual series of bad early relationship decisions. They hung out constantly, incessantly, exclusively. Despite the fact that she lived several hours away, he packed up his life and moved in with her after a month of dating.
Predictably, this didn’t go well, and he moved back home a few months later. But they are still doing that annoying “will they? won’t they?” dance that couples who can’t make up their minds tend to do. Instead of ending the relationship and allowing the other party to move on, both are clinging to something that hasn’t really worked in the past and doesn’t seem likely to work in the future.
When the Washington Wizards picked John Wall first in the 2010 NBA Draft, they were largely applauded for picking one of the few potential superstars available, perhaps the only “certain” one. They’ve acted accordingly since drafting him. After surrounding him with a group of young potential talent, they discovered that a young point guard will struggle to produce and develop when combined with a shoot-first-second-AND-third guard like Nick Young and a big man in need of his own instruction like JaVale McGee. When McGee/Young and company didn’t work, Washington dealt for a pair of big men, Nene and defensive stalwart Emeka Okafor, in an attempt to surround Wall with quality role players and to change the Wizard’s culture, and to be fair, Washington is a darkhorse contender for the 8th seed in the playoffs. But whether the Wizards make the playoffs or not, they won’t be contenders. Just a four game roadblock for Miami.
Please note my emphasis on this: Two years is almost certainly too early to give up on a young point guard. But two years is also enough time to get a glimpse into what a player’s future may entail, and in his first two NBA seasons, John Wall has been underwhelming. It’s not that he’s been bad, it’s that he’s been less than a superstar. And Washington desperately needs a superstar.
He has shown flashes, to be sure. Wall’s athleticism is undeniable. He is ready and willing to share the ball, averaging eight assists per 36 minutes last season. Another encouraging sign: Wall’s TS% climbed slightly from his rookie to his sophomore season. It wasn’t a huge leap but given Wall’s historically horrendous 3-point shooting in his sophomore campaign, the leap represented a smarter mentality, a player willing to work around his own weaknesses.
But should he be working around his own weaknesses, or should he be trying to improve them? Wall’s 3-point percentage, in 42 attempts, was an abysmal .071. Much has been made about Rondo’s need for a jumpshot, but teams can REALLY sag off Wall, limiting the effectiveness of his speed and athleticism.
The Wizards haven’t made the playoffs since ’08, so investing in and attempting to build around their best player (instead of blowing things up and starting over) makes sense, at least on paper. But the questions continue for Washington. Is John Wall worth building around? Can he become a franchise superstar? Is he a potential cornerstone for a winning franchise? Or would it be wiser to sell shares while they still have value and reboot once again? At what point in a relationship do you simply say “ENOUGH” and throw in the towel?
Starting over sucks. But drawing a relationship out well passed the obvious point at which it should have ended sucks even more.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.