John Wall has made life easier for his teammates, including rookie Bradley Beal. Photo Credit: Keith Allison, Flickr.com
Here’s a question I’m pretty sure no one thought would be considered at any point this season: Is John Wall the most valuable player in the NBA?
Now, some of you probably think I’m crazy, but hold your horses. I didn’t say Most Valuable Player–that would be LeBron James this year–and no sane person is going to deny that. I’m not going to give MVP honors to someone who missed more than 30 games and neither would anyone else. Rather, I said most valuable player, as in the individual player who is most important to the team’s overall success. When looking at it from that perspective, Wall would have to be in the running.
At the start of the season, the Washington Wizards were dreadful, easily the worst team in the NBA, even if the Charlotte Bobcats gave them a run for their money. They started the season 5-28, killing any hopes of a playoff berth before we had even reached Christmas.
Really, though, it wasn’t just that the Wizards were losing–the basketball they were playing was just awful from an aesthetic standpoint, too. No one on the team could hit a shot–the team’s offense was a dictionary definition of “futility.” With Wall out of the lineup, A.J. Price, formerly of the Indiana Pacers, tried his best to keep the team afloat at the point guard spot, but failed miserably. Without Wall, the team was directionless and they quickly became the laughingstock of the league.
Since Wall has returned, the Wizards have done a complete 180. They have a 21-16 record in games Wall has played in and ever since mid-January, they’ve actually been one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. The degree to which this team improves with Wall in the lineup is stunning and it could be argued that no player in the league is more integral to his team’s success than he is.
LeBron James is obviously a more talented player than Wall, but if you replaced him with an ordinary small forward (Dorell Wright, for instance), the Heat would probably be OK. Dwyane Wade could simply take over his former role as an alpha dog, while Chris Bosh would thrive as a second banana. They would certainly win fewer games, but with the presence of Wade, Bosh, and a strong cast of role players, it would be hard to imagine that group not reaching the postseason.
But the Wizards? They’re hopeless without John Wall. It’s not just that his play is helping the team win games, it’s that he’s made everyone around him better since returning to the lineup. Bradley Beal has become a better shooter in recent months, while Emeka Okafor has shaken off a weak start and is putting up double-doubles left and right now that he gets to play with Wall. Even Martell Webster, who struggled mightily with the Minnesota Timberwolves last season, is having a career year. Really, everyone on this team has gotten better with Wall around.
After his first two years, people were talking about John Wall as though he was about to become a bust. His poor shooting and the weak play of the Wizards were the reasons for that, but lately, he’s putting all of that behind him. Wall is shooting a career high .445 from the field, while gradually figuring out how to shoot 3s again. More importantly, he’s finally figured out how to lead his team to victory, guiding a mediocre supporting cast to a fair amount of success. When looking at how much better the Wizards are with Wall in the lineup, it could be argued that he means to more his team than any individual player in the league. At any rate, it would be pretty hard to call him a bust now.