When the Washington Wizards granted John Wall a max-contract extension worth $80 million over 5 years during the offseason, many thought the Wizards were jumping the gun. Wall’s first three years in the NBA were anything but smooth. When Wall was drafted 1st overall in 2010, the Wizards franchise was in flux. Knuckleheads like Gilbert Arenas, JaVale McGee, Nick Young and Andray Blatche were Wall's teammates, and the team had no real direction or leadership. Aside from his immature teammates, Wall seemed to be constantly dealing with injuries as he missed 33 games during the 2012-13 season, which many thought would be his breakout year.
This season, with a roster full of players mature professionals and some seasoned veterans to push him, John Wall has elevated his game to a level many thought he was capable of and distractors claimed he would never reach. With the Wizards having their first winning campaign since the 2007-08 season, D.C. finally has a team to believe in. With obvious improvements in his play, maturity, drive and leadership, John Wall deserves the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.
After starting the season 2-7, the Wizards looked almost destined for another season of mediocrity. After their 7th loss, veterans Al Harrington and Trevor Ariza held a players-only team meeting and expressed to Wall that the team needed him to step up and lead them because he was their franchise player. Wall certainly has responded and has done so with a career year.
Not only are the Wizards the 5th seed in the East with a record of 35-31, they are winning close games that they have been notorious for losing in the past. John Wall’s late game heroics and leadership have helped the Wizards turn the corner and become a team that is no longer a push over. The Wizards have impressive victories over the Heat, Blazers, Thunder, Warriors, Suns, Bulls (2), Nets (3) and Raptors this season.
John Wall received his first all-star selection this season and has posted stellar numbers with 19.8 ppg , 8.7 apg, 1.9 spg and a player efficiency rating of 20.25, all career-highs. Wall has been arguably the third best point guard in the league this season behind Chris Paul and Steph Curry. He has undoubtedly been the best point guard in the Eastern Conference.
The biggest knock on Wall’s game throughout his young career is his lack of a reliable perimeter shot. This year he has added a mid-range jumper and three-point shot to his repertoire, forcing defenses to play him more honestly. Wall is a career 30 percent shooter from beyond the arc. This season he is shooting a respectable 35.5 percent, which believe it or not is better than well-respected shooter and all-star James Harden (35.2%). Wall is also shooting a career-high free throw percentage at 81.8.
Aside from his career-high statistics, Wall’s leadership and attitude on the court are noticeably improved this season. The Wizards thrive when Wall plays hard on both ends of the floor and this season he has done so on a more consistent basis.
“When you’re an All-Star, you have to step up and take on a bigger role,” Wall told BasketballInsiders.com. “That’s the situation I’m willing to accept and do and something I’ve been doing all year in being a leader. The one thing I think I proved and learned is that you don’t have to do it all by just scoring. You do it by doing different things, in playing better defense, getting your teammates involved and just having that energy that I have when I play well against those other point guards who do it on a consistent basis.”
“He makes this team go,” Ariza told Basketball Insiders. “We’re going to go as far as he takes us. He makes all of the plays and he’s becoming a really good leader here. He’s been unbelievable for this team.”
The tone in D.C. is different these days in regard to their Washington Wizards, as fans finally have a playoff-caliber team worth cheering for and John Wall is looking like a budding superstar realizing his vast potential. Wall has improved in every phase of his game and the basketball world is taking notice. Wall's most recent standout moment came last Saturday in a statement home victory over the Brooklyn Nets where he contributed 33 points and led a Wizards rally from a 12-point deficit. Wall concluded the game with a breakaway left-handed dunk. After the slam Wall yelled, “This is my city,” while running down the court. One thing we do know is D.C. is lucky to have him.
“John, when he plays like this, they’re tough to beat,” Deron Williams told the New York Daily News.
With an improved game, demeanor and leadership, John Wall has led the notoriously lowly Wizards back to respectability and into playoff contention. That in itself makes John Wall worthy of the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.
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