WASHINGTON -- John Wall can check another criticism off the list on his phone.
At the depth of the Wizards struggles in 2013, now-Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy suggested Wall wasn't a franchise player. Van Gundy walked back those comments, but any lingering doubts surely went away after Wall turned in a 27 point, 11 assist performance in a win over Van Gundy's Pistons at Verizon Center on Wednesday.
When the Wizards weren't making shots early and the Pistons guards were hitting everything in sight, Wall took it upon himself to attack the basket and manufacture fouls and points in the early going, getting to the foul line 10 times in the first quarter alone. When he wasn't pressuring the Pistons' defense at the rim, he was finding open teammates and setting them up for quality looks that only sometimes went in.
"When we started getting down, I started to say, ‘Attack,' I just to get my teammates going, get those guys in rhythm," Wall said.
This is an evolution from last year, when Wall's free-throw rate was cut down considerably as he worked to improve his outside shot. After averaging just 4.8 free throws per 36 minutes last year, Wall is up to 7.4 this season, a career high. He is now willing to force the action when needed, like it was on Wednesday.
That was important because Wall's offense seemed to be the only thing keeping Washington in the game in the early going. Without Wall, Brandon Jennings' hot streak is enough to give Detroit the win.
And with Paul Pierce and Garrett Temple continuing their recent troubles from deep -- not to mention Nene struggling around the rim -- Wall had to find other players to get involved in the offense. And find them he did, in the form of newcomers Rasual Butler and Kris Humphries. Humphries showed the midrange prowess he demonstrated in Boston wasn't an anomaly, looking increasingly comfortable while scoring 10 points on the night.
Wall's ability to make his teammates shine was in full display in the unexpectedly strong play of Butler. who was 7-8 on the night for 18 points. With the Wizards down 96-92, Wall fed Butler for two key jumpers to give the Wizards a one-point lead with around five minutes left.
Then, it was Wall himself who got the Wizards ahead for the final time, taking Jennings off the dribble and hitting a floater with over a minute left. The Pistons would never regain the lead.
Yet the biggest number in Wall's statline was 1. As in, one turnover in 37 minutes on the court despite his aggressive attacking of the basket. This hits right at the core of Van Gundy's previous criticism of Wall:
"I think he's got great speed and quickness, but point guard is a decision-making position. That's what makes you great as a point guard, is your decision-making. I haven't seen any indication that John Wall is a great decision-maker"
Wall improvement as a decision maker on offense were on full display Wednesday. He pushed the ball against a Pistons defense that was missing it's main rim protector for long periods due to foul trouble and found open teammates when he needed to pass the ball. Though Jennings got his points and had an excellent nigh offensively, Wall was there for the Wizards to make the key plays down the stretch.
When Van Gundy made his comments about Wall, he also spoke of the Wizards apparent failure in rebuilding, saying "I'd love to tell you you're two years away, but I really don't [see it]."
It's two years later, and the Wizards are 6-2 and atop the Southeast Division. You can see what Wall and his Wizards are building.