The first round of 2018 NBA All-Star Game fan voting is out and John Wall, who was named 3rd Team All-NBA last season, was just fifth among Eastern Conference guards in votes. He trailed leading vote-getter Kyrie Irving by more than 600,000 votes.
Here’s the thing though, Wall hasn’t earned a starting spot with his play so far this season. I will readily admit that merit has rarely been the primary impetus behind the fan vote, but it’s hard to generate fan buzz when you aren’t playing as well as previous seasons. Compare his stats this season with his averages over the past four seasons when he was named an All-Star:
To take it a step further, here’s a look at how his numbers have changed just since last season:
Stats don’t always define a players worth on the floor, and as we’ve seen over the course of his career in Washington, his value is in his ability to elevate the level of play of the players around him. That being said, the sharp decline in individual productivity is hard to dismiss.
Relative to the bar he set for himself last season, and the bar that was set for him when he signed a supermax deal this summer, he’s underachieving this season. While he’s taken better care of the basketball and has turned into the team’s best rim protector on a per game basis (shame on you Ian), he has not been nearly as efficient overall as last season.
Through his first 28 games, he has only one 30-point game and just ten double-digit assist games. In comparison, through his first 28 games last season, he had four 30-point games (including a 52 point effort) and 17 double-digit assist games.
A big part of the issue is he just isn’t shooting as well as he has in past seasons. Per NBA.com, he is shooting 27.3 percent on mid-range shots, after shooting 38.7 percent from that same range last season. When you’re shooting percentage drops that drastically on what was already an inefficient part of your game, that’s a problem!
Then there’s the Wizards’ underachievement. Washington was expected to be near the top of the Eastern Conference, but they’ve fallen short of expectations, thanks in part to ten losses against teams with losing records, including some embarrassing performances against Atlanta and Brooklyn, as well as getting LaVar Ball’d in Los Angeles early in the season.
That being said, all is not lost. The Wizards have been playing better basketball now that he’s healthy. They’ve gone 9-3 since his return from PRP treatment and are currently a riding a four-game winning streak. He also put together an impressive performance in a showcase game against Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics on Christmas Day, leading the Wizards to perhaps their best win of the season.
It’s also worth keeping in mind it usually takes him some time to get going each season. The past two seasons he got off to rough starts in November only to go on and win Eastern Conference Player of the Month honors in December.
Yes, I know we’re past December now, but consider this: After his first 11 games last season, he (and the Wizards) hit their stride as he averaged 23.6 points, 10.6 assists, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.5 steals per game on 47.8 percent shooting from the field over their next 19 games. The team’s record over that stretch was 12-7, a .632 winning clip. We’re now 12 games into John’s comeback from PRP treatment (albeit it without a preseason) but perhaps we’re on the verge of another turnaround as Wall has played two of his best games of the season against the Knicks and Grizzlies.
Wall still has time to build his resume with the fans with five games remaining before the fan vote ends. During that stretch the Wizards will face Giannis Antetokounmpo, who led all players in the first returns from the fan vote, two times and they play three games versus sub .500 teams, including a revenge matchup against a Utah Jazz team that took the Wizards to the woodshed earlier this season.
It’s not a lot of time but it is a great opportunity, especially with four of these five games coming at the Capital One Arena, for him and the team to push towards the top of the Eastern Conference and maybe, just maybe, we’ll finally get to see what Wolf Season is all about.