John Wall has had a tough summer. First, he was bounced in the first round of the playoffs after an incredible series against the Raptors. Next, he appeared at Team USA’s training camp looking like three consecutive nights of being in Las Vegas wrapped into one. Then, ESPN’s NBA Rank was released and he was ranked 32nd behind the likes of Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday and even Jayson Tatum.
Wall has always been a polarizing player—either ranked too high or too low. But this just feels different. There were players on that list who you’d never think would surpass a five-time All-Star, but here we are.
As good as he has been, people are souring on Wall’s talent. He was ranked 9th on Bleacher Report’s top 15 point guard list. My mentions were invaded by folks who thought it was ridiculous that he even be compared to Kyle Lowry. There just aren’t many believers in Wall’s talents right now.
For good reason—he has his warts. His shot selection and distribution have been suspect throughout his career and last year it bit him hard. He shot 28 percent from midrange last year while taking 31 percent of his total shots from that area of the floor. He’s turnover prone and hasn’t been the same defender he’s been in the past.
But he’s still undoubtedly one of the most talented point guards in the league. When he’s healthy, no one gets from end to end faster. He’s an improved 3-point shooter who shot 37 percent from deep last year and has shot 34 percent from deep since 2014. He’s a solid finisher and an excellent passer who finds teammates in their right spots at all times.
So, yes, we’re probably in a space where Wall is underrated once again. He’s always been overlooked and part of that is because of Washington’s lack of success. Some of that is on him but most of it is on the team’s management and the talent he’s been surrounded by.
But none of that matters—the only thing people are interested in is results. National analysts don’t care that Wall missed half of the season last year because of a knee injury. Out of sight, out of mind. It doesn’t matter. If you don’t win, you’ll be overlooked.
Some will call that lazy analysis and, if we’re being honest, it is. There’s always context to every situation. But we have to remember, many of these folks are ranking hundreds of players and looking at all 30 teams. Honing in on Washington isn’t something we should expect, even if we think it’s the right thing to do.
Also remember this: rankings are a chore—especially in sports. They’re always subjective with the varying criteria different analysts have. Do we value efficiency more? Shot creation? Shooting? How do we even begin to evaluate defense?
Because of that, most of the time, they don’t matter. There are objective data points we can use to see where Wall stacks up with his peers. And the facts are that he did have a down year last year. He was hurt, yes, but the numbers are what they are.
Wall has accepted that, and so should we. “If there are 31 players better than me in the NBA, then prove it,” he said during his media day availability. “Prove it.”
We’ll have one of two results this year in regards to Wall: Either he’ll be underwhelming and the Wizards will have to worry about paying a third-tier guard $40 million in a few years or Wall will prove some folks wrong.
Either way, I’m looking forward to being along for the ride.