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Roundtable: Should John Wall return to the Wizards before this season ends?

The Washington Wizards point guard is getting closer to an NBA return, most likely for next season. But should he return sooner to shake off some rust?

Milwaukee Bucks v Washington Wizards
John Wall looks a lot like his old self. But is it time for him to return?
Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

This roundtable comes as an extension from our February 2020 mailbag. Bullets Forever community member jahidiwhite asked a question on whether the Wizards are “making the right call to have John Wall sit out the season.” Alan Jenkins gave a quick response, stating that the Wizards are right to sit him out. However, multiple writers on our team wanted to add their perspectives. Our responses are below.

Albert Lee: Alan and I both agree that Wall should sit out the rest of the 2019-20 NBA season. But then again, there is an argument that Wall should play a few games this season, even if it’s just to shake off some rust. Any thoughts?

Benjamin Mehic: Besides selfish reasons — and I totally understand wanting to watch Wall play from a fan’s perspective — I can’t think of why Wall should play. The Wizards aren’t contending for a championship and he’s coming off perhaps the most serious injury a basketball player could suffer. He needs to be in great basketball-playing shape before suiting up against NBA-level competition again.

Dunking on assistant coaches is one thing. Being met at the rim by, say, Rudy Gobert is another. Washington is taking all the necessary steps to ensure he’s completely healthy, and that includes being in terrific game-shape. Another summer to get into that shape should help.

Alan Jenkins: Again, the Wizards are making the right call to sit Wall out the entire season. Social media posts and being ready for games are two different things. Taking a conservative approach on this injury is the right way to go.

Osman Baig: Assuming all the medical caveats and he is in basketball shape (and then some), I think he should play a few games before the end of the season. Wall last played a live NBA basketball game in December 2018.

If Wall doesn’t return until the start of the 2020-2021 season, it will have been 22 months he’s gone without NBA game action! There’s health related rust he has to shake off and there’s also basketball rust he’s going to have to deal with. Getting a preliminary read on where he stands with a handful of April basketball games under his belt could help him hone in on where to focus as he prepares for what everyone hopes is a full season starting next October.

In a season of development, it’s easy to forget that Wall’s recovery and what they can expect from him is also a part of that. It wouldn’t give the organization the full picture by any means, but it could give them an idea of where he is at and what he might and more importantly might not be able to do anymore as they moves towards their off-season planning.

They can take precautions for sure; don’t have him play back to backs, limit his minutes, and maybe even limit him to home games only so he can go through a full pregame routine – whatever their medical staff deems fit.

Again though, that all said, if there’s any medical or basketball shape reservations, then absolutely sit him.

Albert: Like Ben, Alan and Osman have noted, it is important to keep a long-term picture in mind with Wall’s recovery from an Achilles injury. Though he could possibly play a few minutes here and there, the risk of re-injury could be too great — and more disastrous should it happen again.

But as Osman specifically noted, Wall will be playing his first games on the court in nearly two years if he doesn’t do so again until October. It still takes time for a player to get into “game shape” which is different than being physically fit. If Wall’s recovery is on the right track to possibly play this season, it may not be a bad idea for him to practice — and even suit for — the Capital City Go-Go on a rehab assignment.

As a veteran, Wall has to agree to be with the G-League team for this to work out, in addition to him being in “game shape.” However, getting some more competitive reps with Capital City can be another gradual step toward his eventual NBA return besides being thrust into the starting lineup in day one.