With Washington’s John Wall now 15 games past his initial return to the lowly Wizards team that drafted him, the team’s chemistry, energy and effort have all taken strong strides in this short amount of time. As heartwarming as it is to see a star-in-the making lead his struggling squad to a miraculous playoff birth, this simply isn’t in the cards for the Wizards. As of February 7th, John Hollinger’s playoffs odds on ESPN.com give Washington a 1.4 percent chance of making the playoffs this year. Those odds are about as slim as my abs, yet there are a bountiful of things the Wizards are doing very right thanks to Wall’s comeback that bodes well for their future, and could even set the foundation for building a solid playoff team.
When developing such a young team that has not been able to play significant minutes together on the floor, you want to win games in order to build as much chemistry as possible. Enough so that even with additional player acquisitions, say, over the summer, the Wizards can have a bit of momentum going into the 2013-2014 season. A prime example of this would be the 23-59 Oklahoma City Thunder of 2009. Before the All-Star break they had a putrid 13-40 record, but they closed the season 10-19. That’s a 10% boost in winning percentage, and the following year they were a 50-32 playoff team.
Now Wall is attempting to create a similar outcome for his Wizards. You can already see the growing bond with his teammates and the obvious jump in team morale, confidence and energy since his return. They hold a 8-7 record since his return, a solid over .500 mark with wins against the Atlanta Hawks, Denver Nuggets, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers and New York Knicks. During this stretch Wall’s averages have been pedestrian – 14.1 points, 6.8 assists a night with a 48% true-shooting percentage in only 27 minutes of action per game. Rust is a factor, as he’s missed most of the first half of the season because of a left knee injury suffered during the past offseason. However, his impact has not been anywhere close to minimal.
Of all Wizards players, Washington has its second-best NetRTG (Offensive Rating subtracted by Defensive Rating) when Wall plays. Since Wall has returned, the pace of the Wizards (possessions per 48 minutes) per NBA.com has shot up from a 94.35 season average to 96.01 in the last 15 contests, thus boosting their PPG from 91.3 to 95.7, which would rank them 11 spots higher then their current standing. The 6.8 assists per game is misleading, with Wall’s penetration and speed creating golden opportunities for teammates, who all have significantly better shooting percentages when Wall is playing. From a new NBA stats site nbawowy.com, rookie Bradley Beal’s eFG% is a 45% on the season, and 56.7% when Wall is on the court. Veteran Martell Webster has an eFG% of 55.8% on the season and it shoots to 66.7% with Wall on the court. This is no wizardry at work, only a gifted player trying to win game after game.
Ever since John Wall has donned his Wizards uniform once again, the team has been reborn and has played at a new level. Although there lies only a minuscule chance that this team can make the playoffs this season, if Wall can help this squad win games in the final stretch of the year, it could prove worthwhile for the team’s short and long term future led by their point guard.