One is fact, one is speculation. The Washington Wizards believe that whatever struggles John Wall had in the past, they shouldn’t be standing in his way to be a franchise player on a playoff team for them, giving him a max deal, which seems to also give him enough confidence to call himself the best point guard in the NBA.
In an interview with Chris Mannix on HoopMixTape.com, Wall answered questions about the best point guards in the league. Just like Derrick Rose two weeks earlier calling himself the best player in the NBA, Wall didn’t show any signs of being shy or lacking confidence, saying that based on what he thinks he can do in the future, he’s the best in the NBA.
Right now? No. Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, Derrick Rose (if he’s healthy), Tony Parker and the list goes on. Considering athletic abilities, Wall might be the most gifted one. Considering the Wizards’ second half of the season, Wall enjoying the best of his career so far (averaging 18.5 points per game), maybe he has a point.
Numbers suggest that right now, Wall isn’t that special of a point guard. On A Substitute for War, they compared Wall to Brandon Jennings and Jeff Teague in numbers and also the less measurable aspects of his game. Wall is a bad shooter from the outside, making 26.7% of his shots last season. He isn’t as efficient with the ball, even when compared to Jennings who is the master of bad shots (39.9% from the field last season), by simply not having a much better production than both players despite touching the ball a lot more.
The Wizards didn’t want to risk losing Wall, thinking he was going to get a maximum offer next summer anyway. However, he did half a season last year and missed 13 games during his rookie season. For the $80 million he’ll be getting, he’s somewhat of an injury risk, and with the Wizards giving him his extension a year early (will make $7.3 million on his rookie deal), they’re taking a Gilbert Arenas size risk.
The question is how does Wall improve himself as a point guard. Not just the numbers (7.6 assists last season), but actually learning how to “feel” the game better. The popular criticism of him is about playing the game too fast. Wall just runs at full speed, because he can, not even noticing if his teammates are catching up or are on the same page. Again, in that comparison with Teague and Jennings, Wall doesn’t finish on top.
NBA decisions are based on potential plenty of times, and so many of the max deals handed out to players are based on guessing. James Harden wasn’t a max contract kind of player for the Thunder, or at least not given that kind of role. The Houston Rockets took a big bet on him, and it turned out quite well – he’s a franchise player, a superstar the moment he was given the chance to prove that. Now, it’s Wall’s turn to show he can stay healthy, and be good enough to be worthy of the contract and make the Wizards a playoff team again.