John Wall made a powerful statement during the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs. Can the Washington Wizards star maintain this torrid pace?
If John Wall hadn’t danced in college, he’d be a more popular and appreciated player. That may sound like an absurd and unfounded statement, but Wall simply doing the Dougie as a member of the Kentucky Wildcats has altered the trajectory of his career with the Washington Wizards.
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During the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs, Wall showed those who hadn’t been watching what those who have paid attention have been screaming for years: he’s an absolute star.
At 26 years of age, Wall is already a four-time All-Star and former All-Defensive Second Team honoree. He’s led the Wizards to three separate postseason series victories, advancing beyond the first round in 2014, 2015, and 2017.
Yet, if you let his critics tell it, Wall has been a disappointment—or, at the very least, he hasn’t become the superstar that he was expected to be.
Just under seven calendar years removed from being selected at No. 1 overall in the 2010 NBA Draft, Wall is rewriting his reputation. Those who watch him have held him in star or superstar esteem for multiple seasons, but there are legions of fans who downplay his greatness.
After his performance against the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs, there’s no defending anyone who ignores his brilliance.
Wall and the Wizards drew a tough matchup in Mike Budenholzer’s Atlanta Hawks. Atlanta wasn’t nearly as strong as it’s been in recent seasons, but it’s a well-coached team that competes on both ends and forces opponents to grind out victories.
In what was one of the most entertaining series of the first round, Wall led the Wizards to a statement of a 4-2 series victory.
Wall was nothing short of dominant during that six-game series. He recorded averages of 29.5 points, 10.3 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 1.7 steals, and 1.5 3-point field goals made on a slash line of .525/.474/.840.
If people truly appreciate the gravitas of the performances Wall just put forth, they’ll be talking about his showing in Round 1 for years to come.
When Wall dropped 32 points and 14 assists in Game 1, his critics claimed that he couldn’t do it again—only for him to post 32 points and nine assists in Game 2. When Washington dropped Games 3 and 4, his critics claimed that Washington was being exposed.
Wall proceeded to record 20 points and 14 assists in a 103-99 victory in Game 5. When they questioned his ability to close out a series, he legitimately dominated Game 6 with 42 points, eight assists, four steals, and two blocks.
That includes the 19 points that he scored in the fourth quarter to single-handedly—he outscored the entire Hawks team during the final measure of play, so yes, single-handedly—fend off Atlanta’s rally
And, in true John Wall fashion, he called it from the start:
John Wall on trash talk with Julio Jones: “I told them I was going to get 35 or more and we was going to win. We did that. For the culture.” pic.twitter.com/DUpe2tedDM
The question is: when is Wall going to receive the respect he deserves?
Wall has averaged at least 17 points and 10 assists in three consecutive seasons. He was the only player in the NBA to average at least 20.0 points, 10.0 assists, and 2.0 steals per game in 2016-17, and he did so on a 49-win team.
Wall has also led Washington to three postseason series victories, thus making the notion that he can’t take over in the playoffs purely unfounded.
Yet, when discussions arise about the best point guards in the NBA, Wall is often omitted. Non-defenders and point guards who struggle to facilitate are given priority, despite the fact that Wall either creates more points or has won in the playoffs as a true No. 1 player.
With a rugged test looming against Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart‘s smothering defense in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Wall can silence his critics once and for all.