Washington Wizards point guard John Wall is perpetually concerned about being undervalued and underappreciated. For much of his NBA career, he’s been the NBA’s Issa Dee: An insecure talent constantly debating his own ranking in the NBA’s hierarchy.
Whether he’s passive aggressively sniping with Bradley Beal about contracts or claiming he’s part of the league’s best backcourt or touting himself as the NBA’s best two-way guard, Wall is constantly promoting his and his teammates’ worth.
This season hasn’t yet begun and Wall is already back at it. During a conversation with ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the Washington Wizards’ 27-year-old point guard vaulted himself into basketball’s highest echelon of gossip: the NBA MVP debate.
“I feel like I am the best point guard in the Eastern Conference,” John Wall said. “Maybe people didn’t get to see me on national TV as much last year, but they will this year.”
“I want to be in the MVP conversation. My expectations are very high.”
So what should we think about Wall’s claim?
Let’s dissect this in parts.
For one, Irving is the only Eastern Conference point guard who can approach Wall’s impact and skill. Wall ended last season second in steals, second in assists, third in double-doubles in steals and boasted the NBA’s largest inferiority complex.
But Wall’s ascension was hindered by the inability to finish higher than 28th in 3-pointers made. Amid the 3-point revolution, Wall is one of the worst All-Star shooting guards, obscuring his complete game. After his clutch trey from two towns away forced Game 7 against the Celtics, Wall shot 1-of-8 from the arc in the biggest game of his young career. Conversely, Irving is one of the league’s most consistent shooters and saved his best for last during the 2016 Finals’ final minutes.
Irving’s offense is more appealing, yet Wall has averaged at least 10 assists or more in three consecutive seasons, been named to an All-Defensive Team and scored at least 20 points per game for the first time in his career. Irving has never averaged more than 6.1 assists. The “best” discussion is a subjective one which factors in external circumstances, but both guys get different jobs done equally efficiently.
As for his position in the MVP race, Washington’s absence of a third superstar in the super-team era precludes them from being legitimate championship contenders, but it may aid Wall in a hypothetical MVP campaign push. Washington’s bench scoring was depleted by the departure of free agent Bojan Bogdanovic. This puts Wall in the position of again having to shoulder a cumbersome playmaking load for 82 games or more, similar to what Russell Westbrook had to handle during last year’s MVP season.
As for the rest of the field? Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant cancel one another out. In the wake of Oklahoma City’s Carmelo Anthony and Paul George acquisitions, Westbrook’s triple-double numbers may get watered down as his record-high usage rate declines considerably. The same goes for James Harden relinquishing his authoritarian control over the Rockets offense for Chris Paul. LeBron James seemingly relishes postseason glory more than regular-season trinkets and has sacrificed numbers for the sake of playoff energy.
Kawhi Leonard is a slightly higher caliber of player than Wall, but there are similarities. Both players’ MVP credentials are bolstered by their individual importance to their respective teams and have been named to All-Defensive Teams. Most guys would try to play coy and try to deflect to team success, but Wall is honest about his desires. He wants to be recognized as a titan of the hooping industry.
Now he just has to earn it.
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