How Much Will the Washington Wizards Miss John Wall?
At the start of the 2017-18 season, the Washington Wizards were full of hope and promise. They were coming off a 49-win season, their highest win total in nearly 40 years, and seemed poised to make noise in a depleted Eastern Conference.
Even with the struggles of conference favorites such as the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Wizards have been unable to take advantage, currently sitting as the 5 seed with a 28-20 record, only 4.5 games from being out of the playoff picture. Seemingly ever waiting for the spark to ignite their mediocre season, they received some unfortunate news on Tuesday.
DEVELOPING: John Wall will undergo a knee procedure tomorrow (described as a clean up). He will miss six weeks & will not play in upcoming All-Star weekend, The Washington Post has learned.
Story coming soon.
— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) January 30, 2018
With John Wall on the shelf the next 20-25 games, do the Wizards have what it takes to remain in the playoff hunt? Can they survive long enough without their All-Star floor general until late March?
The Impact of Wall
Ever since coming into the league as the top pick in the 2010 draft, Wall has been the heart and soul of the Wizards. A five-time All-Star and face of the franchise, he's been one of the club's few constants, missing just nine games the last four seasons. He averaged 20.0 points, 9.9 assists, and 1.9 steals per game from 2014-17, leading the team to the Eastern Conference Semis three times.
While he wasn't enjoying his finest of seasons, Wall was still putting up All-Star numbers, as he averaged over 19 points a night and was second in the league with 9.3 assists per game, even as he was bothered by a knee injury. Thanks to the point guard missing 13 games (including a nine-game stretch following Thanksgiving) we have a decent sample size of the Wizards' performance without Wall.
|John Wall 2017-18||MP||eFG%||ORtg||TO%||Pace||DRtg||Opp TO%|
|On the Court||1,268||53.5||114.0||12.7||96.9||108.7||12.8|
|Off the Court||1,095||51.1||109.3||12.9||93.3||112.1||11.7|
The offense has hummed along with Wall in the lineup for 37 games, posting a nightly average of 108.3 points while sinking shots at a 47% rate. Those marks would both be good enough for top-seven ranks in the NBA this season. While the Wiz were able to put up a 7-6 record in the 13 games Wall has sat out, their offense has taken a significant dip, averaging 103.2 points on 44.7% shooting. Those would rank in the bottom-third of the league.
According to nbawowy!.com, not only has the Wizards' offense suffered with Wall out, the defense has also lagged behind, affecting their overall scoring margin. Washington goes from outscoring opponents by 5.3 points per 100 possessions to coming up 2.8 points short (an 8.1-point difference).
While Tomas Satoransky and Tim Frazier will be holding down the point guard spot until Wall returns, the real key to the Wizards' success for the foreseeable future and possible playoff chances falls to Bradley Beal and Otto Porter.
The Real Beal?
No stranger to injury problems, the sixth-year guard has started to shed the glass man label -- he's missed just five games the last two seasons, including playing in all 50 games so far this year. This newfound health has done wonders for Beal during what's shaping up to be a career-best season, which includes him earning his first ever All-Star appearance and a nightly scoring average of 23.9 points that's on pace to be a new personal best. He even leads the team in shots per game (18.6) and win shares (4.9).
However, in the 13 games without Wall, Beal's performance has been a mixed bag. He flashed his potential, dropping 51 points on the Trail Blazers on December 5th, but also his inability to consistently hit shots, going 4-for-15 for 11 points in a 47-point thrashing by the Utah Jazz the previous night.
It'd make sense to think that being the offensive focal point would translate to more points, but not quite. His scoring average went up just a tick (to 24.5 per game) even though his shot attempts increased by over 2.4 per game and his usage rate jumped from 26.3% to 32.3%. How can that be? Without the superior distribution skills of Wall, Beal has seen his shooting percentages take a hit. Alongside him, Beal had a true shooting percentage of 57.8%, which has fallen to 55.8% sans Wall.
Beal deservedly will get the bulk of the attention over the next 20-plus games, but Porter will also have to pick up some slack as well.
Washington inked Porter this past summer to a four-year, $106.5 million contract with the hope that he would continue to build on his 2016-17 season, where he shot over 50% from the field and 43% from three to average 13.4 points per game. The club needed a third star and felt the former top-three pick would reward their trust (and cash) by taking another step forward this season.
That hasn't happened so far this season.
While Porter continues to post the best defensive rating and net rating on the team, per NBA.com, he hasn't significantly increased his scoring production (13.8 points per game, compared to 13.4 last season) and remains a primarily three-and-D player -- over 36% of his shots and points come from beyond the arc. With Wall out, they will need much more from him.
He showed the potential of becoming a reliable second offensive weapon in Tuesday's win over the Oklahoma City Thunder by scoring 25 points, while getting to the line eight times. Without Wall on the floor this season, Porter is averaging 15.8 points per game on 47.4% shooting.
Down the Stretch
Barring a dramatic improvement or trade deadline addition, the Wizards could quite possibly be sitting outside the playoff bracket when Wall returns. Our models project them to win 43.9 games, which would give them a 16-16 record the rest of the way. A tough task with the challenging road that lies ahead.
Seven of their next 11 games come on the road, and the competition gets much stiffer. Of their next 22 opponents, 18 of them would make the playoffs is the regular season ended today. That includes seven contests against the top-four teams in the Eastern Conference (Boston, Toronto, Cleveland, Miami). This wouldn't be easy with Wall on the floor, let alone with him on the sideline.
Currently pegged as the eighth-best team in the NBA, by our metrics, expect the Wizards to fall down the power rankings and the standings without Wall leading the charge.