What if Wall had been healthy all season?
After last night’s 89-74 win over the Brooklyn Nets, the Washington Wizards moved to 9-7 with John Wall back in the lineup. While the Wizards are left to wonder how different their season would look if Wall had been healthy from the start, the franchise point guard is starting to blossom in his third year.
The Wizards are Wall’s team and their record with him back in the lineup, highlighted by wins over the LA Clippers, New York Knicks, and Denver Nuggets, help validate Wall’s standing as the cornerstone of the franchise.
From a statistical standpoint, the advanced numbers show Wall is having the most productive season of his young career. It’s a small sample size but Wall, who missed the first 33 games of the year with his knee injury, is averaging 14.6 points per game to go along with 7.1 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game in just 28.1 minutes a contest. Per 36 minutes those numbers improve, as his scoring and assist averages go up to 18.7 points and 9.0 assists per game.
But how does Wall’s third season at 22 years old stack up against the NBA’s elite point guards? For some of the league’s best point guards, their third season at age 22 is when they took their game to the next level. Here’s a look at the individual stats, team records, and postseason success for Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, and Russell Westbrook.
Chris Paul – 21.1 ppg/ 11.6 apg/ 48% FG/ 28.3 PER/ Team: 56-26
In the Hornets’ first permanent season in New Orleans, Paul made his first All-Star appearance and finished second in Most Valuable Player voting to Kobe Bryant. More importantly, Paul was the main reason the Hornets went from 39 wins in 2006-07 to 56 in 2007-08. After beating the Dallas Mavericks in the first round, Paul and the Hornets pushed the San Antonio Spurs to the brink, before losing in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals.
Rajon Rondo – 11.6 ppg / 8.2 apg/ 50% FG/ 18.8 PER/ Team: 62-20
A year after winning the 2008 NBA championship with the Boston Celtics, Rondo set career highs in points, assists, and field goal percentage in helping lead his team to a 62-20 record. However, without an injured Kevin Garnett, the Celtics fell to the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Derrick Rose – 25.0 ppg/ 7.7 apg/ 44% FG/ 23.5 PER/ Team 62-20
Rose sets the standard for making the leap from very good to elite in just three seasons. Scoring 25 points a game while dishing out 7.7 assists, Rose took the league by storm in route to winning the NBA’s MVP award and leading the Chicago Bulls to a league-high 62 wins in the regular season. However, the Bulls ran into LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, losing in five games.
Russell Westbrook – 21.9 ppg/ 8.2 apg/ 44% FG/ 23.6 PER/ Team: 55-27
In his third year Westbrook made a big jump, scoring six more points a game while improving his field goal and three point percentages for the young and dangerous Oklahoma City Thunder. Westbrook also made his first All-Star appearance and finished seventh for the Most Improved Player award. With Westbrook and Kevin Durant leading the way, the Thunder made the Western Conference Finals before bowing out to the eventual NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.
In John Wall’s defense, his injury makes it hard to compare him to the players listed above. It’s impossible to know where Wall and the Wizards would be if he had been healthy all year. Paul, Rondo, Rose, and Westbrook all also played with at least one other All-Star, which obviously did wonders for their on-court success. For Wall, the more apt comparison may be Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry.
Though Curry was 23 years old during his third year, he missed a significant amount of time with an injury, playing in only 26 of 66 games for the Warriors. Like Wall, he also played under thirty minutes a game. The season is far from over but right now Wall’s scoring average stands at 14.6; Curry averaged 14.7 points per game during his third year.
Curry has come back healthy this year and so far has been outstanding, dishing out a career-high 6.7 assists per game while scoring 20.9 points per game and shooting a league-best 90% from the free throw line. He’s also been a key part of the Warriors' turnaround, as they currently sit in sixth place in the Western Conference.
At the end of the day, top players make the leap at different stages of their careers. If John Wall is able to have the type of healthy and productive fourth season that Stephen Curry is having now, the Washington Wizards could be a force for years to come.