Last month - and less than four weeks into John Wall's return from a knee injury - Stan Van Gundy spoke with CSNwashington about the point guard's apparent lack of franchise-player potential. Those pointed comments where a slightly dialed-down version of what the former Orlando Magic head coach said on local radio back in December.
This week the NBC Sports analyst was back on ESPN 980 - and apparently taking back most of his critique concerning the third-year point guard.
Now, to show that the March version of Van Gundy saying Wall has "proven me wrong in terms of his value to a team" is indeed a change in evaluation let's first revisit his previous comments:
Early February Van Gundy: "John Wall is a talented guy, a very good player. I don't think he's good enough that you can build a franchise around him. I don't think he can be your best player, certainly not clearly your best player. You need one guy better than him or a couple of guys at his talent level for them to win.
"To me that's not a negative. I didn't say it as a negative. I think some people took it that way. I just don't see John Wall as a franchise player because - a lot like Rajon Rondo; I don't see him as a franchise player even though he's an All-Star - he's not a good enough shooter yet and he's not a reliable go-to scorer.
"In the NBA, your franchise guy has got to be a guy you can put the ball in his hands late in the game and he can get you a basket. I don't see that from John Wall at this point in his career. Maybe it will develop, but I don't see it."
Late March Van Gundy as a guest on "The Sports Fix" (audio here): “You know what, I’m sort of sitting on the fence now,” Van Gundy said. “So yeah, I have reevaluated. I don’t think anybody has done more for a team this year than John Wall has. Look, they were 5-28 when he came back. Five and 28. The worst team in the league. And they’re 21-16 since then."
"And if you look at the numbers, they’re the ninth-best team in the league if you compare defensive numbers and offensive numbers — the ninth-best team in the league, fourth-best team in the East since he’s come back. So this is a team that you could project, with John Wall, could be not only a playoff team, but be sitting with home-court in the playoffs. And they were the worst team in the league before he came back. Nobody else has done that for a team."
February Van Gundy held a healthy dose of skepticism regarding Wall's perimeter shooting, the one skill many NBA observers have knocked. They were right to do so. However, recently (at least before Wednesday's clanking effort at Oklahoma City) and similar to some of the NBA's other young point guard's, Wall's outside touch has improved significantly, his form now "crazy" better in the eyes of a teammate.
March Van Gundy still isn't wildly impressed with Wall's efficiency, but is now virtually leading the parade when it comes to the point guard's impact on the cellar-dwelling Wizards.
“But I look at his numbers and he’s still not a real efficient guy," Van Gundy said. "Forty-five percent shooting’s a little bit better, but for a point guard, 45 percent, and you don’t make many threes, that’s still not really efficient. Three-and-a-half turnovers a game. So there’s still some things to doubt, but his presence has been huge for that team, and they went from being a good defensive team, to a great defensive team when he came back. They’re second in the league defensively since he came back.
“So I think that he has proven me wrong in terms of his value to a team. I’m still not sure he’s enough to build a team around, but if you could put a great offensive player around him, then possibly that could be enough to start pushing this team to the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference.”
Perhaps if Wall, Bradley Beal and Nene can actually remain on the court at the same time that push will come. Actually, seeing as the bulk of Washington's wins this season have indeed come with that trio along with Emeka Okafor and Martell Webster in the lineup, maybe it already has.
“Listen, since John Wall’s come back, the only teams that have been better — you look at a per-possession basis — the only teams that have been better [in the East] have been Miami and Indiana,” March Van Gundy said. “New York is just barely ahead of them as the third, and then Washington is a clear fourth. I don’t think [home court's] out of the realm of possibility."
That's quite a turnaround, both from the Wizards and Van Gundy. Many, including apparently Jeff Van Gundy's brother, would say it's largely John Wall's fault.
(H/T DC Sportsbog)