The story on John Wall all season was that he was falling short of his potential.
This super talented point guard seemed to be in a toxic environment with players who could care less about the team's success. And certainly not about his. Whether that was conscious or unconscious likely will be irrelevant. What everyone did seem to realize was that Wall was not becoming the player he should have been.
At least that was the perception. Wall's numbers were virtually the same this year as they were last year. Maybe the disappointment with Wall came from his team's continued poor performance. Maybe it was just the attitude he portrayed on the floor. It is tough to be positive with all the losses the Wizards have piled up in the last two seasons.
Wall has won just 26 of his first 100 games in his career. Ultimately that is the statistic that matters more. This year he averaged 16.3 points per game and 8.0 assists per game while shooting 42.3 percent from the floor. These are fine numbers. But not superstar number. Not top overall pick numbers. Not numbers for the potential top point guard in the league.
Wall was good, but did not improve. And the losing did not help.
The end of the season though provided some measure of hope. The Wizards traded away JaVale McGee and Nick Young, two reputed me-first players, and have more or less shelved Andray Blatche before his free agency this summer.
The Wizards had some things clicking at the end of the season when teams in their position might have been tanking. Washington won its last six games this year. Wall played well in that stretch, averaging only 14.5 points per game, but dishing out 11.2 assists per game and shooting 43.4 percent from the floor. He decreased his scoring, but slightly increased his shooting efficiency and ramped up his assists.
"I asked Kevin [Durant] how he went through the tough times of losing to where he is now," Wall told Chris Tommasson of Fox Sports Florida. "And he just says that you got to be the first in the gym and the last to leave, and just keep working.
"We're playing better as a team, playing hard, giving ourselves a chance against good teams. I think teams take us more seriously."
Wall's ability to make his teammates better, and his teammates actually playing better, made Wall a better player down the stretch. No one could be upset with the way Wall finished his season. The future for the former top overall pick looks bright again.
Durant gave him some bad advice after his team had its own struggles and people doubted him in his first two seasons. The Sonics/Thunder won just 22 games in Durant's first 100 games. Now, most would agree that Durant is one of the best players in the league, a perennial MVP favorite and a three-time scoring champion.
Wall is not going to become that type of player. But the way he and the Wizards finished the season brought hope that this franchise can begin to turn things around and get moving in the right direction. It certainly does not hurt having one of the best young point guards in the league. And when Wall is in space and going at full speed, he is as difficult to handle as anyone.
Wall knows the work is just beginning.
He is holding out hope that he will be invited to Team USA's training camp this July and he wants to take on the challenge that comes with being one of the best players in the league and the face of his franchise.
Wall said he has to improve his 3-point shooting and make teams pay for going below screens. It is sometimes comical how far defenders lay off Wall when he has the ball in his hands. This is definitely the first place Wall needs to work this offseason as he shot 28.6 percent from the floor three feet and out, according to Basketball-Reference.
That is not good enough, obviously.
Both the Wizards and Wall will be looking to improve this offseason. They will have a long offseason to work on these improvements for sure.
With Wall playing so well toward the end of the season, there is some positive momentum heading toward the summer.
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