It's only fitting that Washington Wizards superstar point guard John Wall is competing in multiple events at All-Star Weekend. He's been carrying the resurgent Wizards since entering the league, especially over the past two seasons.
The fourth-year star has become an everyman for the Wizards and has proven himself deserving of his first All-Star bid. So far, he's been everything the Wizards hoped he'd be when they selected him with the first overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. There are far fewer people wondering whether Wall deserved the five-year, $80 million contract extension he received over the summer. The Wizards have seen a return on their investment right away, as Wall has spearheaded his team's 25-27 record at the break.
When considering Wall's breakout campaign, it's worth exploring the two elements that essentially make an All-Star what he is. Not only has he improved his own game, he's also raised the level of his teammates.
The Wizards' improvement
Though head coach Randy Wittman recently said the Wizards are not a good team, it's obvious to anyone that they're a better team with Wall. Washington will likely make the playoffs, something it hasn't done since the 2007-08 season. From the 2004-05 season until the '07-08 campaign, the Wizards of yesteryear had something in common with today's squad: an elite point guard in his prime in Gilbert Arenas.
And just like with Arenas, Washington has backed up the proverbial Brink's truck for Wall. But Wall has the character and mindset to lead, as evidenced by his continued commitment to improving and making others around him better. He's done all of it without getting into trouble off the floor, unlike Arenas. Though Wall suffered a setback in the form of a knee injury in 2012, he's fully healthy now, and it shows in his consistent play and willingness to participate in the dunk contest.
About that self-improvement, it's clear that Wall is still on the rise.
The numbers support Wall's rise to All-Stardom. He's averaging 19.8 points, 8.5 assists and 2.0 steals per game while shooting 32.1 percent from the three-point line -- all career highs. The fact that Wall has taken long-range shooting, an area that could be considered a major weakness in his game, and improved it while stepping his production up in every other category is beyond encouraging. The best part of all of it is that he hasn't yet reached his prime. Remember, he's just 23 years old.
The 2012-13 season was short-lived for Wall due to injury, but he was on his way to record per-minute production even then. Had he sustained his career-high 20.8 player efficiency rating (via Basketball-Reference.com) over the course of a full season, he likely would have made the East squad in Houston last year. This season, he's kept up that pace.
What's more is that he's affecting the game on the defensive end better than ever. He already has the most win shares through the break (5.2) as he's had in his career and is creating more possessions for his team with his career-high steals number.
The Wizards may not be doing enough winning for Wittman's liking, but they've won as an organization by locking up Wall. He's justifying their max contract offer by proving he could potentially become the All-NBA player max players tend to be. Washington's choice was simple: roll with Wall as its franchise cornerstone, or start over.
At the All-Star break, Wall is making believers out of the D.C. faithful.