When John Wall went down, the Wizards were in the midst of a losing streak and were in jeopardy of falling out of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.
Fast forward about a month and the Wizards have shot up from the seventh to the fourth seed in the conference and are knocking on the door for the three seed.
The Wizards are still good despite losing half of their all-star backcourt. And, on top of that, there seems to be a rift between Wall and Marcin Gortat — one big enough for them to have to have a sit down to address it.
When you put all that together, it leaves a space for people to question whether the team is better off without Wall.
So how good have the Wizards been since Wall has been gone?
They went 6-1 on the road in February and are overall 10-3 in the 13 games since Wall went down.
And they aren’t just beating scrubs, either — they’re knocking off playoff teams. They’ve beat the Bucks, Raptors, Pacers, Thunder, and Cavaliers in this stretch and they’ve looked good while doing it. They’ve got a net rating of 3.6 in the month, which is about how a playoff team should perform.
All of that shows us this — they’re good without Wall being there. And they should be. They’re a playoff team with plenty of other talent on the roster. Being able to play this well without a great player points to how good the roster can actually be.
Well, if they’re winning then why do they need him?
Because Wall, at his best, is still a special player. He played most of this season on a hobbled knee and had to have mid-season surgery to fix it. He wasn’t 100 percent and the team suffered a bit because of it.
But when he’s at full strength, he makes plays that the Wizards desperately need against the best defenses in the league. The Wizards had a lead of as many as 24 points against the Bucks and it dwindled because, when the defensive pressure turned up, the Wizards’ ball handlers couldn’t make great plays against it.
Sure, they could make the right pass, but not always the one that would lead to a score. For example, Giannis Antetokounmpo leaves the weak side corner wide open here to come over for a block.
Tim Frazier makes the right pass to Ian Mahinmi, but the Bucks were abandoning the corners all game. Wall is a master at baiting the defense to move early with head fakes and working those same corners open or making the look under the rim an easier one.
There’s no other player on the Wizards’ roster, and very few in the league, who can make plays like that. So having Wall certainly does not hurt the Wizards, even if he is holding the ball on a possession.
And, yes, the Wizards’ ball movement is up without Wall. They’re currently tied for fourth in the league with 24.7 assists per game and are passing the ball 313 times per game — up from 281.9 per game with Wall.
But passing is more difficult when defenses are dialed in and the game slows down. And when it does, it helps to have a playmaker like Wall.
This conversation might actually be a good thing for the Wizards
Bradley Beal and Otto Porter aside, both Kelly Oubre and Tomas Satoransky have stepped up and played well in Wall’s absence. Mike Scott has been solid as a scorer off the bench all year and the team is well rounded both offensively and defensively.
Once Wall comes back, he’ll have to adjust his game a bit and do less, but that’s fine. Asking whether the team is better without Wall misses the mark. What’s more important here is that this is the best team he’s ever played on, and that bodes well for the Wizards’ immediate and long-term future.