The Washington Wizards seem to love playing without John Wall. In the three games since Wall went down with a knee injury, Washington has racked up three wins by spreading the ball around to everyone. The rock moves without Wall on the floor and the team has noticed.
Wall’s backcourt-mate Bradley Beal had the following to say after Thursday night’s win over the Toronto Raptors:
“Everybody eats. That’s our motto when we move the ball.”
Though Wall is second in the NBA averaging 9.3 assists per game, without him in the last three games, the Wizards have totaled 97 assists. The team-average of 32.3 per game is the best in the NBA during that time. They even racked up 40 assists Saturday night against the Atlanta Hawks in the first game without Wall. That was the best total for the franchise since 1992.
Before Wall’s injury, the Wizards had been a huge disappointment this season. They’re currently fifth in the Eastern Conference with a 29-22 record but were expected to contend. It’s been a forgettable year so far.
Rumors about a rift between Wall and Beal have swirled for a long time and it might be that the Wizards are just flat out better without Wall around. Chemistry is a real thing, and the team clearly enjoys spreading the ball around, instead of playing exclusively through Wall.
Wall and the Washington Wizards are in a weird place. The team signed the point guard to a massive, $207 million extension that will keep him in D.C. through 2023. Since agreeing to that deal, Wall’s play has fallen off. His PER this season has dropped to 19.34 from a career-high 23.28 last year. His per game averages in points (19.4), assists (9.3) and rebounds (3.6) are all down, while his field goal (41.7) and free throw (71.9) percentages have dropped significantly.
If the Wizards are better without Wall, they’re going to have real trouble moving him. He’s 27 and when that huge new deal kicks in during the 2019-2020 season, he’ll be making $37.8 million in the first year and an insane $46.87 million in the fourth at age 31. No one is going to take on that contract.
Washington may be better without John Wall, but the franchise is stuck with him.