After an impressive sophomore season in 2011-12, people were expecting John Wall to take the leap in his third year to one of the NBA’s premier guards. A knee injury before his third season derailed that, as other injuries also stifled the Washington Wizards’ 2012-13 season. However, a healthy Wizards team and a healthy Wall were on the floor last season and that resulted in a monster year from Wall and a postseason berth for Washington.
However, with the impressive crop of young point guards in the league right now, it’s still hard to place where Wall falls among them. He’s clearly among them, but you could argue all day as to who leads the pack and where Wall falls in that bunch. In the eyes of Team USA basketball, though, he’s apparently in the backseat.
Wall was cut from Team USA’s roster for the FIBA 2014 World Cup after participating in camp in Las Vegas. While the spots of Derrick Rose and Stephen Curry weren’t really in question, Wall was said to be competing with Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving for roster spots. Obviously Wall came out on the wrong end of that battle.
Also obvious is the fact that Wall is none too pleased about his being cut. In an interview with Ben Standig of CSN Washington, Wall said that he didn’t think he was given a fair shot at making the roster and that he got the feeling that the coaches had made up their minds before the camp in Las Vegas. Wall tried to be dismissive saying that it was part of the game, wishing Team USA luck, and that he got the same amount of time in practice, but his displeasure is still evident.
Though it’s a definite disappointment to not be representing his country, Wall now has the opportunity to use this to his advantage. One of the consistent aspects of the psyches of star professional athletes is the constant seeking of a competitive edge. Channeling his anger from having coaches essentially tell him that Lillard and Irving are better for him could make him incredibly dangerous.
Make no mistake, Wall is already a phenomenal player in this league. Last season, the point guard put up 19.3 points, 8.8 assists, 1.8 steals and 4.1 rebounds per game while shooting 43.3 percent from the floor and a career-high 35.1 percent from three. In historical context, only four players before Wall have ever put up 19 points, 8.5 assists, 1.6 steals and 43 percent shooting or better in their fourth NBA season (per Basketball Reference). Those four guys are Chris Paul, Isiah Thomas, Kevin Johnson, and Tim Hardaway, which isn’t exactly a row of shmucks.
However, to distance himself from the pack of young guards in this league and establish himself as at least worth mentioning in the argument of best point guard in the NBA, he has to reach another level. Offensively and defensively, Wall has to become a leader both vocally and with his performance and show the world how valuable of an asset that he is. At just 23 years old, there’s no doubt that he’s capable and that the potential is there for that to happen. At just 23 years old, perhaps this Team USA snub is exactly what he needs to make it happen.