John Wall, finally, has been acknowledged among pro basketball’s elite, named Thursday to the all-NBA third team for the first time in his seven-year career.
Heading into the 2016-17 season, the Wizards did not sign the kind of veteran who would parachute into the locker room and take over as the team’s beating heart and mouthpiece. Although Wall had been the franchise point guard since being the top pick in the 2010 draft, he could always defer leadership to older veterans. This year, however, Wall understood his new challenge. Though Bradley Beal would share in carrying the load, ultimately the responsibilities — building up teammates, speaking out in huddles, facing tough questions after bad losses — would begin with Wall.
And so, Wall led by action.
The Wizards had their best season in 38 years, going 49-33. Wall stood out all season, averaging 23.1 points per game, to go with 10.7 assists, 4.2 rebounds, two steals and 0.6 blocks. He also set the franchise career record for assists (4,610) and steals (870).
He became the first player in league history to average at least 20 points, 10 assists, four rebounds, two steals and 0.5 blocks per game.
Also during the playoffs, Wall became only the eighth player in NBA history to average at least 25 points and 10 assists per game, according to statistics from basketball-reference.com. Other players on that list include Hall of Fame point guards Magic Johnson, John Stockton, Isiah Thomas and Oscar Robertson.
Like any good pass-first point guard, Wall shared the fun.
Several Wizards reached career milestones. Beal set a single-season franchise mark for 223 made three-pointers. Markieff Morris shot 15 percentage points higher from the three than his previous best career mark. Otto Porter Jr. finished fifth in the NBA in three-point field goal percentage. And as Wall’s primary roll man, center Marcin Gortat, averaged a double-double for only the second time in his 11-year career.
Wall enjoyed a career year, but the most significant mark of his season should reflect in how he also elevated teammates.
“Playing with John is an amazing experience,” said Jason Smith, who in his first year of benefiting from Wall’s assists developed into a floor-spacing big man and made more threes (37) than he had in his previous eight years combined.
“His ability to put pressures on defense, coming at you full court 100 miles per hour, is not fun when you’re on the other end. I’ve had that experience, and it’s not fun,” Smith continued. “But being on the same team as him is a completely different experience because for me as a shooter, you just wait for him to pass the ball. He’s going to get you open because he is so dangerous attacking the rim, getting guys open, getting guys involved and that’s what the game is about. You get your teammates involved and have some fun with it.”
Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James and Anthony Davis made up the all-NBA first team. The second team: Stephen Curry, Isaiah Thomas, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Rudy Gobert. DeMar DeRozan, Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green and DeAndre Jordan joined Wall on the third team. The all-NBA teams are voted by members of the media.
Wall is the first Wizard to make an all-NBA team since Gilbert Arenas after the 2006-07 season.
With the honor, Wall is now eligible for a massive pay raise. Wall, who had the 45th-highest salary last season, qualifies under the “designated player veteran extension,” which is a feature included in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The extension applies to players heading into their eighth or ninth season with either their original franchise (in Wall’s case) or with a team that traded for them while on their rookie contract, and to players who either made an all-NBA team the prior season or in two of the last three.
In Wall’s case, he will become eligible in July to sign a four-year contract extension that would allow him to be paid a max contract at 35 percent of the salary cap beginning in the 2019-20 season — the year after his current contract expires and a year earlier than he would be eligible to be paid at that rate otherwise.
However, Wall did not indicate plans to sign an extension this summer. Rather, the only thing for certain is that Wall, along with his representation, will make an educated decision about his future when the time comes.
“I know all about those. I haven’t talked to my agents and stuff like that,” Wall said. “I don’t know if I have to talk about an extension and all that because so much more you can get later down the road and what’s at stake. I just sit back with my family, my team and see what we want to talk about and see if there’s anything to discuss this summer or just wait.”