With the Wizards’ season concluded, we’re reviewing the Wizards, position-by-position. Check out earlier stories on the shooting guards and the small forwards. It’s now time to look back on John Wall, as well as the four other point guards on roster.
Even as John Wall rehabbed and recovered for half of the season, losing weight after having an arthroscopic debridement on his left knee but also losing precious time as the Washington Wizards pushed for the playoffs, he still earned his fifth straight all-star selection. His worth was recognized by Eastern Conference coaches for nearly averaging a double-double before the break (19.4 points and 9.3 assists). And yet, Wall’s eighth season was incomplete.
During the team’s inconsistent season, Wall found it difficult to strike the right chord as a leader. When a November team meeting did not go as planned, Wall dismissed further discourse. In December, Wall tried to display leadership through liberality, presenting teammates with Rolex watches; later that night, the Wizards lost to the Brooklyn Nets and fell to 14-13. By January, Wall went on the defensive after interpreting a tweet from Marcin Gortat about a “team” win as a personal slight.
For many of these critical points in the season, Wall was unable to play. He missed 41 games due to injuries, and because of this absence, his leadership never made the intended impact. Instead of his voice and expensive gifts, the Wizards needed Wall where it mattered most: on the court.
Washington could have used a healthy and engaged leader setting the tone against teams with records under .500. The Wizards instead often overlooked such opponents, compiling a 20-15 record, the most losses against sub-.500 teams of any other playoff team. Though Wall played in several of those games, injuries to his shoulder then knee limited his reach as he spent far too long on the sideline in street clothes and shades.
“It was great but tough at times because as a leader you’ve got to do it at all times. You never take a day off. That’s something I can get better at,” Wall said. “When you have your mood swings or days you don’t want to be bothered, you have to still be a great leader. That’s something I definitely can learn from this year, but when you’re not playing it’s kind of hard to be a leader because you don’t want to say too much because you’re not out there playing or competing with the guys, but at the same time you have to be a leader and hold it down.”
Off the bench: A lot of point guards
As much as the Wizards have embraced the idea of positionless basketball, they never quite abandoned playing without a point guard. This practice showed in how Washington spent nine months in search of the perfect backup to Wall.
Late last June, the team traded its second-round pick to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Tim Frazier. Wall’s injury forced Tomas Satoransky in the starting lineup for 30 games and led to Ramon Sessions receiving consecutive 10-day contracts before the team signed him for the rest of the year. By April, just before the start of the playoffs, Washington signed free agent Ty Lawson.
Frazier, who has played for four teams over his four seasons, proved to be a well-liked teammate, growing close with Bradley Beal, and at times showed talent in racking up assists. During a Jan. 27 win over the Atlanta Hawks, Frazier became the first player in NBA history to produce 14 assists and three blocks after coming off the bench. But Frazier was not a long-term solution behind Wall. Frazier started most of his 11 games when Wall initially missed time due to his knee, but later fell out of the rotation. He didn’t get off the bench 22 times.
Satoransky took over during Wall’s eight-week absence and showed tremendous growth in his second NBA season. Satoransky had breakout moments, scoring a career-high 25 points against the Chicago Bulls and dishing out 11 assists in games against the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers, both personal highs. While Wall was out for 27 straight games, Satoransky averaged 10.4 points and 6.0 assists. Yet in a surprising development, he did not assume the role of primary backup point guard once the playoffs started.
In place of Satoransky, the team moved on to Lawson, an NBA veteran who played in China last season. After only a few days with the team, Lawson made a splash in Game 2 of the first-round playoff matchup with the Toronto Raptors with 14 points and eight assists off the bench. For the rest of the series, Lawson remained Wall’s backup, and occasionally his backcourt running mate when the Wizards went small.
“We can use his shooting ability, his attacking ability and his speed,” Wall said of Lawson, who will be a free agent this summer. “Him being out there is someone who can create for others. He came in and did great for us in the short time period he was here.”