The emergence of John Wall
College Contributor Network
Being a lottery pick, or more specifically, the number one overall pick in John Wall's case, you have to understand that the first few years in the league are not going to be pretty for your team as a whole. Sure, you are a franchise cornerstone, another piece of the puzzle, but you also will have to get acclimated to losing...a lot.
After playing a year at the University of Kentucky, Wall decided to forgo the rest of his college career in order to pursue his dream of playing in the NBA. In the famous words of Ohio State University quarterback Cardale Jones, "We ain't come to play school," which at this point should probably be the Kentucky basketball slogan, since one-and-done is synonymous with KU nowadays. But I digress.
In his lone season at Kentucky, Wall lost only three games. Wall matched that total just four games into his NBA career with the Washington Wizards. Welcome to Wizards basketball. Under the guidance of head coach Flip Saunders, the Wizards were cautiously optimistic about the upcoming 2010-2011 NBA season. The Wizards were not fully committed to rebuilding at that point, although they already traded away fan favorites Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison the season before after the Wizards crumbled in the wake of the Gilbert Arenas gun saga.
They brought in point guard Kirk Hinrich, kept an aging guard in Arenas, and surrounded Wall with talented-yet-immature players such as center JaVale McGee, small forward Nick Young and power forward Andray Blatche. If this wasn't a disaster waiting to happen, I don't know what is. Long story short, the season ended terribly.
But even so, Wall barely missed out on the Rookie of the Year award, losing to power forward Blake Griffin, who sat out the previous season with the Los Angeles Clippers because of a season-ending injury. Individually, Wall showed what he was capable of, but also showed signs of immaturity on the court. He'd play selfishly at times and then make excuses when he made mistakes. You could chalk this up to typical growing pains in the NBA.
While Wall had trouble initially living up to the hype that came with being drafted number one overall, the 2013-2014 season was a season to remember for himself and the Wizards organization. After going through many poor seasons, tanking and rebuilding, the Wizards finally looked like a team that could, at the very least, compete. Wall flourished when, for the first time in his young career, he had good players around him. The Wizards beat the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs before succumbing in the second round to the Indiana Pacers. Wall averaged career highs in points (19.3) and assists (8.8), and proved that he was a capable leader. Wall also made his first All-Star appearance, even winning the dunk contest, which really put him on the map.
Though he had trouble adjusting to the NBA at first, he has since established himself as a top-five point guard. He has shed the stigma of being a selfish player and now averages 10 assists per game while also contributing 17.5 points per game. Wall is a man of many nicknames, from "Optimus Dime" because of his stellar passing ability, to "House of Guards," named after the backcourt of himself and shooting guard Bradley Beal. My personal favorite is the "Great Wall of Chinatown." (Verizon Center is in Chinatown.) Not many players under 30, never mind 25, have been though what he has, but his experiences have made him grow as a player.
His former knuckleheaded teammates are now bouncing around the league or dominating the Chinese Basketball Association, but Wall, who is certainly paid like a star, has stepped up this season and is entering the playoffs as a 24-year-old, All-Star point guard ready to lead his team to the promised land. Many people wrote him off after his shaky start, but time and again, Wall has proven his critics and haters wrong. Don't be surprised if he makes some noise in the playoffs.
Adam Curtisis a freshman at American University. Growing up, he played soccer and tennis and is a die-hard D.C. sports fan. Follow him on Twitter: @actennis96