The last time John Wall played in a NBA game, you were likely still putting away your 2018 Christmas gifts. On December 26th, 2018 Wall suffered an injury to his left heel. Two months later, he had surgery to repair his ruptured Achilles.
To grasp how bad the injury was and the amount of rehab time that followed, picture this. Wall began to run full court scrimmages with his teammates in January 2020, 11 months post injury. But he was still far from being game ready.
Even with the NBA’s hiatus that will push the end of the season into October, don’t expect to see Wall suiting up with his Wizards to try and make the playoffs. Wall was asked about the possibility of a heroic type return but he shut it down quickly.
“I won’t play at all,” Wall said. “I’ll wait until next season. That decision has already been made. So, no, I’m not.”
Wall will not return to action until the 2020-21 NBA season. Roughly 2 full years after the initial injury that derailed the prime of his career. But could his long waited return derail the Wizards off season plans?
The rumors swirling around the NBA is that Bradley Beal is likely getting traded to a contender this offseason. But Wall can change all of that.
You see the front office handcuffed themselves in July 2017 when they signed Wall to a four-year, $171 million extension. The troubling part about that extension was that it just kicked in this season. He is owed $85.5 million over the next two seasons and has a $47.4 million player option in 2022-23.
So while not having played in years, Wall remains the most powerful player on roster. Wall is locked into Washington for the foreseeable future because of the massive contract. So the two sides need to be on the same plan going forward, or at least have dialogue about it. So let’s look ahead for the organization.
Expectations for Wall
Even before the career altering injury, people raised their eyebrows at the super max given to Wall. Not because he wasn’t productive, because he was very. Wall made five straight All-Star teams from 2014 to 2018. Prior to his injury, Wall averaged 20.7 points and 8.7 assists per game.
Wall was at the top of his game, but the super-max was always meant for the elite of elites. Wall was simply a notch or two below that.
Removing the enormous contract attached to Wall, what are reasonable expectations for the once all star guard?
A torn Achilles is basically undefeated against athletes, nobody comes back the same, and certainly not better. So the jumping off point should be somewhere below his averages last time we saw him play. If Wall can put up roughly 16 points and 6-8 assists per game, the Wizards should be thrilled. It is not the all-star level he was at pre-injury, but if Wall can land do that and stay healthy, call it a success.
Can Wall Keep Beal in Washington?
If we look at the big picture, is Wall’s return enough to keep Bradley Beal in Wizards threads?
With the abundance of rumors floating out there about multiple teams inquiring about Beal’s services, I doubt Wall’s return can halt the front office from accepting an offer. They seem set on getting a peak return on their only asset.
But let’s be positive for a minute. Let’s assume Wall recovers fully, returning to his previous self. The front office decides to keep their word by keeping Beal. Where do the Wizards stack up in the Eastern Conference?
The duo of a healthy Wall and Beal is good enough to crack the playoff picture. Add in the youth of Rui Hachimura, Thomas Bryant, and Davis Bertans, the Wizards have a respectable team. And let’s not forget a lottery pick to add into the mix.
But even if they strike gold, the Wizards are still ways away from being a contender. The Bucks, 76ers, Celtics, and Nets will all be in a class above the Wizards in the coming years.
So the front office needs to ask itself: do we want to be a middle of the pack playoff team with Wall and Beal making more than 50% of the salary cap? Or do they opt to go full rebuild by trading Beal for picks and youngsters?
Wall stuck in Washington because of his health and more so the price tag attached to him. It can be a working relationship between Wall the the front office. Or the front office can elect to go about their plan and just take the massive loss on the Wall deal while rebuilding though the draft.
We won’t get the answers to these questions until at least October, but either way the front office lands on, it will make for interesting storylines.