Only a few weeks ago, John Wall was being blasted nationally over where he ranked himself among NBA point guards (No. 3) while Damian Lillard was in the midst of his hottest streak of the season.
Now Wall has rebounded somewhat, though the Wizards have lost two in a row and are still out of the playoff picture in the East.
Lillard's Portland Trail Blazers lost their third game in a row Sunday, 123-103 to the Detroit Pistons, and could be coming down to earth as they fight to hold their playoff spot in the West.
They meet for the second and final time Tuesday at Moda Center with every game a must-win for both (CSN, CSNmidatlantic.com and NBC Sports Live Extra, 10 ET).
In the head-to-head battle, who is better? A year ago, hardly anyone was suggesting that Lillard is ahead of Wall.
First, the basics:
Wall: 20.8 points on 17.5 shots, 9.8 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 2.0 steals, 4.0 turnovers, 42.8% FG shooting, 33.8% 3FG shooting.
Lillard: 25.8 points on 20.1 shots, 6.9 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 3.3 turnovers, 43% FG shooting, 37.3% 3FG shooting.
Next, looking at the more intricate shooting stats:
Wall: 37.2% catch-and-shoot accuracy; 34.8% pull-ups; 57.5% less than 10 feet away; and opponents shoot 43.5% when their shot is defended by him.
Lillard: 42.4% catch-and-shoot accuracy; 37.6% pull-ups; 49.9% less than 10 feet away; and opponents shoot 44.8% when their shot is defended by him.
And some more stats that detail how often they touch the ball and what they create for others:
Wall: 98.8 touches per game (No. 1 in NBA); 71.3 passes per game (3rd); 1.9 secondary assists per game (2nd); 23.7 assists points created per game (2nd); 19.2 potential assists per game if shot attempts were made by teammates (2nd).
Lillard: 89 touches per game (8th); 59.6 passes per game (17th); 1.3 secondary assists per game; 16.5 assists points created per game (9th); 12.7 potential assists per game if shot attempts were made by teammates (13th).
The eye test alone makes clear that while Wall and Lillard are point guards, they're very different and it often is a matter of taste or style of player who better fits their team's offensive scheme.
What the stats don't show, particularly the defensive ones, is exactly who do they guard on a nightly basis. Often with Lillard, he takes the weaker assignment which is an indication of how he's not highly regarded in this area (and makes it easier to be more aggressive/effective on offense).
While Wall's defense has slipped this season, he has been far more accomplished in that area (NBA's Second Team All-Defense in 2014-15).
Lillard has been on fire lately, with two 50-point games since Feb. 19. But it's easy to hop on the Lillard bandwagon now that he's the flavor of the month with his team is playing well. The Blazers (33-31) are exceeding expectations. The Wizards (30-32) are woefully falling short.
Is it absurd to suggest Lillard is better than Wall? Not at all. They're both top five point guards. But it is easy to forget that less than a year the Wizards came within Wall's broken hand/wrist from making the conference finals. And when Wall played in those last two playoff games, he still averaged 18 points and 10 assists with one hand. He has earned the right, even if someone disagrees, to rank himself so highly.
Wall has played second fiddle to every other elite player at his position in the NBA, including Lillard who was promoted over him when both were with Adidas (Wall ended his relationship with the brand earlier this season).
Even on the East coast where Wall is from, Adidas instead invested in and promoted Lillard, who is from Oakland, Calif., and plays in the Northwest. It's not a personal dislike or animosity that the Wizards' point guard has for anyone -- something that's often misconstrued by those who don't understand the context and overreact as they did with his comments regarding Kyrie Irving and the All-Star voting and Reggie Jackson's max contract -- when he suggests he's top three.
Wall isn't a walking cliche. His candor should be welcomed, not ridiculed. It's rather hypocritical for those who ask such questions to do so.
Wall also knows that despite every statistical measure showing what it does about him in comparison to his contemporaries such as Lillard, that if he doesn't give himself some credit no one else will. And given how Lillard is frequently an afterthought when the best players at his position are discussed, he'll feel the same way. Both can be right.