John Wall's eager acceptance of Kobe Bryant's challenge for him to make first team all-defense likely means more than just a fun exchange for fans on Twitter. There have been many signs this offseason suggesting Wall is on a mission to get much better on the defensive end.
There was this tweet by Wall when the NBA's all-defensive teams were announced for the 2016-17 season and he wasn't listed.
Quote tweeting somebody with 'LOL' is Wall's favorite way to disagree with something and we know he loves to draw motivation from perceived snubs, whether that be postseason accolades, national TV games for the Wizards or his NBA 2K rating.
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Even before Kobe put the all-defense goal out there, Wall was drawing similar buzz for this video from James Harden's charity game. Showcase games generally do not feature tight defense, yet Wall was locking up Harden and Chris Paul, two of the best guards in the NBA, on multiple possessions, clearly taking each 1-on-1 matchup seriously:
Head coach Scott Brooks even mentioned defense as a key area Wall can improve on this coming season during the press conference to announce Wall's new supermax contract earlier this month.
So, what would Wall have to do to earn first team all-defense and make the Black Mamba look brilliant in hindsight? It certainly won't be easy to join what is an exclusive club. Only two guards in the entire league make first team all-defense.
Bryant, by the way, made first team all-defense nine times, tying Kevin Garnett, Gary Payton and Michael Jordan for tops in NBA history. Bryant's 12 times making all-defense (including three second team selections) are tied for second-best all-time behind only Tim Duncan, who was picked 15 times.
It's extremely rare to put up numbers like that and the Wizards' franchise is a prime example. Wall has one all-defensive team selection under his belt, as he made second team in 2014-15, but that was just the second time since 1985-86 when Manute Bol was second team all-defense that a Washington player has earned the honor. Besides Wall, only Larry Hughes in 2004-05 earned all-defense in a Wizards uniform.
The year Wall made all-defense he posted the best defensive rating (102) of his career. In the two years since that number has risen to 104 and 108. The Wizards as a team were fifth-best in defensive rating and 10th-best in opponents points per game in 2014-15. This past year they were 20th and 21st in those categories.
In order for Wall to get back into the mix for all-defense, both he and the Wizards as a team will likely have to improve those defensive numbers. Wall already has other defensive stats working in his favor. He led the NBA in total steals (157) this past season and was fourth among guards in blocks (49). One of those ahead of him was Giannis Antetokounmpo.
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To get first team all-defense, Wall will need to beat out some very good perimeter defenders. Chris Paul, for one, has made the first team as a guard for six straight years. Unless he falls off this season, that doesn't leave a lot of room for other guards. Wall has to either snag that second spot or outdo Paul, one of the best defensive guards in NBA history.
The second spot next to Paul has included several other names in recent years. Patrick Beverley, who was traded for Paul this summer, was first team for 2016-17. Avery Bradley, who was traded from the Celtics to the Pistons this offseason, got that honor the year before. Tony Allen was first team all-defense the season before that. Allen, interestingly enough, has made the second team in each of the last two seasons, but is now 35 and still looking for a contract as a free agent this summer.
Wall himself does have one major thing working in his favor in his quest to make all-defense and maybe even the first team. This offseason he is fully healthy for the first time in a while and one year after he was rehabbing from two knee surgeries. That has allowed Wall to apply extra focus to conditioning, which is crucial for defense, especially late in games.
Wall has been a second team all-defensive player before. Now he appears intent on taking the next step.
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