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Now that Kobe Bryant has issued the challenge, what would it take for John Wall to earn first team all-defense?

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Now that Kobe Bryant has issued the challenge, what would it take for John Wall to earn first team all-defense?

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.

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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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Must-see moments from Wizards' loss to Cavs, including John Wall's big block

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Must-see moments from Wizards' loss to Cavs, including John Wall's big block

Here are the five best plays or moments from the Wizards' 106-99 loss to the Cavs on Sunday night...

1. The Cavs and Wizards aren't much of a heated rivalry anymore, but early on in this one Kelly Oubre, Jr. and J.R. Smith had an interesting moment.

For some reason Smith decided to push Oubre to the ground and he earned a technical foul for doing so. Oubre then did some pushups when he hit the ground. Oubre has a tendency to do pushups midgame, but this was probably the best instance of them:

2. It was another game for the Wizards so of course Mike Scott scored a bunch of points, as he's been prone to do in recent weeks. Scott dropped 19 points with four rebounds and four assists.

This is when he started to get hot, when he hit threes on back-to-back possessions in the first half:

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3. It was John Wall's third game back since he recovered from a swollen left knee and once again he didn't put up his usual numbers. Wall was limited to 15 points and six assists, though he did have 10 rebounds.

Wall's best play was a block. He stuffed Kevin Love on a play you just don't see very often from point guards:

4. LeBron James (20 points, 15 assists, 12 rebounds) had his fourth triple-double in his last five games, but he didn't shoot very well overall. He was just 8-for-23 and for him that is considered an off-night.

This play in particular made him look out of sorts. Everyone knows LeBron sometimes travels, but twice on the same play?

5. Oubre ended up having a good game with 11 points and eight rebounds and this was his best play, a two-handed putback slam:

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Wizards' loss to Cavs displays difference in depth between the teams

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Wizards' loss to Cavs displays difference in depth between the teams

The Wizards were without Otto Porter, who sat out with a hip injury, on Sunday night against the Cavs and matters were further complicated by his replacement, Kelly Oubre, Jr., getting into early foul trouble. John Wall was in just his third game back after missing nine with a left knee injury. Markieff Morris still isn't himself and had to get an X-ray midgame after getting hit in the neck.

That's a lot of reasons one could point to for why the Wizards lost to the Cavaliers on Sunday night. The problem is that even all those things added together don't equal the plight of their opponent.

The Cavs have been without Isaiah Thomas all season and on Sunday they were missing Dwyane Wade, Iman Shumpert and Derrick Rose, leaving them dangerously thin at the guard position. They started 36-year-old Jose Calderon against Wall, one of the best point guards in the business.

The Cavs were playing the second game of a back-to-back set, having beaten the Jazz in Cleveland the night before. And the Cavs also didn't get a great shooting night from LeBron James, who managed a triple-double with 20 points but shot just 8-for-23 from the field. That's nowhere near his 57-point performance back in November in the first game between these teams.

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They were playing a back-to-back, were missing four key players and LeBron's shot was off, but the Cavs still had enough to secure a road win against a good team in the Wizards. A big reason why is because they have one of the deepest rosters in basketball. Despite missing a host of regulars, they still had enough capable options to roll a 10-man rotation and see all their players record a net rating of even or better.

Perhaps it's unfair to draw major conclusions from a matchup between these teams that excluded so many key figures, but on Sunday night the Wizards were reminded how they still have work to do in order to catch the Cavs, who have represented the Eastern Conference in three straight NBA Finals. Some would point to the obvious reason for that, how they have the best player on the planet and the Wizards do not. But it was hard not to notice the Cavs' depth as being another separator on Sunday night.

The Cavs, who have won 17 of their last 18 games, can win in a variety of ways and with a lot of different people contributing to the cause. Some of the players who came off the bench to help them win on Sunday would have much smaller roles if everyone on the roster were healthy. Jeff Green had 15 points and five rebounds in 29 minutes. Kyle Korver had 11 points and shot 4-for-6 from the field. Channing Frye and Cedi Osman, who may not see the floor if others had played, each had five points and were 4-for-6 combined from the field.

Through 30 games, more than a third of the 2017-18 season, the Wizards appear to be a deeper team after improving their bench, which was a noted weakness. Mike Scott has emerged as a consistent scorer. Ian Mahinmi is healthy and in recent weeks has started to round into form. Tomas Satoransky is developing into a nice backup point guard and Jodie Meeks has improved the backup shooting guard position from last season.

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Once Wall and Morris play to their career norms, the Wizards should be a better team than they were last season. But whether they have the depth to truly test the Cavaliers in a playoff series is a question we don't yet know the answer to.

The Wizards will have to make a decision at some point before the February 8 trade deadline, which is now 53 days away, of what they need to really give themselves a chance at a deep playoff run. And in order to go deep in the postseason, they will likely have to square off against the Cavs.

Not all of their decisions will be based on how it directly affects their matchup with Cleveland, but surely that will be kept in mind as the Wizards look ahead towards the playoffs. They know who has to be knocked off to get where they want to go.

So far through two meetings with the Cavs this season, the Wizards have lost both of those games and neither featured the two teams at full strength. In their first meeting on Nov. 3, Morris was in his first game back from sports hernia surgery and Thomas, of course, didn't play. Their next matchup will be Feb. 22, after the deadline, meaning they have all the data they will get in terms of how the teams stack up head-to-head.

Do the Wizards need to make a move in the next two months to get closer to the Cavs, or do they already have enough to measure up in the spring? That's not an easy call for the Wizards' front office to make.

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