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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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With Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons set to debut, John Wall and Bradley Beal recall their early days

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With Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons set to debut, John Wall and Bradley Beal recall their early days

The Philadelphia 76ers will have two No. 1 overall picks make their NBA debuts on Wednesday night in Markelle Fultz (2017) and Ben Simmons (2016). They are in for a challenge with the Wizards, one of the best teams in basketball, and with guards John Wall and Bradley Beal.

Wall and Beal know that challenge well. They were both top draft picks in their own right, Wall the first pick in 2010 and Beal the third pick in 2012. They can recall in specifics their first games in the NBA and how humbling they were.

"My first game, I was going against Dwight Howard. It was fun," Wall said. "There was a lot of pressure. There were a lot of people talking."

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It's often said that the point guard position is as deep as it's ever been nowadays. The last three MVP awards have gone to point guards, for instance.

There were some good ones back in 2010, too.

"I remember in a five-game span I played like [Rajon] Rondo, Derrick Rose here and then I went out west and played Steve Nash, Chris Paul and Russell [Westbrook]," Wall said. "I don't think it's gotten any harder than it was back then in 2010 with those five guys. You kind of understand what those guys are about when you get to see it firsthand and play against them."

Beal vividly remembers going up against the LeBron James-led Miami Heat as a 19-year-old. It wasn't easy.

"It was the Heat when they had [Dwyane Wade] and LeBron on the same team. That's when D-Wade was electrifying. He still had his quickness. He was strong as I don't know what and I was a baby at that time," he said.

"For me, it was like I was in awe because those are the guys I grew up watching and I was a fan of. Now I'm playing against them and I can't be a fan of them. It was amazing to play against them, but also an eye-opener like, I need to get better."

Now it's Fultz and Simmons' turn to see what matching up with NBA superstars is like and don't expect Wall or Beal to take it easy on them.

"I'm a competitive person, so I'm not going to back down from any challenge," Wall said.

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Wizards Tipoff podcast, Ep. 45 - Season preview with over/unders and bold predictions

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NBC Sports Washington

Wizards Tipoff podcast, Ep. 45 - Season preview with over/unders and bold predictions

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman personal injury lawyers, Chase Hughes and Chris Miller previewed the 2017-18 Wizards regular season with over/unders, biggest questions and bold predictions.

NBC Sports Philly Sixers Insider Jessica Camerato also joined the show to preview the first game between the Wizards and Sixers.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

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