The praise being heaped on John Wall now that the Wizards are in the playoffs for the third time in four years is deserved. But it reeks of overcompensation in some circles.
Before the regular season began, a survey of the league’s 30 general managers ranked players in all sorts of categories, including best passers. The results of the survey suggested one of two things: 29 other GMs aren’t very smart or they didn’t actually vote, instead farming out the responsibility for their votes to someone else on their staff.
(Yes, this happens in polls that are far more serious than a preseason NBA poll. In USA TODAY’s coaches’ polls for college football and basketball, for instance, the actual coaches don’t always do the voting. A lot of assistants do it and sometimes they’re not even assistant coaches.)
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Chris Paul, LeBron James, Ricky Rubio, Rajon Rondo and even Ben Simmons, a rookie who’d never played an NBA game (and missed the entire season with injury) got votes. Wall somehow didn’t (his own GM, Ernie Grunfeld, wasn't allowed to vote for him).
Of course, he took exception to the survey, and for good reason. Wall was among the leaders in assists in 2015-16 when he averaged 10.2 and averaged a career-high 10.7 assists per game for second-best in the league this season. He didn't suddenly become a good passer.
In Game 4 against the Celtics, he pulled off one of the sickest assists in the postseason to Marcin Gortat.
The omission is a bit embarrassing, but 29 other teams — not even the Sacramento Kings — aren't that clueless. Leaving Wall out among the top passers is like forgetting to vote for Steph Curry among shooters.
It's more of an indication of brand recognition, though you'd think NBA personnel would know better that to gloss over Wall in such a manner. He doesn't get the respect that his talent should demand. Wall and the Wizards might be able to change that for good if they get past Boston and into the conference finals for the first time in four decades.