After a fast start, John Wall slowed down by midseason as he persevered through soreness in his right knee and two bad ankles. He was arguably the best performer in the NBA in the postseason through the first round of the playoffs until he broke his left wrist in Game 1 of a second-round series with the Atlanta Hawks.
The stats: 17.6 points, 10.0 assists (career high), 4.6 rebounds (career high), 44.5% shooting (career high).
The accolades: An All-Star starter for the first time and second team All-NBA Defense.
The slights: Excluded from all three All-NBA teams for Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers), who was his All-Star backup.
The improvements: Look no further than his pull-up jump shot which he made at a higher accuracy than LeBron James, Jeff Teague, DeMar DeRozan and Monta Ellis. And Wall has gotten more comfortable driving left and pulling up instead of just at the right elbow. Another area he vastly improved was using floaters (they didn’t look pretty early in the season) and posting up smaller guards. He got away from the latter after the All-Star break but as the stakes got higher with the playoffs Wall played even better. In the last two games vs. Atlanta, he averaged 17.5 points and 10.0 assists –- with one good hand.
The ranking: Among NBA point guards, there was none better in the postseason. Irving, Kyle Lowry, Teague and Derrick Rose all took a back seat. Only league MVP Stephen Curry was on par with Wall. Going into next season, there’s no one in the East who should be slotted ahead of him. The West, however, remains deep with Chris Paul, Curry and Russell Westbrook. But Wall should be among the first names mentioned in that group and not just an afterthought.
The next step: Wall’s defense was strong early but when his health waned so did his focus on this end. He pulled it back together in time for the postseason where he was phenomenal on both ends as he merged offensive pace with defensive ball pressure. What separates Wall from the likes of Paul, Curry and Westbrook is three-point shooting. If he’s able to add this wrinkle to his game in a league that thrives on stretch shooting ability, he could rocket himself to the top of the class. Despite taking fewer attempts than the previous year, Wall regressed from 35% to 30%.
2014-15 grade: A.
2015-16 outlook: A third consecutive All-Star appearance, an All-Defensive team and All-NBA team selection.