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Morning tip: John Wall enters MVP territory in domination of Thunder

Morning tip: John Wall enters MVP territory in domination of Thunder

Where does John Wall rank among point guards in the East is a popular topic of conversation. In a discussion with CSNmidatlantic.com last week, he didn't mince his words though he was respectful of Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas. 

"I feel like I'm the best point guard. There's a lot of great guards in the Eastern Conference. Kyrie does a great job doing what he does. Isaiah does what he does," said Wall, who had his 34th double-double Monday in a 120-98 wipeout of the Oklahoma City Thunder. "We're all different type of point guards. I'm just all-around, do-everything. I'm the best point guard -- 20 points, 10 assists almost five rebounds, two steals -- play defense against every point guard on the opposing team."

The latter point Wall made is key, given that he doesn't get hidden defensively the way Irving and Thomas do against their tougher assignments at the position. But Wall's final words will end up being the most significant after his 15 point, game-high 14 assists and five rebounds had his team ahead by as many as 34 points Monday.

"You win," Wall said, "you get recognized."

The Wizards (33-21) have won 19 of 20 games at Verizon Center. They've won nine of their last 10 games overall. They're in third in the conference, just 4 1/2 games behind the first-place Cleveland Cavaliers.

If they hold this form, Wall may need to broaden his scope. He not only would be more widely regarded as the best at his position in the East but in the MVP conversation.

[RELATED: Takeaways from Wizards' blowout win over Thunder]

Wall dominated his matchup with Russell Westbrook on Monday. Unlike the Nov. 30 matchup when Westbrook had 35 points (on 35 shots), 14 rebounds and 11 assists as Wall rounded himself into shape after offseason surgeries to both knees, Westbrook couldn't get to the rim to finish.

The help from Marcin Gortat can't be understated, but Wall did the job in ways that his point guard counterparts cannot against the triple-double machine. Westbrook was 5-for-19 shooting for justs 17 points, four rebounds and four assists. 

"The focus was to stop Westbrook," Wizards forward Markieff Morris said. "That's what we did tonight. We just tried to make it real hard for him, play physical. We had a great third quarter and that put the game away."

Leading 67-54 at halftime, the Thunder were outscored 34-19. Including the end of the second quarter, they had a drought of 24 consecutive misseds shots. Westbrook was 0-for-4 in the third. Wall was just 1-for-2 for three points there but he dished out seven of his assists that included a between-the-legs pass to Otto Porter in transition for a dunk. 

[RELATED: Thunder at a loss to explain 24 missed shots in a row against Wizards]

Wall has responded to every challenge of an elite point guard with a better performance. Thomas lit up the Wizards for 20 of his 38 points in the fourth quarter of Boston's win on Jan. 11. Wall, who was playing with a mangled right pinkie and a swollen left wrist in shooting 4-for-21, came back with 27 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in a blowout of the Celtics two weeks later in the "funeral" game. 

Irving went for 29 points in a Nov. 11 win over the Wizards, and even though the Cavs won in a thriller overtime game last week at Verizon Center, Wall contributed to Irving shooting just 8-for-24.

Wall already has achieved one of his goals to be an All-Star for the fourth time. He also wants to be All-NBA for the first time, too, feeling he was overlooked two seasons ago for the more popular Irving who was on the better team.

Irving still has the better team as the Cavs are defending champions, but a lot of that has to do with LeBron James. Wall has been the best player on a team with a starting five that has scored in double figures together an NBA-leading 21 times.  

The disrespect that Wall has felt after leading the Wizards to the conference semifinals in two of the last three years -- averaging a double-double with a broken left hand in a series with the Atlanta Hawks -- likely will come to an end if he can close this season as strongly as his team has been closing out victories. 

The 29 other GMs who failed to give him a single nod among the league's best passers? They'll remember his name because the national TV dates such as this game vs. Westbrook will continue to add up, too.

"That (doesn't) really matter to me," Wall said when asked about being in the MVP conversation. "If I get there, I get there. As long as we're winning,  playing the way we are, I'm happy with that part."

Make no mistake, Wall craves to be mentioned as the East's best point guard. To be included with Westbrook, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Curry on the bigger stage, however, is another level and he'll bring 14 other players with him. 

[RELATED: Wizards happy to get Brooks win against his former team]

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How John Wall's injury affects the Wizards' many decisions this summer

How John Wall's injury affects the Wizards' many decisions this summer

With the 2018-19 season in the rearview for the Washington Wizards, we at NBC Sports Washington are analyzing the five biggest questions of what should be the most consequential offseason they have had in years...


Though there are several events this summer that could ultimately define the Wizards' offseason, one storyline will hang over everything and factor into just about every decision made by the front office and whomever ends up leading it as the team's new general manager. That is the future of John Wall, who is set to miss at least most of next season due to a ruptured left Achilles, in what will be the first year of his supermax contract.

Wall had surgery on Feb. 12. Even if he returns one year after going under the knife, he will still miss roughly 50 games next season. When he does come back, there are no guarantees he will be the same player. He turns 29 in September and a ruptured Achilles is a very serious injury, especially for a guy whose game has traditionally been reliant on speed.

The Wizards, of course, hope Wall will regain his peak form, but even if that happens it is unlikely to be the case right away. It may not be until the 2020-21 season until the Wizards get a true read on Wall post-surgery and how much value he can provide while making the money he is due. 

Speaking of the money, Wall will still take up a considerable chunk of the salary cap despite not playing. He is set to earn 35 percent of the cap next season, which right now is projected at about $37.8 million. Though that could technically fluctuate based on the final cap number, the percentage is what matters. The Wizards will basically have to build a roster with only 65 percent of the cap at their disposal.

There is an argument that Wall's injury is one of the biggest roster-building obstacles in NBA history. Supermax contracts, ones that allow players to make a contract that begins at 35 percent of the salary cap, are a new concept. And no one else has suffered such a serious injury while getting paid that type of money. 

It may not be quite what the Brooklyn Nets overcame in the fallout of their infamous trade with the Boston Celtics, the one that resulted in a net loss of three first round picks. But it's a bad situation, one that will require some creativity from whomever is tasked with pulling the Wizards out of it.

The long-term ramifications will depend on how Wall plays when he returns, but the short-term effect will clearly be felt. First, the Wizards have to have an insurance policy at point guard and a good one if they hope to compete for the playoffs. Maybe that is as simple as re-signing Tomas Satoransky, but regardless they have to shore up that position, knowing Wall's status.

Second, the Wizards need to find bargains to fill out the rest of their roster. They will have to find some cheap players simply to reach the 13-player minimum with Bradley Beal's max deal also on the books. Beal will earn roughly $27.1 million next season.

The biggest question as it pertains to Wall may deal with the NBA Draft on June 20. What if the Wizards get some luck in the May 14 draft lottery, but not enough to get the No. 1 pick (i.e. Zion Williamson), and Ja Morant is the best player on the board? Morant, of course, is the Murray State superstar who lit up the NCAA Tournament in March.

Morant is dynamic and has serious star potential, and he plays point guard. Wall was already asked about the potential of the Wizards drafting a point guard with a high pick. He said he would be fine with it, but that when he returns that draft pick can "be a great back-up" to him.

If the Wizards picked Morant, or even Coby White of North Carolina, it would arguably be the smart move to make. They need to select the best player available, no matter the position. 

But if they do take a point guard, that will present a unique dynamic to their locker room, especially if that player turns into a star. What if Morant comes in and lights it up as a rookie? How will Wall deal with that? And could you then put Morant on the bench when Wall returns, as Wall suggests they would?

Those are hypothetical scenarios that can be addressed if they actually enter the equation this summer and beyond. But there is no question that, even as Wall is sidelined with an injury, his presence will loom over the Wizards in many ways.


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An important summer of decisions for the Wizards, from free agents to Scott Brooks

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An important summer of decisions for the Wizards, from free agents to Scott Brooks

With the 2018-19 season in the rearview for the Washington Wizards, we at NBC Sports Washington are analyzing the five biggest questions of what should be the most consequential offseason they have had in years...


The Wizards enter this summer with only six players under contract for the 2019-20 season and that includes Jabari Parker's team option worth $20 million that is certain to be declined. With Parker accounted for, that essentially gives them eight impending free agents to decided on.

Eight players is more than half of a 15-man NBA roster and that is not to mention Dwight Howard's player option worth $5.6 million. If he opts out, they could have nine open spots.

Whomever the Wizards choose to replace Ernie Grunfeld as team architect will determine who will stay and who will go. Before they make that call, and they remain relatively early in the process, it is difficult to project which players will be back.

If they promote senior VP of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard from interim general manager to long-term status, that will mean a different course than if they go completely outside of the organization. Everyone has their own philosophies and a brand new voice would have no ties to those currently on the roster.

The same could apply to the coaching staff. Head coach Scott Brooks was not assured of his return at the end of the season and owner Ted Leonsis indicated that would be up to the next GM.

As far as the players go, each will present pros and cons. Some have more upside while some are older. Some will be more expensive to retain while some might be worth bringing back based on their relative cost.

Some could also depend on what the Wizards accomplish in the draft. They have the sixth-best odds and could luck into a top-four pick. Most mock drafts have this year's class top-heavy with wings and forwards. A top pick could affect how they view others at the same position.

Here is a look at each of the Wizards' free agents...

Tomas Satoransky, PG (RFA): Satoransky has a good chance of coming back because he can be a restricted free agent and most teams would like to have a player like him. He's versatile, committed on defense and an unselfish passer. He's also a point guard and, with John Wall set to miss most of next season, they need a good back-up plan if they hope to still compete for the playoffs.

If Sheppard assumes the full-time GM role, expect signing Satoransky before he hits restricted free agency to be a top priority. Even if an outside person takes over, Satoransky could very well still come back. But what could end Satoransky's time in Washington is his price tag. Will he get starting point guard money, or will he be had at a lower price?

Thomas Bryant, C (RFA): Like Satoransky, Bryant may be immune from a new GM wanting to move on and make change for the sake of change. The reasons to bring him back far outweigh the reasons not to. He's only 21 (he turns 22 in July) and has obvious potential. He's a young big man who gives an honest effort every night and has a great attitude. Those guys don't grow on trees.

Bryant also loves playing in Washington. But as a restricted free agent, he could field some nice offers and cash in on what was a breakout year. As a former second round pick with only two years of NBA experience, his contract situation could also be very complicated.  

If Sheppard takes the reins moving forward, signing Bryant will be a major goal. But even if someone from the outside comes in, it seems likely the Wizards will make an effort to keep him.

Jabari Parker, PF: Parker really genuinely enjoyed playing in Washington and would like to return. He proved a good fit offensively as a complement to Bradley Beal and has potential to get better at only 24 years old.

But Parker's price will be important and difficult to gauge until he starts talking to teams. Will anyone pay him $10 million-plus annually? It's really hard to tell based on how his stock has fallen and his injury history. Also, a new GM could choose to move on in favor of defense or something else.

Bobby Portis, PF/C (RFA): Portis is likely to be the most expensive of all of the Wizards' free agents to keep. The fact he can be a restricted free agent helps their cause, but he is reportedly looking for upwards of $16 million annually and it's just hard to see the Wizards paying that.

Now, Portis may also have the highest upside of any of these guys. He's only 24, is fast, can rebound and shoot. In fact, he can shoot very well for a big man and could turn into one of the more accurate stretch-fours in the league. But is that enough to pay him a big deal?

Trevor Ariza, SF: The biggest questions for Ariza's future center around price, whether the new GM wants to win now and whether Ariza wants to play for a contender. He made $15 million this past season which would be way too much for the Wizards to pay to bring him back. If that price comes down considerably for a guy who turns 34 in June, then maybe. 

But if a new GM wants to tear it all down and start over and sees missing the playoffs next season as not the worst thing, Ariza wouldn't help that cause. And Ariza may very well want to chase another ring this summer, something he couldn't do in Washington. That said, as he moves into his mid-30s, money may be the most important priority, as he only has so much time left to make an NBA salary.

Sam Dekker, PF (RFA): Dekker was in and out of the rotation, but overall played some of the best basketball of his young career so far during his four months with the Wizards. Helping his cause to return are a few things. For one, he is young and turns 25 in May. Secondly, he might be cheap and the Wizards will need some inexpensive players to fill roster spots next season.

Granted, a new GM from outside of the organization could want to clear out anyone that they can in order to start over with their own players. Dekker could be seen as expendable.

Chasson Randle, PG (RFA): For Randle, it is much of the same as Dekker. He's a young player with some upside to get better and he's not going to cost much. That is extra important for him as a point guard with Wall's injury in the equation. They can only apply so many resources to the position.