Now that John Wall is finally All-NBA for the first time in his career, it's difficult to find any reason to complain about him being recognized among the top 15 players in the league. He made third team -- ahead of the likes of Kyle Lowry, Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul, Goran Dragic and Damian Lillard who have appeared before him-- but behind second-team selection Isaiah Thomas.
On the surface, it's splitting hairs. So what? At least Wall fulfilled one of his goals after a 49-win season and getting the Wizards to Game 7 of the conference semifinals.
But he'll surely find exta motivation because even though he has begun to earn more respect on a national scale, he won't feel it was enough after averaging career highs in points (23.1), assists (10.7), steals (2.0) and field-goal accuracy (45.1%).
There'll always be these kind of hot takes from those who spoke ill of him from Day One and then continaully move the goalposts to justify their initial flawed judgments. When you actually put Wall in the same breath as Kendall Marshall, who was so bad that the No. 13 draft pick was jettisoned after one year by the Phoenix Suns which is unheard of, you should give yourself 20 lashes every time you utter his name:
Okay Wiz fans: you are right. Without John Wall the Wiz couldn't possibly be the 11th best team in the NBA. http://t.co/RPGY5tmZ7v— John Feinstein (@JFeinsteinBooks) February 11, 2015
Kelly Olynick. Yep, I was WRONG--hugely WRONG--on Kendall Marshall but Wall, wonderful player, still isn't the superstar he--and DC media...— John Feinstein (@JFeinsteinBooks) May 16, 2017
think he is. MVP? He was outplayed by Thomas when it mattered most. Final question: Why does Ovechkin get nailed so HARD for playoff failure— John Feinstein (@JFeinsteinBooks) May 16, 2017
So to compensate for this, every time Wall doesn't lead his team to the NBA championship -- like 29 other starting point guards in the NBA -- he'll be ridiculed. It's the Colin Cowherd heads I win/tails you lose logic. Trolling under the guise of analysis.
Wall jumps on the scorer's table after hitting the Game 6 winner over the Boston Celtics and he's foolish. Thomas screams, "You can't f--- with a killer" after winning a regular season game over the Wizards and throws hand signs, what does that make him?
Like Wall, it's player who is caught up on emotion of the moment. It means or proves nothing. Thomas was fined for threatening to beat up a fan at Verizon Center after a playoff loss. What will that have to do with anything in analyzing him as a player? It this were Wall, of course, such an incident would be mentioned every single time and used to question his upbringing and character.
Thomas' team was marginally better than Washington. They were better defensively as a team to hide Thomas' shortcomings. Their role players were better than a Wizards bench that produced five total points in Game 7. Boston didn't win the series because Thomas outplayed Wall. Kelly Olynyk turned into 2011 Dirk Nowitzki. That wasn't Wall's cover, but blame him for it all anyway. Usually the team that has a bench that scores 48 points will win.
What should be ridiculed until the end of time is thinking Marshall, who couldn't stay in front of a stop sign on defense and obviously lacked NBA athleticism, was T.J. McConnell's peer much less Wall's (Sorry Kendall, though I really don't like the Tar Heels this isn't personal. I didn't invoke your name. You're just collateral damage).
I wasn't sure when Wall was taken No. 1 overall in 2010 if he could be this good. But I also had no first-hand knowledge of his work ethic. At that time, it was all about "if" he works hard, "if" he's committed, "if" he's coachable. That's true about a lot of draft picks who aren't even legal drinking age when they turn pro. There's no way to project if a million dollars will make them work harder or relax.
I voted Wall for the second team on my official ballot. Thomas was my third-team selection. Both worked incredibly hard to get there because they were raw when they entered the league.
All-NBA is a regular-season award. That Thomas' Celtics eliminated the Wizards isn't relevant. The voting was submitted by the panel of 100 during the final week of the regular season.
Thomas averaged 28.9 points (almost six more than Wall), 5.9 assists (about five fewer), 0.9 steals (one fewer), shot 46.3% overall (one percent better) and 37.9% from three-point range (five percent better).
Thomas is better in some areas, but not as good in others. It's no slam-dunk that Thomas should be elevated above Wall unless team wins (53 vs. 49) is the trump card. If that's your standard for All-NBA, then Anthony Davis shouldn't be first-team with 34 wins and Giannis Antetokounmpo shoulnd't be second team with 42 wins. There are players at their positions who didn't make All-NBA with far more victories.
When it's the fourth quarter and crunch time, what happens on the defensive end? Does Thomas stay on the floor? No. Brad Stevens will sub him in and out.
Why? Because opposing coaches target him and Boston knows he's a major liability.
When a game starts, does Thomas defend Wall, Irving, Lowry, Paul, Lillard or any of the other elite point guards or is he hidden on weaker offensive players while Avery Bradley gets the lion's share of that workload?
Wall's individual defense has been hit and miss to start the season because he was coming off double knee surgery. In the playoffs, he was beaten by falling asleep off the ball in key moments and the Wizards just weren't as sharp at switching.
But at 6-4, there are shots that won't reach the rim because of him. The defense he played on Irving in their win in Cleveland and in their OT loss at home to the Cavs could never be duplicated by Thomas. Neither can the chasedown blocks.
It's no fault of Thomas that he's undersized at 5-9. How can anyone root against the Little Engine That Could? If you're grading on a curve there's a case for him being first team, but that's not what All-NBA is.
This isn't 2015 when Irving was voted ahead of Wall, who missed All-NBA and was more deserving then, just because he played with LeBron James and was on the better team.
Paul had a down season because of injuries, but he's as close to flawless as a point guard can get because he does everything well and his assist-to-turnover ratio is so impressive that it's downright sickening.
But if you look for reasons to downgrade Wall at every turn, and opine with a smugness that those who see Wall as a star are wrong, just look at the results for people who actually watch the league. I think he was one rung too low and still doesn't get the benefit of the doubt while others like Thomas will, but Wall was listed on 87 of the 100 ballots.
In a year where there was an obsession over triple-doubles of James Harden and Russell Westbrook in the banter over who is the MVP, how many double-doubles did Wall have in comparision to Thomas?
He had 50. That's while defending better players, not being able to hide or rest to save himself for the fourth quarter and creating for others, too. That's not D.C. media favortism. It's the truth which is allergic to the hot take kings of the sports world.
That's 45 more double-doubles than Thomas. That's 20 double-doubles more than the four point guards -- Thomas, Lowry, Irving and Kemba Walker -- who made the East All-Star team this year combined.
No matter what team he's chosen for All-NBA, Wall is the best point guard in the East. He's must-see TV. He's a star. How big of a star is up for debate but he's on the rise.
Even Kendall Marshall can see that.