Getting John Wall back from his ruptured Achilles injury is one major step in the Wizards' road back to playoff contention, but in some ways just getting him back from rehab is not the end, it is the beginning. He is 30 years old and due roughly $131.6 million the next three years. Ensuring he provides value for that contract in the coming years is pivotal in their chances for success.
It's not only up to Wall, either. He has to stay healthy and he probably has to assume an adjusted role now that Bradley Beal has ascended to stardom with an expanded playmaking skillset. But there are also things the Wizards can do to make life easier for Wall and preserve his long-term impact.
Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard appears to be thinking directly in those terms, as he explained on Tuesday in a pre-draft meeting with the media. One way, and it's not surprising at all, will involve restricting his workload.
Sheppard said the team expects to have upwards of 14 back-to-backs in what will be a truncated, 72-game season. Wall will only play in one game per back-to-back set to start the season. His minutes will also go down, Sheppard said.
As for how the personnel around Wall can help his cause, Sheppard first pointed to backup point guard Ish Smith.
"We're looking at everything to help John. I think the best thing we can do is have a really good backcourt behind him. With Ish Smith, we know we have an incumbent who started for us last year. He's an excellent point guard who is very capable of starting or [playing] spot minutes backing up John," Sheppard said.
Sheppard noted how Smith is one of the fastest point guards in the league. Wall was known for his speed before his injury, so if he comes back close to 100 percent, they could have a unique dynamic between the two of them.
But it also won't only be up to them at the point guard position. Sheppard explained how they will need a capable third point guard when Wall sits out due to rest. He seemed to nod to Troy Brown Jr., saying they have other options on the roster.
Sheppard didn't go into specifics in terms of draft or free-agent options, but those are resources they could use to help Wall. For one, a rim protector and wing defender would take some off of his plate on that end of the floor, where he is more likely to struggle given the nature of his injury and the lack of a strong supporting cast. Getting a shot-blocker like Onyeka Okongwu of USC or Precious Achiuwa of Memphis with their ninth overall draft pick would give the Wizards a better defensive foundation.
Also, re-signing Davis Bertans and continuing to surround Wall with shooters could help. They would provide space for Wall to work with off the dribble and make it easier for him to showcase his passing ability. Bertans, in particular, is one of the best catch-and-shoot scorers in the league, meaning Wall just needs to feed him an accurate pass to get the assist.
There are many ways the Wizards can go with trying to help Wall's long-term cause, but there is no question it's an important goal and it sounds like Sheppard has it top of mind.