Sunday 18 February 2018 / 02:07 PM


Of the most overlooked things that we got in the first slate of first round games over the weekend was the bananas show that John Wall put on against the Hawks. Maybe it’s because of the Hawks and Wizards not being an enticing matchup, and it could just be that other things were going on.

Either way, the play of Wall hasn’t been properly considered, and we’ve watched the best statistical explosion from a point guard in the East that we’ve seen yet. Wall’s entire season was just shy of something league has never seen before, narrowly missing being the first player in league history to post 23 PPG, 11 assists, and 2 steals per game.

He put on a clinic, and single-handedly vaulted the Wizards from a flailing team in December to the top of the Eastern Conference. And without that month-long bad start, the Wizards would be sitting with a top two seed. The Cavs and Celtics both wanted to avoid this team, and it’s obvious why.

The worry on everyone from buying stock in the Wizards were the “next step” that contending playoff teams take in the postseason. The Wizards haven’t been a playoff team in some time, and there was little evidence to show if Wall and company had that next gear.

Those fears are now completely on ice after the Wizards went up 2-0 last night against Atlanta.

Wall has the Wizards rolling in the postseason, kicking up his already ridiculous play and planting the Wizards as a surefire contender. In this series alone, Wall has taken a solid NBA guard in Dennis Schroeder and thoroughly ripped him to shreds. Known as one of the NBA’s quickest guards, Schroeder can’t keep pace with Wall around screens, and he’s ripping Atlanta’s weakside defense alive on drives.

It’s the John Wall we all knew existed, but the one we’ve never seen on this stage. Wall is showing every side of his game. Need a guy to drive and get points? That’s Wall’s best work. He’s putting pressure on bigs and getting Shroeder in foul trouble in both of the first two games.

Need a guy to stretch the defense on the outside? Wall has even learned how to do that. Once his biggest liability, Wall has turned himself into a competent outside shooter, and that’s stretched the wings out and opened up driving lanes. He’s even picked up a post game, and repeatedly backed down smaller guards in both games, en route to 32 in both outings.

And he’s got his teammates playing at levels we haven’t seen. Gortat in the pick and roll has seen a rival, and Markieff Morris lobs and dishes are becoming a thing to watch. But Wall’s play with Otto Porter has pushed the promising wing to another level, having him hit five of his six field goals in the series off assists from Wall.

And obviously, we know about the play with Bradley Beal, who’s health this season has given the two a full year to play together and grow, and they have turned into the East’s best back court.

But Wall’s biggest strength may be on defense. Wall is averaging a full 2 steals per game in the regular season and almost a full block. He’s been a lockdown defender on each team’s best perimeter player, and has elevated the team’s overall defense to contender status, as they have been good enough to completely stifle even the best of the East’s guards.

With his play in the regular season, and that new switch in the postseason, John Wall has shown he’s the best guard in the Eastern Conference. And for a team that was sitting at home a year ago, that’s everything.

The Wizards are showing they may be the team with the best shot of knocking out the Cavaliers, and with John Wall playing this way, there’s plenty of reason to believe it.

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About the author

Austin Albertson

Austin is CBS' senior NFL and NBA analyst, bringing you commentary on everything between the lines and inside the hashes, from the film room to the scoreboard.

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