John Walls’ name hardly is mentioned when the discussion of the NBA’s top point guards is the subject. And the 2010 No. 1 pick in the draft who is finally healthy, is intent on changing that conversation.
His latest case for inclusion was made Monday night, when Wall plastered the Memphis Grizzlies for a career-high 47 points in a Wizards’ 107-94 victory in D.C.
“I was just in a zone,” Wall said after posting the third-highest point total in the NBA this season. “I made my first couple of shots and I knew I was in a great rhythm. Ten points the first quarter, I knew I had it going.”
Wall’s blazing speed and quickness with the dribble and ability to finish drives have been the hallmark of his success at Kentucky and the NBA. But Monday night he displayed a much-improved jump shot, going 13-22 from the field.
If Wall can become a consistent jump-shooter, then he will join Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker among upper echelon NBA point guards.
“When somebody has it going like that, there’s really nothing you can do,” said Grizzlies’ guard Mike Conley, who was on the receiving end of Wall’s explosion. “You just put a hand up and hope that he misses. He had one of those nights where he was feeling it. We threw everything we had at him and he made the plays.”
The performance by Wall leaves Wizards fans and the city of Washington D.C. to wonder how good the team would be if he had been healthy and played at this level all season long. He missed 33 games this season with a left knee injury. But here is the telling statistic about Wall’s value: The Wizards are 21-16 since his return.
Monday’s performance was even more significant because the Wizards were without guard Bradley Beal (sprained left ankle), guard A.J. Price (groin) and forward Trevor Ariza (flu). Right before the game Wizards coach Randy Wittman also announced that forward Nene (sore right knee) and Martell Webster (abdomen strain) would also be out.
“Right now,” Wall said, “we’re just trying to salvage the games we can win and finish the season strong, so I knew I had to step up big.”
He did. Wall, who made a career-high 19 free throws on 24 attempts, he hit a jumper with four minutes to go as the clock expired to make it a 94-83 Wizards’ lead. That was the basket that kept Memphis at bay.
Wall also had seven rebounds and eight assists — the type of all-around brilliance that catches people’s attention.
“I’ve witnessed a lot of games. I’ve played with some pretty good players,” Wittman said. “I’ve coached some pretty good players. That was an incredible performance for him. . . That was incredible.”