Kyle Lowry and Damian Lillard have made the All-NBA team before John Wall, and two years ago Kyrie Irving beat out the Wizards’ point guard when he didn’t really have the better individual season.
This year, Wall should reach his self-stated goal of being a four-time All-Star (accomplished) and first-time All-NBA player. It's just a question of if it'll be on the first, second or third team.
It’s not just about Wall's individual accomplishments – career highs of 23 points, 10.8 assists and 2.0 steals – it’s his team’s success that should help him achieve that recognition.
Saturday night, he dominated his matchup with Irving for the second time in three meetings and put on display why as a two-way player there's not much of a debate to be had about it. Irving, who plays next to LeBron James which inflates his credibility and his marks in the team success category, was voted the All-Star starter but if it were a spot that was solely merit-based Wall again was better this season.
He not only had game highs of 37 points and 11 assists in the 127-115 win for Washington, Wall isolated Irving in plain sight, posted him, shot over him and defended James himself 1 vs. 1 with tremendous success.
Wall is doing all of this despite coming off surgeries to both knees May 5 and a slow start to the season. His conditioning wasn’t always there. He still can gamble a lot defensively and allow the ball in the lane because he’s going for steals. He still can be better.
When Wall is disciplined the way he was Saturday, not Irving, not Lillard, not Lowry, not Steph Curry and not even Russell Westbrook can be his peer on defense (Yes, Westbrook has a reputation for being a lockdown defender but there's ample evidence to show he's not and is in fact extremely undisciplined).
The Wizards (45-28) haven’t had an All-NBA player since Gilbert Arenas was second team in 2006-07 and third team in 2005-06 and 2004-05. Rod Strickland made it as a second-team selection for Washington in 1997-98.
And based on the way Wall's backcourt mate Bradley Beal is closing the season -- and being mistakenly omitted from his first All-Star apperance though he's no worse than the second-best shooting guard in the conference with DeMar DeRozan -- there's an argument to be made for him as All-NBA, too. Defensively, Beal has been more steady for longer stretches of the season than Wall.
Let's steamline the topic, however, and stay focused on Wall:
When isolated vs. Wall with no help, Irving has no chance of stopping Wall. Not good enough defensively and not nearly strong enough. And team defense isn't good, either, as Irving usually does a lot of reaching in and getting lost on the weak side of the floor:
When is the last time you've ever seen Irving defend like this?
And for all Irving's talents, his speed and handle that produce an array of offensive moves, he usually creates for himself. Wall creates for others even when it appears he has nothing:
There's far more evidence than this and it goes beyond one game and one matchup. Irving will have his moments where he gets the better of Wall. If you're in a situation when you need one bucket with the game on the line like in Game 7 of the NBA Finals?
Irving is a better option than James in that situation. But he's still not a better player than James.
Over an 82-game season/big picture, this represents the primary differences between the two and why Wall deserves to be rewarded because he's just better of the two. And the same applies to many others who have gotten the recognition that Wall has not in his seventh season.
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