What little chance of a John Wall MVP push that may have still existed after the point guard’s up-and-down start to the season took a huge blow on Saturday, as the Wizards announced Wall will miss approximately two weeks because of discomfort and inflammation in his left knee. Wall, 27, will receive platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and viscosupplementation injections to help reduce the inflammation.
Wall initially suffered the injury against Dallas on Nov. 7, the Wizards say, and sat out a Nov. 19 loss to the Raptors because of it. Two more weeks on the shelf would mean missing around seven or eight games for Wall, who has missed a total of 12 games over the past four seasons. Although, as the Washington Post’s Candace Buckner notes, teammate Ian Mahinmi received PRP on both knees last year and missed six weeks. (For what it’s worth, Wall also missed the first 33 games in the 2012-13 season because of a stress injury to the same left leg.)
Knee trouble is not a good sign for anyone, but it’s especially troubling for Wall, whose game is predicated on speed and athleticism, and for the Wizards, who are predicated on two good players, according to Wall himself. (To Wall’s point, only five Wizards players who play over 10 minutes have positive net ratings—Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr., Marcin Gortat, and Kelly Oubre Jr.) In Wall’s absence, the Wizards will likely have to turn the keys over to Tim Frazier, a scrappy, pass-first point guard who spent last season—his first full one in the NBA—in and out of the Pelicans’ starting unit because of shooting and defensive concerns.
The Wizards’ 11th-ranked defense will surely take a hit without Wall, an upper-level defender at this position, but at least Frazier still has Beal to pass to. While Wall griped about not getting the respect he felt he deserved entering the season, and proceeded to play like a Russell Westbrook cover band late in games as a result, Beal has been the Wizard’s best—or at least most consistently good—player this season. The 24-year-old’s shooting numbers a down a bit, but he’s getting to the line more than ever, and averaging a career-high 21 PER as a result. Aside from Porter and the occasional Hulking-out by Gortat, Beal is really the only option the Wizards have. For Washington (10-8) to have any chance of rising into the Eastern Conference elite—or maybe even staying in the playoff field altogether—Beal will have to prove he can keep up his recent efficiency (26.3 points on 47.8 percent shooting, 40.7 from three-point range in November) at Westbrookian volume.
Will that be enough? Washington’s net rating (seventh-best in the NBA) far exceeds its place in the standings (seventh in the East), but, without anything close to a statement win, it seems to fit right in with the NBA’s morass.
The Wizards might be in trouble without Wall. And Wall, a player who has openly pined for elite status more than he’s played like it recently, may now have to wait another season to get the respect he feels he deserves.