Rick Snider: Wizards' John Wall finally looks worthy of his draft status

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Sports,NBA,Wizards,Rick Snider

John Wall may be the NBA's player of the year.

The Washington Wizards have won five of their last seven games headed into Wednesday's late contest at Utah, including four of six since the guard returned from offseason knee surgery. That's Herculean after they started the year 4-28. The former 2010 top pick was once deemed an underachiever, but rallying this sorry crew to more than just a few fluke wins is Jordanesque.

StubHub doesn't even have Wizards tickets for less than $1 anymore.

Forget Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Wall is pulling off an MVP-type season if Washington posts a winning record the remainder of the season.

Wall's only averaging 14.0 points, 6.7 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game, each about two fewer than his career average, though his minutes still are being limited. However, backcourt mate Bradley Beal has two 20-plus point efforts playing with Wall after putting together only four beforehand. Beal is finally showing why he was a first-rounder after a horrible start.

Then there's Jordan Crawford's dagger against Portland on Monday. Jordan should be the fourth option on that shot, but Wall's play inspires others. That's the sign of a great player.

Just when Wizards fans wondered whether the team blew its second No. 1 overall pick on an average player who missed the first 33 games, Wall is proving he may be worth it. The former Kentucky standout averaged 16.3 points in two lackluster seasons but seldom wowed fans.

Meanwhile, Wall's Kentucky teammate DeMarcus Cousins averaged 18.1 points and 11.0 rebounds last year for Sacramento as the fifth overall selection in 2010. Georgetown's Greg Monroe, the seventh pick that year, averaged 15.4 points and 9.7 rebounds for Detroit in 2011-12. Crawford, taken 27th by New Jersey before he was traded to Atlanta and then Washington, has numbers slightly off Wall's career marks.

The Wizards didn't miss on a great player behind Wall. This wasn't the 2001 disaster named Kwame Brown, who averaged 4.5 points his rookie year and was gone after four poor seasons. Washington could have chosen Pau Gasol or six other All-Stars that year.

Wall is a solid player, just not the great one fans envision from a No. ?1 overall pick. Then again, maybe Wall's time away from the game has strengthened his desire to become that great player.

Wall recently brought up the idea of the Wizards making the playoffs. But Washington would have to win nearly two-thirds of its final games to make the postseason. Last year, the Utah Jazz (36-30) and Philadelphia 76ers (35-31) were the eighth seeds in the lockout-shortened season.

Still, the Wizards at least are fun to watch nowadays, whereas they were completely outclassed before Wall's return. Now the Wizards have a chance every night. Makes you wonder what might have been had Wall not been hurt.

The downside of this resurgence is the possibility of general manager Ernie Grunfeld sticking around and the weakening chances of a top five pick in what's considered a poor draft. The sixth pick might result in another Jan Vesely, whom Washington took sixth in 2011 as its latest draft blunder.

Still, Wall is making this season watchable, and that's a victory right there.

Examiner columnist Rick Snider has covered local sports since 1978. Read more on Twitter @Snide_Remarks or email rsnider@washingtonexaminer.com.

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