By Keith McDonald
The Wizards have been playing well without John Wall in the lineup, almost too well. The topic of, “Are the wizards better without Wall?” has been seemingly the only national attention the Wizards have received all year. This narrative should soon end.
Jake Whitacre of the Wizards blog BulletsForever did a great job highlighting a big issue for the Wizards, that hasn’t quite reared its ugly head. The everlasting issues at center have gotten worse, and it’s directly linked to Wall’s absence.
Since Wall was sidelined with a cleanup knee procedure, the Wizards have gone 12-7, remained in the playoff picture and have picked up their rate of passing. This has been widely reported and happily accepted by a ton of people. That needs to stop. Since Marcin Gortat’s comments about “team basketball”, he has been the one to see the steepest decline. Whitacre points out that since the Allstar break, Gortat is averaging only 7.5 ppg with 40.3% accuracy.
Tomas Satoransky is a quality point guard, but he is in no way a similar player to Wall. Satoranksy is built for passing and off-ball movement. This has worked well in his time as a starter, but the team is built around Wall’s deadly speed and ball handling. Gortat and Ian Mahinmi’s production on the offensive end rely on Wall’s pick-and-roll, pick-them-apart style of play. On the defensive end, although Mahinmi is more athletic, they rely on Wall’s speed to get in front of fast breaks, in order to get into defensive sets.
Satoranksy is a good backup, the one the Wizards have needed for years. He will not, and cannot, take over Wall’s starting spot once he’s healthy. Wall should be returning to the hardwood within the next two weeks, expect some rust, but expect the Wizards to hit their stride right in time for the playoffs.