It's been a whirlwind week for John Wall, traveling from USA Basketball's mini-camp and showcase in Las Vegas back to the East Coast to dot the i's and cross the t's on a five-year maximum contract extension that makes him the face of the Washington Wizards franchise through the 2018-19 season. Part of that leadership role — and, of course, becoming one of the highest-paid point guards in the NBA — is speaking with the media about the responsibility all those zeroes entail, which is why Wall carved out a few minutes on Friday morning for a chat with Sports Illustrated writer Chris Mannix, who was sitting in as the host of Dan Patrick's popular nationally syndicated radio program.
After briefly discussing the proper protocol for tipping on takeout orders (shouts to Drew Brees) and becoming overcome by emotion at the press conference announcing his five-year extension, Wall was asked by Mannix where he ranks among NBA point guards. His answer, I am sure, will not shock you in the least:
The relevant quotes:
Mannix: All right, John: Where do you rank among NBA point guards?
Mannix: Where do you rank, yeah?
Wall: I rank myself the best.
Mannix: Number 1?
Wall: Yeah. I rank myself the best.
Mannix: Are you basing that on past accomplishments or are you basing it on what you think you can do in the future?
Wall: Just basing it on what I can do in the future, what I feel like I have at stake ahead of me [...] I mean, I feel like I always can improve, and it's a lot of talented point guards out there. But I feel like I can hold my own.
For the record, Wall also went on to identify fellow maxed-out point guards Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls and Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder as the toughest opposing triggermen in the league for him to guard due to their explosiveness off the bounce and playmaking ability, so it's not exactly like he was out here throwing shade like a latter-day Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi.
Because I know you are all waiting, here is my #HotSportsTake vis-a-vis Wall's self-assessment, which is remarkably similar to my #HotSportsTake on Rose saying he's the best player in the NBA earlier this week: I mean, this is obviously not true, but it is neat that he is thinking this way.
There are several point guards I can confidently say I'd rather have running my team right now than Wall, including the two he just mentioned (Rose and Westbrook), along with Chris Paul and Tony Parker. Deron Williams (the version who finished last season, anyway) Stephen Curry and Rajon Rondo come real close to being definites there, and Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard probably do, too, especially when you consider the value of their play vs. their contracts after Wall inked his max-out.
There are several others that I wouldn't necessarily call definites, but for whom you could make an argument for taking over Wall based on their respective games today — Mike Conley and Ty Lawson pop to mind — but that's probably more a "season to taste" situation, and your mileage may vary. The point is, given the wondrous league-wide health of the point guard position, I think it's pretty clear that Wall, as presently constituted, isn't the No. 1 point guard in the NBA, and that the depth and breadth of young talent is such that suggesting he'll be the best going forward because of his age and room for growth is, at best, an uncertain proposition.
That said: Why the hell should John Wall care what I think?
All that should matter to him right now is what he thinks and those within the Wizards organization think. They're the ones who just ponied up the dough for him to be that guy, who showed as much faith and confidence as they could muster that they believe he'll live up to the promise of his draft position and make Washington a capital-letters Relevant NBA City again. The Wizards have been wandering through the wilderness for five long years, having suffered through the "Pick 1" implosion and the failed JaVale/Andray/Nick youth movement reboot, and they're looking for a basketball savior, someone to bear their standard and lead their charge, and they've just told John Wall in no uncertain terms that they trust him to do that job.
Even if he had any lingering doubts, Wall is expected to Act As If in situations like this; he must operate as the man until such time as he actually fills the space of that role. I'm reminded of what Internet pal Spencer Hall wrote when he got his last promotion: "The plan is to be awesome every day. There is no alternate plan."
Of course I'm the best point guard in the NBA. As a matter of fact, I'm the best player in the NBA. I'm the best player we've ever had. I'm the best player you've ever seen. I'm better than things you haven't seen. You've never seen "Casablanca," right? I'm better than that. I'm better than the sunset at Big Sur. I'm better than Jiro's sushi. Don't believe me? Just watch. By the way, I just blew past three levels of defense and set up Bradley Beal for a wide-open 3. Keep watching.
The journey from the bottom the top takes a million things going your way, but to a large extent, the trip from the bottom to the middle takes audacity. That trip's the first item on Washington's to-do list, and I think it's rad that John Wall's audacious enough to be willing to stick his neck out. Now let's see it, Mr. Wall.
Hat-tip to ProBasketballTalk.
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