COLLEGE PARK, Maryland — The Washington Wizards just won their division for the first time in nearly 40 years, and the biggest driver of their success has been franchise superstar John Wall.
The four-time all star is putting up career highs in points and assists and leading the league in steals. But he’s unlikely to get any votes for MVP because of historic seasons from Russell Westbrook and James Harden, both of whom are posting league-leading stat lines.
Westbrook, of the Oklahoma City Thunder, is the first player in 55 years to average a triple-double for the season (30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, 11.4 assists). And the Houston Rockets’ Harden, under a new coach and in a new position, is somehow leading the league in assists and win shares.
John Wall is playing out of his mind. His problem: he’s doing it in the wrong year. A Capital News Service analysis found he’d have a strong case for getting at least one MVP vote — and maybe even winning the award — in at least three of the last 15 seasons.
We compared Wall’s 2017 statistical output to guards who received at least a single MVP vote in prior seasons, to see how Wall would have fared. We didn’t compare him to centers or forwards, who tend to have different statistical profiles.
We think he would have gotten at least one vote in 2006-2007. He would have been in the running in 2004-2005. And he probably could have won in 2001-2002.
It’s clear that Wall could not have won the MVP this season. Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki — perhaps the greatest European player in NBA history — won on the back of a career year.
The player who finished second, Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash, did better than Wall in most statistical categories, and had a breakout season with their famous “seven seconds or less” offense, winning 61 games.
But 2017 John Wall almost certainly would have received one vote. His stat line in this season compares favorably to Nash in terms of steals and points. And he surpassed Tony Parker, the guard who received the lowest number of MVP votes that season, in all but one category.
Another point in his favor: the point guards who got MVP votes that season averaged 20.5 points, 7.7 assists, 3.8 rebounds and a 22.3 player efficiency rating. Wall beats out all of those numbers.
In this season, Wall has a stronger case for winning the award. Nash, the 2005 MVP, had a down year statistically compared to 2007.
Wall leads Nash and Washington Wizards Gilbert Arenas, the guard with the least MVP votes this season, in every single category, except win shares. The win-share deficit can be explained by the fact that Wall’s 2017 teammates are simply better than Nash’s or Arenas’ were in 2005.
And while Nash anchored the league’s highest scoring offense that year, the 2017 Wizards would have been the second highest-scoring offense in 2005, averaging about one point less per game.
Except for assists, Arenas put up better numbers than Nash. But the 2005 Wizards only won 41 games, compared to 61 for Nash’s Suns. Since 1981, no MVP has come from a team with less than 50 wins. The Wizards won 49 games this year.
The win totals makes it difficult to definitively say that Wall would have beaten out Nash for the MVP, but we can assume that he would have had a fighting chance.
We think Wall would have won this year. Point guard Jason Kidd, of the New Jersey (now Brooklyn) Nets, almost beat San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan in the race for MVP, narrowly finishing second. Other than rebounding, Wall beats out Kidd in every statistical category. And the Wizards only finished four games behind the Nets regular season record.
Yes, the New Jersey Nets winning 26 more games than the previous season fueled Kidd’s MVP candidacy. But Kidd ended up with the same number of win shares as Wall while playing more games and more minutes, meaning it took him longer to produce the same number of wins for his team. And he was way better than the guard with the lowest number of votes, Mike Bibby of the Sacramento Kings.
What about this year? Should the fact that Wall brought the franchise to a level it has not seen in decades earn him MVP votes? We say yes.
The good news for Wall: the playoffs start Saturday, showcasing the Eastern Conference’s best point guard to a national audience. The bad news for Wall: the votes for MVP have already been cast.