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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Even though it was an exciting time in the district from 2003 to 2010, the Gilbert Arenas era was a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs when it came to the wins and losses column.
Having a perennial all-star for the better part of a decade, the oft-injured yet talented point guard formerly known as “Agent Zero” wowed fans with his constant scoring outbursts but also disappointed them with inconsistent play at the same time.
The three-time NBA All-Star led Washington to the playoffs for four consecutive seasons (2004-2008) during his tenure with the Wizards only to be dominated by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers for three consecutive seasons after the Wizards only advanced in the first round once against the Chicago Bulls in 2005. The Wizards were then swept in the Eastern Conference Semifinals by the Miami Heat.
For the next two seasons, the Wizards were atrocious totaling only 45 wins in both seasons combined.
Despite averaging more than 22 points per game and nearly eight assists per contest during the 2009-2010 campaign, Washington decided to move in another direction before the NBA Draft during the offseason.
Enter John Wall, the former University of Kentucky standout who had the same flair and scoring ability as Arenas enticed new Washington Wizards Majority Owner Ted Leonsis decided to take a chance on the young playmaker.
With the first pick of the 2010 NBA Draft, Leonsis chose Wall hoping that the one-and-done student-athlete could turn his fledgling franchise around as a future star.
However, the wins did not come in a timely fashion for the flashy scorer. Wall showed glimpses of greatness as the game started to slow down for him despite racing down the court each possession with a reckless style of play early on.
He earned First-Team NBA All-Rookie honors, and things seemed to be moving in the right direction even though the Wizards did not make it to the postseason until the 2013-2014 season.
However, with Arenas (20.2 PPG, 5.3 AST, 1.6 STL, 3.9 RPG) and Wall (18.9 PPG, 9.2 AST, 1.7 STL, 4.4 RPG) having similar statistics and individual awards at the same position, a question must be asked: Have the Washington Wizards hit a wall?
Wall, a five-time NBA all-star has led his team to the playoffs four times as well, and the Wizards still have not advanced past the second round including losing to the Toronto Raptors (4-2) this season. Both players are admired for their grit and overly exceptional play, but each guard failed to get their teammates involved in critical situations which have been detrimental to the Wizards’ collective success overall. Arenas and Wall were widely regarded as clutch players by their peers and fans alike, but time and time again they made questionable shot selections at critical moments instead of looking for the open man to make a play.
To add insult to injury, Wall underwent knee surgery for the third time in his career in January. Wall suffered nine significant injuries over his career similar to Arenas who dealt with knee issues too. Despite both guards playing in arguably the prime of their respective careers, Washington went to the vault and paid Arenas $111 million in 2009 only for him to be traded to the Orlando Magic the following year for journeyman sharpshooter Rashard Lewis. The injury-riddled Arenas would only play two more seasons in the NBA finishing his final stint for the Memphis Grizzlies averaging just 4.2 points per game in a twelve-year career.
The Wizards rewarded Wall similarly in 2017 after paying Wall $207 million to play until 2023. Wall’s financial situation might be certain, but the amount of time that he will healthy and on the floor is debatable, considering his medical history and usage rate. Leonsis has thrown history by the wayside to move forward with Wall despite the team playing well in his absence this past season. Since Wall has entered the league, he has been known for his slashing ability, but never quite achieved a consistent jump shot. As a .786 percent free throw shooter in his career, Wall has heavily relied upon his speed and aggressiveness at getting to the rack and charity stripe for the majority of his points.
However, the 27-year-old point guard’s speed should dimish as Father Time will tell if that will affect his performance near the tail end of his career shortly after receiving a max deal as Arenas did in 2009. I am not questioning the ability of both players or their will to win games, but it has been evident over the years that both superstars have traveled a similar path and the future does not look as promising from a team play standpoint. Paying Wall such an exorbitant amount of money as Leonsis did for Arenas could fall apart with any unforeseen injuries. In turn, that could lessen the amount of cap space to bring in a future Hall of Famer such as Kevin Durant who decided not to team up with only Bradley Beal and Wall in search of an NBA championship-caliber squad in 2017. In order to have a shot at winning an NBA championship, the Wizards might want to consider dealing Wall to have some wiggle room in adding more talented players instead of putting all of their eggs in one frail basket which has backfired on the organization already.
Shockingly enough, both players’ careers have aligned, and though both are regarded as two of the best point guards in franchise history, Wall’s fate could end in a similar fashion.