It wasn’t supposed to be like this for John Wall and the Washington Wizards. 2015-2016 was a lost season in the nation’s capital thanks to injury and chemistry issues, but with Markieff Morris in the fold over a full campaign and the infusion of what was supposed to be an improved bench unit, Washington entered 2016-2017 with real expectations of a playoff run.
Through nine games, those expectations appear grossly overaggressive. Wall has been fantastic, averaging 22.3 points, 8.3 assists, and 2.1 steals per game while posting a PER north of 22, but the rest of the squad has come up short in a quest to pick up the slack. All told, the starting lineup featuring Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat has been a (slight) positive when on the floor together, but essentially every other combination has bordered on disaster, and the big-ticket acquisition of the summer (Ian Mahinmi) has yet to take the floor due to injury.
Nine games isn’t nearly enough to evaluate the Wizards, or any other NBA team, but we are reaching the point of no return when it comes to Wall’s tenure with the club. In an Eastern Conference that appears wide open beyond the Cavs and, to some extent, Raptors, Washington still maintains the opportunity to make a playoff push after a slow start, but the rest of the squad would be required to take a step forward and, at this point, why should we expect them to do so?
As for the rest of the league, here is this week’s edition of our Power Rankings, beginning with a change at the top.
1. Los Angeles Clippers (10-1, Last week — 3rd)
This feels weird. Yes, the Clippers have the best record and the best net rating (+16.1) in the NBA, but placing Los Angeles above Golden State and Cleveland, even after 11 games, isn’t natural. At the same time, Chris Paul is probably the early leader for MVP, the team is defending at a level we haven’t seen with this collection of talent, and the Clippers are looking very, very real in mid-November.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers (9-1, Last week — 1st)
LeBron and company haven’t done anything to actively facilitate a drop in the rankings and, in fact, the Cavs might be playing their best basketball of the season. Cleveland toppled both Charlotte and Toronto this week and their stranglehold on the top of the Eastern Conference remains incredibly strong.