2017-18 NBA Journey: John Wall's Ascension

The start of the 2017-18 NBA season is near. There will be scores of articles previewing teams by win-loss record, roster additions and subtractions and protected win total. There is also a feeling surrounding this season that we're headed towards the inevitability of a Golden State Warriors championship. Thus, some of the fun is met with a bit of gloom. Cheer up, lover of hoops. Basketball is a sport in which the journey of the season is just as important as its destination in the Finals. Here at TSFJ, we're going to highlight some things and people the basketball realm can be excited for between now and June.

In an NBA offseason that included blockbuster trades, free agency signings, Twitter fiascos and LaVar Ball, I'd argue the most interesting player, at least at the beginning of the season, is John Wall.

Wall has been an All-Star for the past four years. As a point guard, he is among the best at a position in which his matchup on the other team is no pushover. More nights than not, his contemporary is at least near All-Star level. Coming off a season in which he posted career highs in points and assists, there is still room for Wall to grow as a talent. That growth is waiting burst through, and at just 26, we just might see the best he has to offer.

Why is John Wall interesting? According to a piece written by teammate Brandon Jennings for The Players' Tribune, John Wall is "mean." In the article's context, Wall plays basketball with a competitive fervor that suggests he does not like his opponents once he's between the lines. If Russell Westbrook is nuclear aggression, Chris Paul is symphonic absolution, and Steph Curry is adorable disrespect, John Wall is smoldering rage with the common goal of the other three point guards: total, destructive domination.

Still-retired legend and Basketball Magi Kobe Bryant issued a challenge to John Wall. He tweeted that he'd like to see Wall make First Team All-Defense. In an offense-driven league, playing great defense is a commitment that few who also must be proficient scorers tend to shy away from. John Wall accepted Kobe's provocation, and it will be interesting to see if he has the energy and the will to become menacing on both ends of the floor.

Wall bears the burden of being Washington, D.C.'s Superstar of Hopes And Dreams. The nation's capital is a city starved for serious postseason success, and it has a history of supremely talented athletes providing a spark of a bright future, only to have that light snuffed out. Alexander Ovechkin, Robert Griffin III, Gilbert Arenas (yeah, that one) and Bryce Harper currently have been charged with the task of leading a D.C. team to a championship. All of them - and this also includes Wall - have been on great regular season teams that have fizzled out in the playoffs in the most gut-wrenching fashion.

The best thing about Wall is he does not shy away from challenges. Whatever it's pressure from the city he plays in, old basketball icons, a new contract extension, or to be excellent at a position where most players are excellent, John Wall is going to bring his best and embrace the difficulties that lie before victories.

Yes, there are other young players who appear to be taking their games to a level beyond really good. I have a feeling that John Wall will most tangibly look and feel like a different, better player. It'll be bigger than just statistical improvements. He will affect the Washington Wizards in a way that may garner him consideration for the MVP. Accept the challenge, Mr. Wall.

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