#1: John Wall
There might not be a player in the NBA with more to prove this season than John Wall. Not only is he coming back from a devastating Achilles injury but he was just swapped for Russell Westbrook fresh off an All-NBA season.
Wall needs to perform and he needs to perform well because his contract has him set to earn close to $132 million over the next three seasons if he exercises his player option. The near future of the Rockets hinges on what he is as a player.
Before injuries began to mount, Wall was a fantastic two-way player that was one of the league’s best playmakers. He dragged the perpetually underwhelming Washington Wizards to heights they hadn’t reached since the 70s.
However, Wall hasn’t played a regular-season game in close to two-years and now finds himself running the point for a new franchise. He needs to prove that he is still an All-Star caliber player as he enters his 30s.
In the preseason he has looked sharp and seems to have regained the explosiveness that made him a terror in the open court. The basketball intellect that Wall possesses will never go away but his game was always built around his blurring speed.
Before missing all of the 2019-20 season Wall had only played 73 games combined over the course of the previous two seasons due to nagging injuries. Even as he was hamstrung by his failing body he managed to average 20 points and 9.2 assists per game.
For most players that would represent a career year, but because of the standard Wall had set in previous years this was viewed as a disappointment. In his first year in Houston, those averaged should be the benchmark for determining if he has what it takes to climb back up the NBA’s superstar hierarchy.
The best version of John Wall is a walking 20 points and 10 assists a game. If he can prove that he is close to that same player then the Rockets will be in capable hands as they enter, what looks to be, a post-James Harden world.