It feels as if John Wall has been around forever. Drafted in 2010, he was instantly recognized for his speed. Since his inaugural season, he has found a way to elevate every part of his game that doesn’t have to do with making a jumper. Wall has always been the leader as most number one picks not named Anthony Bennett are. He has thrilled with drives to the rim, assists, and steals. But his jump shot has always been a thing of non-beauty, bringing upon Wall criticism and judgment and rebuke that goes something like this: every other All-Star point guard can shoot, why can’t John Wall?
That is the least of the Wizards problems in 2016-17, John Wall’s broken jumper. The Wizards are off to a terrible start, which includes losses in five of their last seven games. A lot of the games are unwatchable for the lack of effort and intensity of the Wizards. They have talent and were supposed to be a contender, not 12th place in the east. Yes, they have had to make a huge adjustment with a new coach but the coach isn’t responsible for not playing hard.
In Wall’s nine games, he is averaging a career high 22.9 points and 8.3 assists. Wall’s production, his 32 minutes, his 17 shots, his 45.9% (a career high), his 83.6% at the line (a career high), his 1.9 steals (a career high), his 24.6 PER (a career high) is being wasted amid the mediocrity of the collective unit.
In a way it feels unfair. The Wizards have been waiting for Wall to have offensive efficiency and when he finally does the rest of the team goes in the tank. Wins are hard to come by even when playing bad teams.
Losing has become the norm. The Wizards have beaten Atlanta, Boston and the Knicks, all at home. They haven’t posted a road win. They are 20th in points scored, 24th in blocks, 24th in assists, 19th in turnovers, 22nd in opponents field goal percentage, 29th in opponents 3-point percentage. It makes sense that they have only won 3 games, one more game than the dreadful 76ers who, by the way, the Wizards lost to.
The Wizards are struggling to look like a NBA team that doesn’t want to be in the lottery. Add to the calculus Beal and Wall not playing every game because of injuries (Beal) or precautionary reasons (Wall). The league has gotten quicker and more athletic. While the Wizards are sleepwalking through games, Charlotte has become a force.
But individually, the Kentucky product Wall has had big numbers in the scoring column this season even as he has struggled with turnovers, particularly on his high scoring games. He had 33 points against Toronto but 9 turnovers. He had 28 points against the Cavs, but 6 turnovers. Since it’s a recurring problem you wonder if this is just who John Wall is and will be part of the bio.
He ranks 11th among point guards as far as on court impact (Real Plus Minus). A few of the players ahead of him are Chris Paul, Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kemba Walker and Kyle Lowry. Every one of them have winning records.
But Wall is doing his part. He has made 42.1% of his catch-and-shoot jumpers, up 10% from last year. He has connected on 42% of his pull-up jumps shots, up 7%. Wall has been the most productive when he has scored early in the shot clock, shooting 52%. He is making shots whether he is being defended tight or if he is wide open. The Wall criticism of can’t throw a brick in the ocean seems to be a thing of the past. He has the highest True Shooting Percentage of his career, 55.4%.
46% of all Wizards baskets are assisted by Wall. That means he is creating almost all the offense for the Wiz, his own and everyone else’s. That means the Wizards lack versatility. They need Wall more than Wall needs them. He has the highest usage rate of his career, 33.7%.
He is driving to the cup more than 10 times a game and is making 50% of his shots off of drives. He touches the ball almost the same amount as LeBron James. Wall averages 83 touches per game and LeBron averages 87. Every time Wall touches the ball, he dribbles it at least 5 times. The Wizards are 18th in pace. How about less dribbling and more passing?
Regardless, this year he is proving he can silence his critics. The only part of the floor where Wall is truly anemic is 3-10 feet. Everywhere else he is efficient. He is making 48% of his two point shots, something he has never done in his career. His free throw attempts are at a career high 6.8.
Wall is having an All-Star year but the Wizards are losing. Does it take away from what Wall is doing? No. Does it say he is not making his teammates better? Yes. Is Wall always in this kind of conundrum, either he can’t shoot and the team wins or he scores and the team is helpless? Yes. It is fitting with his career of something always getting messed up.
But for sure, all those John Wall jokes can be retired. He’s doing everything. Even if no one is paying attention.
photo via llananba