John Wall Wants What He Can’t Have

There is a scene in the movie Creed where Sylvester Stallone demands his young pupil to look in the mirror. Michael B. Jordan, the student, obeys; he looks. He is solemn and a little sweaty from vigorous training. But he still is the same and doesn’t get the point. It is then that Stallone (Rocky) tells Jordan (Creed) his biggest opponent is staring back at him. His enemy is himself.

This past summer, John Wall publicly admitted he wanted to be MVP of the league. It was sincere, as most desires are, but totally unrealistic based upon the facts. John Wall doesn’t have an accurate assessment of his flaws and like the young Creed, his biggest enemy is himself.

There is nothing in his NBA career, no data, that suggests John Wall has a complete enough game to grab a MVP award. Wall is the best defensive point guard of his generation. He is the fastest player from half court to the rim in the NBA. He is a good playmaker with career assists of nearly 9. He is a competitor who exhibits mental toughness and he wants to win.

But he can’t make shots so he can’t carry a team on those dull and exhausted nights that are common in the NBA, the second night of a back to back. Everyone is tired but the MVP fills in the gaps with his extraordinary talent.

John Wall can’t make jump shots. He can’t make mid-range shots. He can’t pull up and shoot. He can’t cross-over and shoot. He can’t catch and shoot.

He can drive to the rim and finish which is the entire John Wall offensive repertoire. This season he is shooting 39%, 28.8% from three. His PER has dropped from 19.9 last year to 16.2 this year, his lowest since his 15.8 PER of his rookie year.

Last night, against the Toronto Raptors, Wall took 25 shots, the most shots in any game this year. He made 6 of them, for an unattractive 24%. His last three games have been nightmarish.

  • Pacers: 6-18, 33%, 14 point loss
  • Celtics: 4-11, 36%, 33 point loss
  • Toronto: 6-25, 24%, 2 point loss

The idea that this is a John Wall slump that all players have in-season may have some merit to it if the data didn’t show this as a trend and not situational good shot selection, bad shooting. From November 4th to November 14th, a span of 5 games, Wall made 27 shots and missed 49 shots, 35%. He had a one game reprieve against Milwaukee where he made 70% of his shots. And then it was back to 36% against the Pistons.

Last night’s performance was his season’s worst and was exaggerated by the fact that two free throws with three seconds left would have, at the very least, guaranteed overtime. But Wall missed both free throws which set up a textbook play from the Raptors. A DeMar DeRozan drive led to an open Corey Joseph three-point game winner.

Traditionally, a guard not making shots wouldn’t be a deal breaker but the Wizards have not found much perimeter scoring outside of Wall and Bradley Beal. Without Wall’s points, the Wizards struggle offensively. The Wizards are one of 7 teams that don’t score 100 points per game and give up more than 100 points per game (76ers, Lakers, Nets, Memphis, Nuggets, Bucks).

With a defense that can’t stop perimeter shooting (Kyle Lowry was 6-11 on three’s, Patrick Patterson was 2-3, Corey Joseph made all of his three’s), scoring, then, is at a premium. The Wizards don’t have a lot of room for error and without Paul Pierce they lack leadership to get them through these early days of mediocrity that have the Wizards the 4th worst record in the East. Right now, the Knicks and Orlando are better teams.

Right now, John Wall’s MVP hopes are dead and buried in the D.C. cold.

photo via llananba