John Wall: Just Let Him Play - 2010-11 Wizards Player Preview | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

John Wall: Just Let Him Play – 2010-11 Wizards Player Preview

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Updated: October 1, 2010

[Wizards 2010-11 Player Preview Index: Gilbert Arenas, Hilton Armstrong, Andray Blatche,
Trevor Booker, Kirk Hinrich, Josh Howard, Yi Jianlian, JaVale McGee, Kevin Seraphin,
Al Thornton, John Wall, Nick Young.]


The Intro.

-by John Townsend

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past three months — no, three years — there is no way you haven’t heard of John Wall. If you’re still under that rock, well congratulations for making it as far as the internet.

Welcome to Wall’s World. Let’s get you up to speed …

John Wall is a man of many names. As a 5’8” high school freshman, John went by the name Jimmy. Now at 6’4” and as the face of Wizards basketball, he’s known as the Great Wall (of Chinatown). If you’re one of his “homeboys,” you probably call him Dice. Wall loves strawberry-flavored milk, can’t ever have enough Welch’s Fruit Snacks, and (can you believe it?) is afraid of the dark. I guess that makes sense when you’ve been in the spotlight all your life.

On the court, he’s crazy fast, he’s flash, he’s quicker than a cheetah. He can sprint faster with the ball than Kevin Durant can without it. He has a bigger vertical leap than Kobe. He is by all measures (excluding turnovers and a jump shot as smooth as sandpaper) a bona fide superstar.

Wall is police escorts, red carpets, and a multi-million dollar marketing campaign.

He is D.C.: the present, the future, forever. John Wall is “We”.

The Summer.

-by Adam McGinnis

To say Wall had a full summer would be an understatement. To use a popular tweet refrain by @jimmywa11…..Leeegggooo!!!

The NBA’s top draft pick was busy traveling around the country for basketball related activities, working out, chillin’ with friends, and moving to the D.C. area.

The highlight of his summer was likely winning MVP at the Vegas Summer League, and his one hand trick shot there that became a YouTube hit. He won an ESPY for best male college athlete, but earned mad fan cred by skipping the awards show to stay with his teammates in Vegas.

Wall returned to the Bluegrass State with an appearance at John Calipari ‘s basketball camp and suggested that incoming UK freshman phenom Brandon Knight should not be pressured by his success. He took a trip to San Antonio to visit friend Quincy Miller’s games for Team USA in the FIBA Americas U-18 championships.

He yucked it up with former UK teammate DeMarcus Cousins at the NBA rookie photo shoot, and ridiculously chose Ricky Bobby over Ron Burgundy.

Wall spent a week and half with Flip Saunders in Minnesota and at media day joked that all coach did was eat most of the time. He watched his Raleigh, NC buddy, Redskins WR, Brandon Banks, do his signature dance after scoring a touchdown in a preseason game.

Wall sat courtside for Team USA’s win over France at Madison Square Garden, chilled with rapper Bow Wow, and got an apartment in Washington.

Finally, Wall cashed in the endorsements by becoming the new face of Reebok, and he signed a memorabilia deal with Panini America. What a start.

The Perfect Play.

-by Beckley Mason

Initiating the secondary pick-and-roll series.

Wall and the Wizards are going to be at their best in transition. He will instantly rank amongst the speediest players with the ball in the NBA, but he’ll need to develop his range if he wants to be an efficient half court player. For now, the Wizards would do well to maximize their tremendous team speed by running early offense for Wall.

While all teams want to run primary or fast breaks, the best transition teams feast on half-baked defensive positioning by pushing the ball up court off of misses and makes. Steve Nash, Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo excel in the semi-fast break by running their defenders into big men whose screens often come from awkward angles, leaving the big’s defender in poor help position.

In the half court, teams will key in on Wall’s drive. But in secondary break situations there will be more room to penetrate and fewer defenders in help position. Here’s how a secondary pick and roll series might look with Wall, Arenas, Thornton, Blatche and McGee on the floor.

1. Quick Outlet

  • Wall needs to find the ball quickly off of misses and makes then push the ball diagonally to the middle of the court.
  • No walking, Gilbert! The two and three fill whichever wing they are on, looking to get over the top or create a numbers advantage.
  • Blatche cruises down the middle of the court, if he’s well ahead of Wall, he can look to establish early post position. However in this case the outlet is quick and he runs parallel to Wall.

2. Wall Pushes up court

  • Wall gets middle and looks to hit Thornton or Arenas over the top.
  • Blatche rumbles towards Wall, looking to set up the screen.

3. Wall Pick and Roll

  • Wall and Blatche’s pick and roll will take some chemistry. As he finds Wall’s man, Blatche doesn’t need to get more than a bump on Wall’s man before he slips or rolls to the basket. There will likely be little help under the hoop, so Wall can dump to Blatche or take his first read which is turning the corner for a lay up.
  • Arenas lurks on the weak side. If his man fall asleep he can cut backdoor along the baseline. More likely, Arenas will drift to find an angle to receive the ball while Wall dribbles middle. This is also a great spot up opportunity for Young or Hinrich.

4. Trailer Pick and Roll

  • If the initial pick and roll is ineffective or Wall has McGee filling down the left side.
  • Wall swings to McGee and McGee moves it quickly to Arenas on the left wing
  • With Blatche, Wall and Thornton all on the weak side, McGee follows his pass and runs a side pick and roll with Arenas

The Stat.

-by Kyle Weidie

It’s hard to talk about John Wall’s stats without mentioning Dave Berri. Berri, of The Wages of Wins Journal and the books “Wages of Wins” and “Stumbling On Wins”, is not a fan of Wall. Or rather, he’s not a fan of Wall’s stats and thus, he is overall indignantly unimpressed with the number one overall draft pick — so much so that Berri took the time this past summer to write a post, “Are We Allowed to Say that John Wall Has Yet to Produce?,” criticizing a Las Vegas Summer League recap I’d written about Wall for ESPN’s Daily Dime, essentially because I didn’t mention Wall’s faults until the ninth paragraph. Perhaps stats on other people’s writing are the new frontier. Either way … good one, Dave.

But Berri has a right to his opinion, which, is a bit stronger since it’s based in numbers. Berri’s love child, the Wins Produced stat, has a lot of usefulness. However, it’s not the end-all-be-all in terms of measuring a player’s productivity or potential success; there’s play-by-play data and several other ways to examine and analyze the game of basketball. And well, no stat measured by man can accurately predict the future anyway. So, the issue isn’t really with Berri’s analysis, but more with his presentation, as if his way to measure were infallible.

In mid-May, Berri used PAWS40 (Position Adjusted Win Score per 40 minutes) to determine that John Wall was evidently a worse prospect than DeMarcus Cousins, Evan Turner, Wesley Johnson and Derrick Favors, essentially outlining that the Wizards should not pick Wall first overall. In reference to PAWS40, I’ll quote a comment posted by Real GM‘s Doclink, which was left on the blog post of a Berri cohort, Arturo Galletti, in which Galletti outlined why he thought the Wizards would be the worst team in NBA history in 2010-11:

“If PAWS40 has a flaw it’s that it fetishizes turnovers and emphasizes judicious use of possessions. That is, a player who shoots rarely but efficiently and who never turns the ball over, will look more effective than a player who tends to be a little more helter skelter.

Not bad. You end up with a team of careful players who value each possession. Which is a fine thing.

Thus a cat like Mike Miller looks like a great catch. He lead the league for much of the year in 3pt%, made smart passes, and even rebounded pretty well for his position (depending on how you define that position). Problem is it was non-useful to the team since he would never shoot.

It also means you end up trumpeting Joey Dorsey as the next great frontcourt monster since he rebounded pretty well, and never turned the ball over since he never passed, and his eFG% was pretty solid since he’d only shoot if he could dunk it. Didn’t quite translate to the next level though since he was 6’5″ tall in pumps, needed to adjust his game to battle the true bigs, and worse yet, had a piss-poor attitude. This last is key. In the NBA you will be given opportunities and the benefit of the doubt if you listen to coaching well and apply yourself to improve.” -Doclink

I am concerned about Wall’s penchant for turnovers. Even more so, his shot is pretty broke. One minute it will look flat and miss badly left or right (not long or short, how shooters are “supposed” to miss), and the next he’ll get an open look where he can take his time and knock down a long distance bucket with confidence. John Wall is 20 years old and a work in progress. And while a discussion of Wall’s college stats and how they may translate to the NBA is not without merit, it’s not exactly productive either.

If Wall emulates one of his mentors, Rod Strickland, as an NBA rookie (statistically, not metaphysically speaking), I’m sure Berri would probably have to keep his mouth shut … maybe just a little (but likely not).

As a 19-year old freshman at DePaul, Strickland averaged 2.8 assists per 36 minutes and 2.8 turnovers per 36. As a junior, his last season at DePaul, he averaged 4.2 AST/36 and 3.5  TO/36. As a freshman at Kentucky, Wall averaged 6.7 AST/36 and 4.2 TO/36. So, Wall’s 1.6 AST:TO ratio was better than Strickland’s 1.2 ratio with three years of college experience. Of course, Strickland did average 3.2 steals/36 minutes as a junior and 2.3 steals/36 as a freshman while Wall just snagged 1.8 steals/36 in college.

As a first year pro, Strickland averaged 8.5 assists per 36 minutes and 3.9 turnovers per 36. Strickland also had the third highest NBA rookie Win Shares per 48 minutes* (amongst rookie guards 6’5″ or shorter who appeared in more than 65 games) at 0.131 for a 1988-89 Rick Pitino coached New York Knicks team that won 50 games (league WS/48 average is 0.100).

Another example is Stephon Marbury. In his one and only year at Georgia Tech, he averaged 4.3 assists per 36, 3.1 turnovers/36 (1.4 AST:TO ratio), and 18.2 points per 36 minutes (Wall averaged 17.2 points/36 as a frosh). In his first NBA season under Flip Saunders, Marbury averaged 8.1 assists, 3.3 turnovers and 16.4 points per 36 minutes — much improvement on the ratios there, thanks Flip. Marbury’s rookie WS/48 was 0.77, which ranks 23rd, tied with Stephon Curry, on the aforementioned list of rookie guards. The Timberwolves finished with a 40-42 record in Marbury’s 1996-97 rookie campaign.

If Wall can provide similar production as an NBA rookie (and yes, I am only narrowly looking at some select stats — this analysis is very fallible), then Berri will certainly have to shed some praise upon him. And if this is the case, you can likely bet that the Wizards won’t be one of the worst NBA teams of all time.

But in closing, Berri reminds me of the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy, or, as Free Darko once aptly put it (both of the previous links are must-reads BTW):

“Wages of Wins is as much ideology as science.”

Wins Produced does not provide much usefulness in actually predicting wins. It overly values low-usage, high-efficiency players. It does not factor in a player’s ability to create a shot. It overvalues rebounds while paying casual attention to defense. Mr. Berri really doesn’t have a calculator to stand on. But in this country, irrational outlandishness sells. And when someone combines intelligence with a pompous nature like Berri, he might as well be smugly selling snake oil.

*Win Shares/48 is a similar stat to Berri’s Wins Produced, but one that some in the stats community value more.

The Future.

-by Beckley Mason

For Wizards fans adrift in a sea of apathy and self-pity, Wall is a ragged strand of light that promises dry land. How much hope is folly? Can Wall really become the next great NBA point guard?

Projecting Wall’s progress over the next three years is a mind-bending task. I grasped for prototypes that might explain his improvement, the direction his game will take. While many point to Derrick Rose as an

obvious analog given their similar physical measurements and explosive athleticism, I’m not convinced. Wall averaged 1.8 assists per game more than Rose in the same Calipari drive-and- kick motion offense while putting up gaudier numbers in steals and blocks.

When you see Rose in person, it’s surprising how little he seems to dominate the ball or the game. His bursts of speed and talent feel like a slug to the chest, but he also has shown a tendency to fade from the game in his first two seasons. Wall comes into this year with a point guard swagger more in line with what we saw from Chris Paul in his first few seasons.

Paul may be the best point guard since Magic Johnson, so that’s setting the bar a little high. But expect this to be Wall’s team from day one, whether or not anyone says it publicly. He’s the Wizards’ most talented player, he’s comfortable with being the team’s (or game’s) dominant personality, and he’ll be able to get into the paint at will. Combine his attitude with his phenomenal vision and Westbrook-esque defense and you have a superstar in the making.

Still, I’m not ready to say Wall will be as good as Chris Paul (dude slapped up 21.1 points, 11.6 assists, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.7 steals per game in his third season), especially with Gilbert’s moody shadow stalking his progress. But I think we can responsibly predict that his play, by year three, will be All-Star caliber, though he may not make the squad. Here’s how I see his stats looking in 2013:

19.7 points, 9.3 assists, 45.6 FG%, 33.5 3P%, 79.5 FT%, 2.9 steals, 0.8 blocks, and 3.2 turnovers.

In three years we’ll all know what many already believe: John Wall is just the type of talent and personality needed to rescue the Wizards faltering franchise.

The Comparison.

-by John Townsend

Without digging too deeply through the annals of history, you can find a treasure trove of comparisons to John Wall. One gem that is particularly accurate is the World War II P-51 Mustang aircraft.

The Mustang was “[m]ore than just a ferocious dogfighter … one of the fastest piston-engined fighters and could fly higher and go further than any other combat aircraft of the war.” In addition to being one of the fastest propeller fighters of all time (thanks to its legendary supercharged Rolls-Royce Merline engine), it was well engineered and extremely durable, remaining in active service for over 40 years.

Like the Mustang, Wall can get up. His explosive speed and 39-inch vertical leap allow him to run circles around defenders and finish with deadly efficiency at the rim. Wall also possesses the physical stamina and the mental toughness to fight through the final whistle. He showed us both during the 2010 Summer League by playing just about every minute of every game, and by putting the team on his shoulders when it needed a lift. Another tribute to his fitness, endurance and durability is the fact that he has never missed significant time due to injury.

The P-51 Mustang has been generally credited with providing very effective long-range bomber escort, despite being considered the best fighter plane in the war.

With Gilbert Arenas preparing his body, mind, and beard for a fourth comeback in just as many years, John Wall — even as a rookie — is the best player on the team. He can run, he can pass, he can score. More importantly, he can lead. Teams will game plan to slow Wall, who will be forced to navigate defenses under pressure while dodging anti-aircraft shells in the form of hip-checks and elbows. To succeed, Wall will have to rack up assists by creating open shots for his supporting cast. He will be the escort to a fleet of “long-range bombers” in Arenas, Nick Young, and Kirk Hinrich.

The Mustang lived up to its combat potential. Wielding six 0.50 cal machine guns (firepower!) and the speed to dominate the skies. It is no wonder that the Mustang was loved by all (Well, the Allies at least).

Only time will tell if John Wall can live up to the sky-high expectations.


[John Wall and Gilbert Arenas go into their handshake routine at Midnight Madness.]

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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.