Sneak Peek: Waiting on John Wall (and His Jumper) to Make the Big Leap
Welcome to the big leagues, Junior. Wall may have been the sixth-fastest player in NBA history to 2,000 points and 1,000 assists, but he’s not a top shelf NBA product. Not yet. ESPN’s NBA Rank project, which I participated in this season (here’s the full list of voters), ranked Wall as the 55th best player in the Association. He came in at No. 40 after after his rookie season.
Wall isn’t the fastest player, either. Not according to the 11th annual, and always entertaining, GM Survey on NBA.com. The survey asks every general manager (or team president) in the league to respond to 57 questions about the best teams, players, coaches, etc. GM’s are not allowed to vote for their own team or personnel.
Which player is the fastest with the ball?
1. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City — 36.7%
2. Derrick Rose, Chicago — 23.3%
3. Rajon Rondo, Boston — 13.3%
4. Ty Lawson, Denver — 6.7%, John Wall, Washington — 6.7%
(Also receiving votes were Aaron Brooks, Darren Collison, LeBron James, and Tony Parker.)
Though he didn’t make the podium in the GM survey, Wall made an impression on “Sports Science” host John Brenkus in 2010. In a lab setting, Wall accelerated to almost 50 percent of his top speed in just two steps, and he was faster dribbling a basketball than the rangy Kevin Durant was without a ball.
Now, how ’bout that jumper?
Seeing red in 2011-12, via Basketball-Reference.com:
The “Game Changer” made 148 out of a possible 519 jump shots last season. That’s 28.5 percent. He shot .337 from 10-to-15 feet, .302 between 16 feet and the 3-point line, and a cringeworthy .071 from deep. He shot .296 from 3-point land as a rookie. I don’t know what had happened…
“I think the pieces we have is great, but I think for us to take that next step, it’s going to be keyed on me,” Wall said, before news broke of his stress injury in late September. “Your third year is a key year. It makes or breaks you, what you’re going to be in the this league. This is a big year for me.”
Unfortunately, for Wizards fans, management and his teammates, D.C. is still waiting for John Wall version 3.0 to power up. As Kyle Weidie relayed late last night, Wall is pushing through a difficult rehab and is just getting back to floor work. The timetable for his return is still no better than guesswork.
While he’s not yet ready to be the player the Wizards drafted to be when they selected him first overall in 2010, the good news is that he’s close.
Before last night’s cherry-poppin’ win over the Portland Trail Blazers, Wall and his knee brace were on the hardwood, taking part in his classic pre-game workout with assistant coach Sam Cassell. The two guards worked on developing the weapon that turns athletic guards with size and speed—like Russell Westbrook or Derrick Rose—into legitimate NBA threats: the jump shot.
Cassell ran Wall through pick-and-roll drills, mid-range pull-ups, spot-up treys and more. I caught up with Jerry Sichting, who was camped out on the sideline, to get his insights on Wall’s health and his development as a shooter. Sichting is in his first season as a Wizards assistant coach, and has more than two decades of experience as a player, coach and talent evaluator.
John Wall is back to his explosive self, at least on the ground, Sichting said. Wall is also better about putting the ball in his “shot pocket,” so that’s a sign of progress. But, as Sichting noted, “legs are the most important part of shooting.” So, we’ll wait on that. There’s nowhere to go but up.