Time to Stop Being the Same Ole John Wall | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Time to Stop Being the Same Ole John Wall

Updated: February 18, 2013

“I’m somebody that likes to have my own style, and I call it ‘coolin’ ‘ when I’m doing what I do. I make it work.”

—John Wall, Feb. Interview with Sole Collector

[via Instagram/John_Wall]

Sort of halfway through kind of three seasons*, how is John Wall doing?

[*153 out of 199 possible games, one season being a 66-game,
lockout-shortened season in which Wall played in all 66.]

John Wall’s jumper has looked improved this season. It seems like he’s developed more of a short runner in the lane. He’s also bricked the shit out of several shots. But his J is definitely more confident-looking. And he is hanging his head much less when he does miss. So this year’s John Wall, so far, has improved, mind you. Let’s go through the numbers.

Wall’s Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG% – accounts for the fact that 3-pointers are worth more) has been a plateau of 42.7%, 42.5% and 43% over his first three seasons.

His free throws: 76.6% to 78.9% to 78.8% this season. Not terrible, but the same.

Wall is scoring more: 15.6 to 16.2 to 18.3 points per 36 minutes.

And assisting more: 7.9 to 8.0 to 9.2 assists per 36 minutes.

(And, of course, turning the ball over more: 3.6 to 3.8 to 4.2 per 36 minutes.)

More advanced statistics, such as Assist Percentage (AST% – percentage of teammate FGMs assisted when on the floor), reflect that Wall’s passes are leading to more points — AST% from 35.7% as a rookie to 36.2% to 42.2%.

Of course, Wall is also using more possessions as a third-year player. His Usage Percentage (USG% – percentage of team plays used by a player when he’s on the floor): 23.6% to 24.5% to 28.6% this season.

His assist-to-turnover ratio, about the same: 2.20 to 2.08 to 2.16 now.

Scoring-wise, Wall has slowly improved up his … (numbers per 36 minutes):

  • Points in the Paint: 7.2 to 8.1 to 8.9
  • Fast Break Points: 5.4 to 5.7 to 6.0
  • Points off Turnovers: 2.8 to 3.9 to 4.2

OK, great, so he’s gotten stronger, ever-so-slightly more measured on the break, and aggressive. In all likelihood, Wall is faster now than when he entered the league. It happens when you go from age 20 to 22.

Top-level advanced stats show a significant step in improvement:

  • Wall’s Defensive Rating (points allowed per 100 possessions): 107.9 to 105.2 to 95.1 this season
  • Offensive Rating progression (team points per 100 possessions): 98.9 to 98.5 to 100.6
  • His plus/minus per game average: minus-6.4 as a rookie to minus-3.9 to plus-3.1 now.

But think about it. What’s really the difference? Sure, John Wall has naturally enhanced his pro-level skills. But improvement in numbers to this point is really about who he’s playing with. His teammates. History may never get over how much the cultivated ineptitude of Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee and Nick Young (with Gilbert Arenas leading a transitional three-ring circus) stunted Wall’s growth. Or at least his surroundings and ability to grow at a certain pace. Maybe being around all those knuckleheads helped, somehow…

This current 18-game season of Wall’s (and second season, in a sense, for the Wizards) has been different.

Former super agent David Falk’s recent tango with The Washington Post regarding the potential of Wall continues to call attention to the face of the NBA franchise in the nation’s capital. People were similarly critical of Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, points out TAI’s John Townsend on Twitter. And sure, who wouldn’t choose Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving over Wall at this point?

Wall is who the Wizards got … he was their only option and is now their main hope. Misplaced? Perhaps. But he’s the best pillar the franchise has going for it. I still wouldn’t trade Wall for anyone else in the 2010 draft (in terms of building a team). OK, so you have bigs DeMarcus Cousins and Greg Monroe. There’s All-Star Paul George, obviously. But an NBA point guard — one who has top-five in the league potential — was, and still is, the get of that draft.

Sure, Wall’s game is all about athleticism. Yet, he’s perfect for a league trending toward dribble penetration and kick-outs to 3-point shooters. He’s also got a desire for the game of basketball, leadership, and improvement that you don’t see in many players. At least not in Wizards land.

Regardless, Washington needs another star. Westbrook has a Kevin Durant. Gary Payton had a Shawn Kemp. Rondo had the aging Celtics’ Big Three. Derrick Rose has yet to find his second star. On and on.

But it starts with Wall; D.C. is on his shoulders. He must be a star himself. Bradley Beal could be his sidekick. He could be Beal’s sidekick. The most legitimate portion of Falk/Wise-Gate:

Again, Falk is not down on John Wall, whom he said has about an 18-month window to develop court sense and become a special player. “He might, but I don’t think he’ll be a much smarter player,” [Falk] said. “You can’t become a smart player. You either are or you aren’t.”

The only tangible detraction we really have of Wall’s lacking court sense (or “smarts”) is his careless turnovers. They are, indeed, a problem. Worth noting: Opponent Points Off Turnovers when Wall is in the game have decreased from 13.9 and 14.2 in his first two seasons, respectively, to 9.4 this season.

Another point worth noting: not many NBA point guards have the benefit of up-close-and-personal tutiledge in basketball intelligence and confidence from Sam Cassell. Wall is working on those smarts.

Still, it’s his move. It’s probably hard for Wall to grasp how quickly he’s gotten to this point — bursting on the scene out of nowhere in high school, playing one much-celebrated season at Kentucky, being a No. 1 overall draft pick, having a second season cut short due to a lockout, experiencing a significant knee injury. And now, he’s not the hardwood stylist pundits want him to be. He’s not a scoring star with a natural prowess for getting buckets. He’s not Kyrie Irving.

Maybe John Wall is not yet who he should be. Maybe he is someone else.

There are 31 games left in this season. A small window for Wall to prove a lot. Will his athleticism be enduring enough? Will his reckless abandon not be too overwhelming? Will he improve that jump shot? Will he get smart(er)?

Time for John Wall to stop being the same ole John Wall.

 John Wall shooting zones, years one to three:

[stats via NBA.com/stats]





Kyle Weidie on EmailKyle Weidie on GoogleKyle Weidie on InstagramKyle Weidie on LinkedinKyle Weidie on TwitterKyle Weidie on Youtube
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 lives in D.C. with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.

  • Robert

    Steve Nash makes a lot of turnovers, so does Rubio, and I consider them both to have court sense. It’s not the turnovers that make Wall a dumb basketball player with no court sense. It is the lack of pace in his game, his inability to manipulate defenses with craftiness, his inability to create subtle passing lanes, his penchant for going on 1 on 3 fast breaks, his wrapping of the ball around his waste (pointlessly) while driving, and the numerous 3 step lay up travels that he gets away with. Further, his game is very unrefined. It’s weird to me that a right handed guy is better jumping of the right foot and finishing with a lefty layup. Can John wall even do a righty layup off his left foot? It doesn’t appear that he can, and even buck and chenier wondered about this on air. I’d much rather have Paul George…. AND Rubio, Lawson, or curry (2009)….all are better point guards than John wall. I honestly don’t think one can be a good point guard in today’s league without craftiness…and John wall has none of it whatsoever.

    • You’re right, Robert… I should have described what I meant more … sloppy turnovers, due to non-measured play, due to all those things you describe. All the stupid things, such as trying to dribble around that big foreign dude on Detroit, do stand out in my mind when considering what’s holding Wall back. The point: he does have about 18 months.

  • Larry Smith


    • jay sun

      @Larry, Thnks for the insight larry, you seem to be a real sharp guy

  • Jarem

    Tired of people commenting on Wall’s lack of intelligence or court sense. He is usually one of the better defenders, rebounders, blockers, passers, and probably has a bigger impact on the game then most PGs. The wizards get ridiculously efficient when Wall’s on the floor. All of their shots become corner 3s, shots inside 5 feet and free throws. Magic said Wall is “a jump shot away from being an all star” and Jason Kidd said he needs to learn “change of speed” which he said could be difficult due to his lack of jumpshot. This tells me that once (not if, because one can improve a J w/ work) he develops a J that defenders have to respect, the change of speed will come along as well. Wall may actually make ONE HUGE leap instead of a bunch of small jumps.

  • Adam McGinnis

    Robert, Rubio is a bad example to bring up because he has been horrendous this year. He is overcoming a knee injury so I understand his struggles.Then again, Wall just came back for an injury, less severe, as well and looks much better than Rubio. “his inability to create subtle passing lanes” So now John Wall has to create a certain type of an assist rather than an assist. I think that is a subjective critique that really is hard to measure. If you look at assist totals, Wall has done a damn fine job of creating opportunities for his teammates. “1 on 3” fast breaks, another ad hominem attack. Does Wall maybe have times where he forces the action too much, sure. Are there many more times, where he scores on breaks and creates opportunities for others, totally. The Wizards offense was horrible without him. Like historic terrible. It was been decent since he came back. Now it is not all because of him, but he sure plays a large part of them not being the worst offense in NBA history.

    3 step travels? If you are going to rip John Wall for extra steps, you might as well go ahead an indict the whole NBA for the same offense.

    I did not know NBA point guards were judged completely by a definition of what “Craftiness” means.

    I would compliment how John Wall has an amazing off hand by using his left so well, you chose to suppose that he cant’ make a right handed lay up. You really believe that a player who can do this, is unable to make a lay up with his strong hand?


    Also, I don’t remember Wall going behind the back being an issue.

    • Dan Roland

      One thing that drives me nuts about Wall defensively is that he never plays with his hands up or forward. He loses the threat of blocking shots, deflecting passes, or bothering a shot, all because his hands are at his sides; sometimes they even face backwards and it’s just hard to watch. Playing with your hands up is such an easy way to be a better defender. We all know the saying: “Hand down, man down.” Use your hands, John!

      • John Converse Townsend

        I’m with Mr. Dan Roland here: Wall’s defensive technique needs work.

        In my post about the the Charge Board 2.0 (and how the Wizards are making team basketball a competition) Wall has the second-worst contest% on the team (69%), ahead of just one player—Jordan Crawford (64%).

        The effort and ability are there; the consistency … well, that continues to be a question.


  • mike

    Ugggh. You should give the guy another year beyond this, but this year has NOT been promising on the offensive end. He needs to work on his dribbling in the half court off both picks and when he is exploring the lane. He seems to have limited counter moves to the defense. In the NCAA pure athleticism can allow you to score without nuance. The NBA is too well coached, athletic and intelligent to not have counter moves.

    Wall actually looks like a Payton type player with more speed (payton took until his 3rd year to look OK on offense and until his 5th year to show marked improvement offensively). The HOPE is that he becomes a hybrid of Tony parker and Payton. He has a similar frame to Payton and should be able to play similar defense if he has the desire and if his hands are quick enough. In terms of offense Parker should be his role model. A guy who can get into the paint mercilessly with speed and proper pick and role dribbling, but has great footwork and slight hesitations that keep the shot blockers off balance (it took parker about 3 years to get good at this and re-tooling of his jumper and another 3 years to master it). Parker actually isn’t one of these creative passing point guard savants (like Chris Paul/Nash/Rubio). He is very predictable in that he sucks in defenders which leads to wide open 3s. Parker also passes to pick and pop guys and sometimes makes a wide open pass to a cutting teammate. All those passes are normal NBA pg passes. He should also develop a low post game like payton if he develops the strength to back guys down. He NEEDS to keep developing his shot to 15 feet and a good corner 3 point shot (so he isn’t totally useless off the ball). He is a bad rebounder for his position despite being much taller and athletic than most. People need to stop making excuses for the guy. Most of the recent crop of one and done types make a BIG leap in year three. He had the injury, but seems to have made almost no improvement offensively from his second year which was just OK.

    The question is can Wall become a bulldog type defender who can take over games for 5-7 minutes a half with his defense. He has the frame and athleticism to do that. If he does that and can develop his game into 80% of parker then he is a top 5ish PG. In terms of contract I would likely wait it out another year and just offer him the restricted Max if he develops further next year. The other thing to keep in mind is that they will need to add a dominant defending wing who can hit 3s well (kawhi leonard with the sixth pick in the 2011 draft, wait nope Grunfeld got Vesely) and they will need a great shooting big at PF (like Love, Aldridge, Horford) to make a real run with him. If I were the Wiz I would make a Nene/something offer for Love and taking on Brandon Roy contract trade right now. Minnesota is desperate to win now and Nene gives them a better shot.

  • Dan cuchens

    Still look at where the wizards are with him than with out him at least another ten wins if had started at beginning of season must be doin somethin right

    • mike

      That’s not the question. The question is can he be a top tier PG. Obviously he can be an average point guard. He was the first pick in the draft because he has the potential to DEVELOP into a top 5 PG in the league and top 20 player overall. He hasn’t shown much development. People who watch this team either fit into one camp or the other. Developing a team that can win 45 games and either exit in round 1 or get crushed in round 2 is good enough. OR fans that look for the team to develop into a 50+ win team with a shot of at least making the Eastern Conference finals. This team has been mired in the goal of getting to 45 for 3 decades and Grunfeld and Leonsis seem content with that too. (the goal for this season was to be in a “playoff type situation.” That is the type of talk of “he must be doing something right” that gets you a player capable of being top 20, but developing only to an above average PG.

  • Robert

    Adam…the type of assists do matter! Jay Caspian kang of grantland said it perfectly in a piece about 11 months ago: “Of course, none of this tells us much about Wall’s abilities as a point guard. Speed alone can create opportunities, especially in transition, but Wall still hasn’t shown the court vision that made him the no. 1 high school player in the country. The numbers can only tell us so much — Wall is currently ninth in the league in assists per game and leads the league in turnovers, but those stats don’t account for the volatility and fluctuation in the Wizards roster and coaching staff. That being said, court vision is one of those skills that’s almost always immediately apparent — it doesn’t take more than a couple quarters of watching Ricky Rubio, Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, or even the young T.J. Ford to see how the ball travels differently when they’re in the game. Wall has not displayed the same playmaking ability. Ball-dominant point guards will get their assists — Marbury finished in the top 10 in assists per game a shocking nine times in his career — but that doesn’t mean they can effectively run a team.”

    Honestly, looking at assists is shortsighted. Stephon Marbury averaged way more assists than Sam cassell, but Sam cassell was a way better point guard (hence his winning career)..cassell managed the game, he understood when to slow it down, when to feed a hot guy, how to be a game manager, how to be a coach on the floor. Managing the game is an intangible quality that is not directly correlated with assists–John wall, like Marbury and Steve Francis, simply does have this intangible quality.