John Wall on His Improving Jumper: ‘I like that they’re respecting me’
He’s passed the vision test enough to shift the conversation away from his “terrible jumper” and toward him making the All-Star team in his fourth pro season. Against the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday, Wall scored 14 points, and 10 of those came in the first quarter. Six of those points came on pull-up jump shots from 12, 16, and 17 feet; two points came on a dunk, two on a pair of free throws, and, curiously enough, Wall missed three layups in the first period. Still, when Washington’s offense seemingly could not wake up for a 2 p.m. game time, Wall kept the alarm buzzing with his jumper. Let’s watch…
[Thus, the numbers for this piece come from the NBA season before the Wizards lost to the Celtics on Wednesday.
Before: a) Randy Wittman spoke prior to that game about Wall’s progress in recognizing the various parts and players he has to get going as a point guard; b) Wall played some ‘me’-ball in going 9-for-29 from the field en route to a triple-double; c) Wittman questioned Wall’s screwing of the basketball gods after the game; and d) Wall took blame for the loss in saying that he shot too much.
I also think Wall might be expecting more from his teammates talent-wise as he learns how to be a leader who gets the most out of his teammates. Either way, we continue…]
“Yes, it’s a big difference. They’re going over the top [of the pick]. And I like that.
“I like that they’re respecting me,” Wall told me when I asked him after the Philadelphia game if a change in the defensive philosophy against him have been noticeable.
Different coaches have different approaches to nuances of guarding Wall. And these approaches can change on the fly during games.
“That’s our game plan and we’ll mix it up both ways … blitz him some, trap him some, and show him some different looks,” said Raptors coach Dwane Casey before facing Wall in D.C. on January 3.
Warriors coach Mark Jackson wasn’t so much sold on Wall’s jumper when he came to town: “John Wall is an improved jumper shooter, but we’re betting that he doesn’t beat us that way.”
Rockets coach Kevin McHale has also seen the improvement, but like Jackson, not to the point where he changes how his team addresses Wall’s perimeter game. “His catch-and-shoot has really improved,” McHale said when Houston came to Washington. “You know, he’s a good player, and you can’t take away everything. So you have to give up something and if you give up something, you give up jump shots.”
Teams, for the most part, continue to give up jump shots to John Wall, and he continues to take them. For a point guard who handles the ball as much as Wall does—he averages 73 passes per game, third most in the NBA*—taking jump shots as the franchise lead is a prerequisite. Because, as Wall continued to toss up brick after brick over his first two seasons in the NBA, the theory was that he’s got to show defenses that he can make them before he can get to the next level. The budding point guard must prove that he truly has what it takes to open up his team’s offense, and that means being a more efficient and diverse scorer himself.
But Wall has also learned that even if a team continues to go under ball screens for him, it doesn’t mean that he has to settle for a jumper each and every time.
“Some teams try to test my temperature early and go under. And then if I’m making shots, they switch it up the rest of the game and go over the top. It’s depends on who I’m playing and what they want to do,” Wall says. “But that’s one thing I think I’ve improved in is not just selling the screen. Even though they go under, I can still turn the corner with my speed and strength. So I just pick and choose and read when is the right time to take the shot.”
[* Data via SportVU tracking cameras provided by SAP to NBA.com. Charlotte’s Kemba Walker leads the NBA with 76.9 passes per game, Chris Paul of the Clippers is second with 73.3.]
SportVU player tracking data (via NBA.com) defines a “Pull Up Shot” as “any jump shot outside 10 feet where a player took one or more dribbles before shooting.”
Golden State’s Stephen Curry averages 10.5 pull-up shots per game, most in the NBA. Curry shoots 41.1 percent on pull-up jumpers, which you might be surprised to learn is only fourth best amongst the top 10 NBA players in pull-up attempts. Curry is supposed to be the best pull-up jump shooter in the world, right?
The easy answer to this debate is Kevin Durant (um, taller)—even though Durant recently tweeted: “Steph any day, best shooter to ever play.”
Durant attempts 7.1 pull-up jumpers per game, tied for ninth most attempts in the league with Carmelo Anthony and Washington’s own Bradley Beal. Durant shoots 43 percent on his pull-up jumpers (1.9 percent better than Curry), but that’s only second best. Chris Paul’s pull-up shooting tops the list at 44.3 percent; he averages 9.1 pull-up attempts per game (third most in the NBA). Kyrie Irving averages 8.7 pull-up shots per game and shoots 41.3 percent, slightly better than Curry.
John Wall attempts 8.9 pull-up jumpers per game, fourth most in the NBA. But he makes them 35.5 percent of the time, 8.8 percent worse than Paul. Wall’s pull-up jumper effectiveness is more on par with Detroit’s Brandon Jennings, who averages 8.7 pull-up shots per game at a rate of 35.7 percent. What to make of this?
One part of the consideration: Wall may now be a “shooter,” just not a good shooter. But, he can shoot the ball, and it goes in enough to make him a threat.
The other part: If Wall has risen to Brandon Jennings’ level with his own jump shooting offense, then he has come a long way. (Although if Jennings is the goal, we are all aspirationally challenged. Right, Joe Dumars?)
Or, if not Jennings (he’s shooting a career-low eFG% of .429 this season), Wall’s 35.5 percent shooting on pull-ups has reached the comparative percentage of these NBA pull-up jump shooters, at least this season (attempts per game, jump shooting percentage):
- Ty Lawson (5.9, 36%)
- DeMar DeRozan (7.2, 35.2%)
- Nate Robinson (3.7, 33.3%)
- Caron Butler (4.0, 33%)
- Eric Gordon (3.5, 32.8%)
- Lou Williams (4.0, 30.8%)
And then there are some of the NBA’s best pull-up jump shooters this season (in addition to Paul, Durant, Irving, and Curry):
- Rudy Gay, the Sacramento Kings version (4.8, 48.4%)
- Tony Parker (4.7, 45.7%)
- Deron Williams (4.6, 45.7%)
- Arron Afflalo (5.8, 43.7%)
- Dirk Nowitzki (5.4, 43.4%)
- Damian Lillard (5.9, 42.7%)
James Harden, for additional perspective, averages 5.9 pull up jumper attempts per game and shoots just 36.4 percent on them, which is a tad below the aforementioned Bradley Beal, who shoots 36.5 percent on his 7.1 pull up jumpers per game. (But damn, Harden can get to the free throw line—for every 100 field goal attempts, Harden attempts 54.1 free throws; for every 100 of his FGAs, Beal attempts 13.7 FTs.)
Unfortunately, for public consumption, SportVU data is only available for this season, leaving little frame of reference for how much Wall has improved at his pull-up jumper. So let’s take a look at Wall’s shot chart of all types, by location, from this season.In the U-shaped area around the free throw line from elbow to elbow, all golden yellow for Wall, he shooting 40 percent this season. Pick-and-roll action comes from all over the court, but teams aim to run them in the U-area since it provides the best combination of spacing and options: get into the lane, maybe find a passing lane or the rim; look for a rolling big man; or with space, pull up and hit that close-range jumper, the soft spot in defenses that offenses simply have to settle for sometimes.
Wall’s sweet spot is obviously the right elbow, where 13.3 percent of all his field goal attempts come from. He’s shooting a solid 44.3 percent from the right elbow area this season, and actually shot better from that range last season (49.1%). Over his first two seasons in the NBA, however, Wall got 123 in-game reps from the right elbow and shot 34.1 percent. Hard work has paid off: in Wall’s 194 total in-game right elbow reps over this season and last, he’s shooting 46.9 percent.
In total, Wall’s shooting percentage in the U-shaped area has improved over his first four seasons like so: 32.6%, 32.1%, 37.7%, 40%. This season in particular, Wall has become more well-rounded in his ability to hit shots from the free throw line and from the left elbow.
Synergy Sports Technology (mySynergySports.com) tracks the effectiveness of different play types. One of these types is any action as the pick-and-roll (P&R) ball handler that ends in a field goal attempt, free throw attempt, or a turnover for that ball handler. Information available via the public/fan version of Synergy unfortunately does not reveal points created by Wall as a pick-and-roll passer, either primary assists or secondary (hockey) assists.
Over his first two seasons, Wall was the pick-and-roll ball handler on 30.4 percent and 31.2 percent, respectively, of his plays that ended in a FGA, FTAs or a TO. He produced 0.67 Points Per Possession (PPP) on these plays as a rookie and 0.68 PPP as a sophomore.
Last season, Wall was the P&R ball handler on 33.4 percent of his plays and increased his PPP to 0.79. This season he runs the play 38.2% of the time and scores 0.77 PPP, slightly down from last season. In fact, Wall’s field goal percentage as the P&R ball handler is at a career-low 34.9 percent this season (36.2% as a rookie, 35.6% as a soph, and 40.1% last season). The saving grace is that this season, Wall is 11-for-31 (35.1%) on 3-pointers attempted as the P&R ball handler. In his first three seasons combined Wall shot 5-for-20 (25%) on 3s as a P&R ball handler.
About half of this 2013-14 season is left, but the midway numbers don’t necessarily indicate that Wall improved his jump shot since this past summer. His overall field goal percentage this season has dropped to 43 percent from 44.1 percent last season. But because Wall is hitting more 3-pointers this season (47—two less than his total made 3s from the three previous seasons combined), his eFG% has improved from 44.9 percent last season to 46.5 percent. In essence, Wall raised enough eyebrows with his improved jumper after returning from injury last season and he’s continued on that pace of evidence this season.
But we can dissect Wall’s individual offense all we want. It really boils down to the effectiveness of Washington’s offense when Wall takes the court.
During the minutes Wall has been on the court over his first four seasons, his Wizards teams have scored the following points per 100 possessions (OffRtg): 98.9 to 98.5 to 102.1 to 104.5. This year’s rate (104.5) would rank the Wizards with the 12th best offense in the NBA. But as it stands, because Wall has got to rest sometimes, Washington’s team 101.3 OffRtg ranks 21st. In the 474 minutes Wall has rested on the bench over the season’s first 40 games, Washington’s OffRtg is 90.6. That is bad. That is beyond bad. That number would rank as the worst in the NBA, a full five points per 100 possessions behind the current league-worst Milwaukee Bucks (95.6). Talk about M.V.P. candidates…
“I still got to keep working on improving,” Wall says about his jumper. “But it makes it tough to guard me. I think I get into the paint a lot easier, it gets my teammates a lot of open shots, and it makes the help rotation try to get in more.”
That last part is paramount. Wall keeps improving. He’s made himself even tougher to guard. Now he’s got to make his teammates tough to guard. And that’s probably a lot harder to do than working on that jump shot.
[stats via: NBA.com/stats, Basketball-Reference.com, mySynergySports.com]