John Wall — 2017-18 Wizards Player Preview | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

John Wall — 2017-18 Wizards Player Preview

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Updated: October 5, 2017

John Wall’s last two games of the 2016-17 playoffs—as cliched as it may be to say—were a microcosm of the Washington Wizards season as a whole.

In Game 6 of the Wizards’ series against the Celtics, Wall hit the game-winning shot to give the Wizards a 92-91 victory, which stretched that series to a Game 7.  Wall didn’t have the best shooting night in the world (9-for-25) but he still scored 26 points while tallying eight steals and two blocks.  At the conclusion of the game, he stood atop the scorer’s table and explained to any and everyone in earshot exactly whose house it was:

Three days later, thanks to what is now affectionately known as the Kelly Olynyk game, the Wizards’ season ended at the hands of the Celtics, 115-105.  Wall’s partner-in-crime, Bradley Beal, scored 38 pointsincluding 12 in the final quarter.   Wall had decent numbers (18 points and 11 assists) but he went 0-for-4 in the last quarter and he looked a like a man who had played 44 minutes, and all but nine seconds of the second half.

After the game, Wall skillfully toed the line between laying the blame elsewhere and being 100% accountable.

“Forty-eight to five, our bench had five points.”

“I heard Marcus Smart say after the game that I had no legs. He’s basically right. I don’t make excuses. I’m going to play. If I miss shots or make shots, I’ll live with it. I know people will say he finished 0-for-11, but I play—it took everything I had in me to keep fighting.”

The disappointing playoff loss in the Eastern Conference Semifinals aside, the 2016-17 season was a successful one for John Wall. He led the Wizards to their highest win total (49) since 1979, and in terms of individual statistics, he averaged career highs in points (23.1), assists (10.7), steals (2.0), field goal percentage (45-percent), free throws made per game (5.4) and PER (23.2).  But at the conclusion of the season, Wall still found himself in the same spot he had been the other two years he and the Wizards made the playoffs:  Home after the second round.

During the offseason John Wall continued to do the same thing he did following the loss to the Celtics.  He made it known that he wanted the Wizards to upgrade the personnel, but he also made it known that he needed to improve individually.

When Paul George made it be known that he wanted out of Indiana, Wall did not hesitate to let his desire for George’s talents in D.C. be known:

“Look at our team. We are one piece away. We have the point guard, we have the shooting guard, we have the center, we have the power forward. Our 3-man [Otto Porter Jr.] did great for us. You can’t take nothing away from what he did. But [George] is a guy that can guard LeBron and go back at LeBron. It’s a piece that you’re going to need to win. If you don’t have a guy who can do that, you don’t have a chance. …You got to add another star. You got to add another piece. You got to have three guys. And that’s what it’s looking like.”

Wall respected what Otto had done during his tenure with the Wizards, but he also recognized that this incarnation of the NBA is about each team’s ability to accumulate talent, and George, not Porter, would represent the Wizards’ best chance to win.  George ended up signing with the Thunder, not the Wizards. But Wall did not disparage the Wizards front office before or after Porter signed his hefty, 4-year 106.5 million contact.  Instead he spent the summer posting workout videos.

Wall also had added incentive to work hard thanks to everyone’s favorite retired Hall-of-Famer, Kobe Bryant, who issued a challenge to the Wizards’ franchise player:

But regardless of how much work Wall put in over the summer, his fate during the regular season will ultimately be decided by two main factors:  Health and Growth.

Health

John Wall had surgery on one knee and a slight cleanup on the other. As a result, he was neither healthy nor 100-percent in shape when the 2016-2017 season commenced.  The Wizards went 7-13 the first 20 games of the season, and it took Wall and the Wizards a couple months to really be a cohesive unit.  Considering the Wizards lost a Game 7 in the second round of the playoffs on the road, an argument could be made that those early season stumbles may have cost the Wizards a higher seed and ultimately home-court advantage.

By the end of the seasonpartly because Wall spent the previous offseason rehabbing and partly because Ernie Grunfeld and the Wizards’ front office failed to properly stock the a Wizards bench that could be trustedWall did not have a sufficient amount of energy in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. This past offseason Wall was completely healthy which allowed him to work on his conditioning to mitigate the risk of late-season fatigue.  More importantly, it is not all coincidence that the Wizards had their best season in over 30 years with Wall, and his backcourt mate Bradley Beal, missing a combined nine regular season games.  That’s the fewest number of games they’ve missed in their five seasons together.  All the talk of the Wizards being the best in the East, and them possibly winning 50 (or more games) means nothing if Wall doesn’t enjoy another relatively injury-free season.

Growth

Scott Brooks was on NBA TV’s “Open Court” series recently, discussing John Wall’s strengths and deficiencies as a point guard, and he had this to say about his 3-point shooting and postups:

John’s not a great 3-point shooter but makes threes when necessary or he creates threes for our team. He’s one of the league leaders in finding corner threes…John’s 6’4″, 220 lbs and he can post up so we kind of utilize the post up game through him.

Wall shot 32-percent from the 3-point line which ranked him 17th among all point guards, and it may not be realistic to believe he can up the percentage to the 35-40 percent range.  However, given Wall’s speed and his aforementioned ability to find his teammates for corner threes, a more reliable 3-point shot would throw his defenders even more off balance than they already appear to be at times:

That same theory applies to post up plays, which Wall could utilize when he needs a breather but doesn’t want to come out of the game or when he’s going against smaller guards (Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas, Dennis Schroder, etc). Wall averaged just 0.3 post ups per game and average 0.2 points per game.  Those numbers are quite paltry when compared to last year’s MVP Russell Westbrook who averaged 2.4 post ups and 2.0 points off of them.  Westbrook’s starting five was significantly less talented and he was asked to do way more than Wall, but his post-ups did at least give the defense a different look that they had to respect.

In this clip, as Wall is heading to the post, his teammates are torn between giving the diminutive Isaiah Thomas some assistance in the post and staying on their man, in case Wall decided to pass instead of shooting.  Wall didn’t give the Celtics much time to think, as he took two dribbles and took it to the basket.

If by chance the Wizards decided to run out a lineup of Wall, Jodie Meeks, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Markieff Morris, Wall would literally be unstoppable in the post, simply because all four of his teammates could hit an open three.  Wall would need to be both proficient and confident for this to be routinely worked into the Wizards offense, and based on Coach Brooks’s comments above, he’s ready and willing to do just that.

John Wall is already lobbying to be placed in the MVP discussion, and the addition of a reliable post game could not only thrust him into that conversation, but also serve as the nudge the Wizards need to move to the Eastern Conference Finals and beyond.

And judging by Wall’s attitude heading into the season, he has confidence that his DC squad is more than ready

 

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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.