Wall and Beal Hero Ball Needs to Go | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wall and Beal Hero Ball Needs to Go

Updated: January 7, 2018

John Wall and Bradley Beal are the best players on the Wizards, and teams typically look to their best players to take over late in close games. LeBron James has taken the most shots in fourth quarters this season (208), followed by Russell Westbrook (192), Kyrie Irving (181), and Jimmy Butler (180). It is therefore reasonable to expect Wall and Beal to take the bulk of the Wizards’ shots with the game on the line.

But what if the best players on your team aren’t good at taking over games late? Sure, there have been some incredible runs by Wall to close out games, and nobody is arguing that he and Beal can’t dominate when it matters. They just don’t dominate, and actually hurt the offense, much more frequently.

After the All-Star foursome of James, Westbrook, Irving, and Butler, the next player on that list of fourth-quarter field-goal attempts is Tyreke Evans, the best pure scorer on a bad Grizzlies team, with 177. After that? Bradley Beal, with 175.

Here’s the difference between Beal and those other five players: Beal is shooting .354 in the fourth quarter, while each of those other five are shooting at least .411. Of the 20 players with at least 140 fourth-quarter shot attempts this season, only Beal and James Harden (.370 on 154 shots) are shooting below 40 percent.

Wall, who has missed 11 games this season due to injury, has taken 90 fourth-quarter shots, but he’s made just 29 of them, good for an atrocious .322 shooting percentage. Of the 123 players who have taken at least 75 shots in the fourth quarter this season, only three players have worse shooting percentages than John Wall: Marcus Smart (.304), Fred VanVleet (.316), and Rodney Hood (.317).

Then comes Wall, followed by Jodie Meeks (that’s Wizards Shooting Specialist Jodie Meeks), Wesley Matthews, Frank Kaminsky, Marreese Speights, Tyler Johnson, and Bradley Beal.


Look at that again. The Wizards employ three of the 10 least-efficient fourth-quarter scorers so far this season, and two of them are on max contracts.

If Frank Kaminsky and Fred VanVleet aren’t efficient late-game scorers, so be it. They’re Frank Kaminsky and Fred VanVleet. If John Wall and Bradley Beal are inefficient to close out games, there’s a significant problem in Washington.

Use Saturday’s games as an example.

The Wizards lost to the Bucks by seven after being outscored in the fourth quarter by 10. Here is what the fourth-quarter shooting breakdown looked like for the Wizards.

Wall: 0-for-5, 2 points
Beal: 1-for-7, 4 points
Everybody else: 4-for-7, 12 points

Numbers don’t tell the entire tale, of course. Some of those shots Wall and Beal took were thrust upon them because the offense wasn’t moving, or because other less-talented scorers couldn’t get themselves a look. But numbers tell a lot of the tale, which is essentially Wall and Beal playing your-turn-my-turn à la Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook two years ago.

Otto Porter was out for the game with a hip strain, so Wall and Beal were always going to be leaned on even more heavily. And it’s absolutely fair to wonder how much of the blame for this goes on the rest of the team, and on Scott Brooks, for allowing Wall and Beal to take all the shots. The offense is visibly stagnant at the end of close games, whether because everybody knows it’s going to be The Wall and Beal Show or because the Wizards tense up and the star pair is expected to make everything happen on their own.

But you see Wall bringing the ball up in the final three minutes of a narrow game, and way too often it goes exactly like this: Somebody, usually Marcin Gortat, sets a screen at the top of the key for Wall, who waves it off. Wall dribbles in place for several seconds, begins dancing with the ball, rips off a few crossovers with varying degrees of success, then either fires up a 19-footer or drives for a heavily-contested layup and complains when he doesn’t get the foul call.

The next time around, after the opponent has likely put in a bucket on the other end, Wall defers to Beal and lets him try to create a shot for himself. Beal’s version of this game is a less-predictable one, but the ending often feels similar.

Meanwhile, Giannis Antetokounmpo went 3-for-3 while only taking the shots that presented themselves to him. Quality shots kept opening up for his teammates as the Wizards defense bumbled around, so he deferred. As a result, the Bucks went 8-for-16 from the field and 11-for-12 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter; the Wizards went 5-for-19 and 7-for-10, respectively.

A glance around the three other close games Saturday night (Houston-Detroit, Boston-Brooklyn, Cleveland-Orlando) shows a remarkable disparity between Washington’s late-game offense and everybody else’s. In the four games, the two worst volume shooters in the fourth quarter were Wall and Beal. Here is every player in those four games who attempted at least five shots in the fourth quarter, ranked by efficiency:

John Wall: 0-for-5, 2 points
Bradley Beal: 1-for-7, 4 points
Kyrie Irving: 1-for-5, 4 points
Marcus Smart: 1-for-5, 5 points
Joe Harris: 2-for-5, 4 points
LeBron James: 2-for-5, 8 points
Spencer Dinwiddie: 3-for-8, 6 points
Jahlil Okafor: 3-for-7, 6 points
Eric Gordon: 3-for-6, 7 points
Aaron Gordon: 5-for-10, 11 points
Jayson Tatum: 3-for-5, 7 points
Mario Hezonja: 4-for-5, 10 points
Elfrid Payton: 4-for-5, 8 points

The sample size is negligible in the grand scheme of things, of course, but there are many nights you could perform this same exercise and get similar results. Wall and Beal taking over games late is a painfully inefficient strategy, and it’s the primary reason the Wizards are 22nd in fourth-quarter plus-minus (-20) and 26th in fourth-quarter field-goal percentage (.424).

Eliminate the players who are out of the rotation on Washington’s roster—Jason Smith, Tim Frazier, Chris McCullough—and you’ll see a brutal fourth-quarter trend. Wall is the worst shooter on the team in the quarter, followed by Meeks, then by Beal. After that trio, the next-worst shooter is Otto Porter, who is a full 10 percentage points better than Beal (.354 vs .455) and 13 percentage points better than Wall (.322).

And it only goes up from there!

Kelly Oubre: .483
Marcin Gortat: .484
Markieff Morris: .487
Ian Mahinmi (!): .531
Tomas Satoransky: .574
Mike Scott: .600

Those are all on much lower volume, yes, but that’s the point. We’re looking at Kobe Bryant-esque volume splits this season in Washington, and despite Bryant being one of the best pure scorers to ever tie up the laces, that strategy often left the Lakers grasping for air late in games.

The final piece to all this is the fatigue element, and there are two parts to it. First, with Beal playing a career-high 35.6 minutes per game and Wall playing 33.7 minutes per game despite injury problems, the duo often looks winded late in games, so you’re not even getting top-quality Wall and Beal to close out games.

Second, the more you rely on them in these high-stress situations, the more you’re adding to their fatigue. It’s like in baseball when you look at a pitcher’s pitch count for a game and factor in whether they’re high-stress pitches (i.e. bases are loaded for 10 straight pitches vs. empty bases).

Wall and Beal shouldering the greatest portion of the load at the time when the load is heaviest and their shoulders are weakest is a recipe for failure. So far, that recipe is producing exactly what’s expected, which is the failure we saw Saturday night.

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Bryan Frantz
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Bryan is a D.C. native with a degree in something or other from UNC. He has important, interesting hobbies, but mostly he just weeps over D.C. sports teams. You can find him on the Metro, inevitably complaining about Red Line delays.