Is Washington Wizards' John Wall a Top-Shelf Point Guard Yet?
To consider Wall the reason for another regular-season failure would be deplorable. However, he hasn't raised eyebrows quite like he did in his rookie season. The jump Wall was supposed to make to become a top-shelf point guard has yet to occur.
Wall has the makings of an elite point guard. His shot is in desperate need of fine-tuning, but his speed is unrivaled even by the league's top athletes. His first step and his ball-handling have him getting to the rim with ease.
He's a facilitator through-and-through, and the Wizards were right in taking Wall. Point guards are dominating the league and the only way to match one great floor general is with a great floor general of your own.
Three years after Wall was drafted No. 1, however, and the Wizards are still an awful team.
Worst of all, John Wall has regressed since his rookie season. Yes, regressed.
The former No. 1 pick of the Wizards in 2010 represents a sliver of hope for a dimly lit future. Wall is a member of one of the most dysfunctional and poorly run organizations in sports, a fate he couldn't avoid when the Wizards were gifted the No. 1 pick after a tumultuous 26-56 campaign the year before.
Wall was the consensus No. 1 pick without question. Even before the one year he spent at Kentucky, Wall was arguably the top selection as a fifth-year senior. Had he entered in 2009, the Los Angeles Clippers may have ended up employing the services of one of the nation's top phenoms.
If he wasn't going to be selected by one inept franchise, he was going to get drafted by another. It was rough from the start for Wall, who averaged 16.6 points, 6.5 assists and 4.3 boards per in his freshman season with the Wildcats.
A No. 1 pick is meant to improve the overall outlook for an NBA franchise. Immediate results aren't expected, but gradual improvements and the summoning of free agents interested in playing with the top player from a draft are.
Take Blake Griffin. His Clippers made a three-win improvement in his rookie year, but his game was captivating and his talent was obvious, which eventually led to the acquisition of Chris Paul.
Blake, who won Rookie of the Year in Wall's rookie season, has seen his team prosper before his eyes.
On the other side of the country, Wall is continuing to wallow near the bottom of a depressingly bad division and preparing to miss the postseason for a third consecutive year. His Wizards are currently 20-41 and somehow found a way to be worse when Wall sat out the first two months of the season with a knee injury.
Before Wall made his return January 12th, the Wizards were 5-28 and started the season losing their first 12 games. They have gone a respectable 15-13 since then, featuring a four-game winning streak over playoff teams in the L.A. Clippers, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks.
The sad thing is that Wall is actually surrounded by a few pieces of legitimate talent. Nene and Emeka Okafor are two of the better big men in the game, and Trevor Ariza, while he has seen better days, is a solid defender.
Bradley Beal has also been impressive in his rookie season, averaging 14.2 points on 41 percent shooting.
The Wizards' play of late can be attributed in part to the return of Wall. But does that mean Wall's numbers were so staggering that he is directly responsible for turning the Wizards in an almost complete 180?
Not exactly. He's still a horrendous shooter (11 percent shooting from deep and 33 percent as a jump shooter according to basketball-reference.com) and is averaging a career-high 4.3 turnovers per 36 minutes.
Honestly though, it's difficult to gauge Wall at this point. He's only played 28 games this season and is recovering from a knee surgery. Recent studies show that a fully healthy knee is an integral part of being a point guard in a professional basketball league. Also, his minutes are at a career-low 30 minutes per game.
To consider Wall a top-shelf point guard would be an insult to guys like Paul, Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook, who are all legitimate elite ones.
Wall's current PER of 15.92 has him ranked 27th among point guards, behind the likes of Nate Robinson and Jarrett Jack, who is a bench player.
Truthfully, Wall's entire career has been decimated with poor timing and unfortunate circumstances. His second year in the league was the lockout-shortened year, which could have easily been considered a reason for the lack of Wall's improvement and his abysmal shooting numbers.
As stated before, Wall also missed 33 games this season. It hasn't been the smoothest ride for an up-and-coming potential All-Star.
Wall's shooting is an enigma. After taking 115 three-pointers and converting less than 30 percent of them, he ended up making three of his 42 three-point attempts in his sophomore season, good enough for a percentage of .071.
If Wall took 10 three-pointers, on average he was going to make less than one of them.
This year has been no better. Wall has taken 18 three-point attempts and has made two, giving him a three-point percentage of .111. At least now he's making one out of 10. Still, knowing that Wall has made five three-pointers in the past 94 games is a statistic that nobody ever wants to see from a guard, especially a former No. 1 pick that's meant to lead the team.
Wall has plenty of time to fix that, though. Jason Kidd, or "Ason Kidd" as he used to called, also had a tough time converting jumpers before grooming his jumper enough for it to be recognized as nearly consistent.
Unless Wall makes changes, his shot-chart is going to continue looking as grotesque as this:
Until then, the Wizards' point guard is relying a great deal on his athleticism.
Wall's speed will only help him for so much longer. Not in terms of sustaining his athleticism, but as to how defenses will react and adjust to a player who converts 10 percent of his three-pointers and 30 percent of his jumpers.
There isn't a point guard that shoots worse than Wall. Even Ricky Rubio, who missed nearly the first two months of the season, has been a better shooter than Wall. Rubio is only shooting 27 percent on his jumpers, but he has made seven of his 40 three-point attempts.
Rubio was criticized around the league for his inconsistent jumper prior to his introduction to the NBA, yet even he has found more success from outside of the paint than Wall.
Naturally, Wall is finding a great deal of his offense off of transition points. According to SynergySports, 27 percent of Wall's offense has come off his strong suit of running the floor and beating his opponents with a full head of steam. Eighty of his 351 field-goal attempts on the season have been on transition opportunities.
Even then, Wall ranks 234th in points per possession in transition. His 0.78 points per possession overall ranks him 361st amongst all players.
He is allowing his assignment 0.89 points per possession and pick-and-roll ball-handlers to shoot 47 percent.
Top-shelf? Those are bargain-bin numbers.
It's not all terrible, however. The fact is that the Wizards are an extremely improved team when Wall is running the show. But that's not saying much when A.J. Price and Garrett Temple were the point guards who filled in for Wall when he was out.
According to 82games.com, Wall is a plus-9.9 in terms of his effect when he's on or off the court. Only Nene and his plus-12.2 can boast a larger net.
However, Wall is a minus-2.2 when comparing his production to that of his assignment.
"But what about his playmaking ability?" someone may ask. Well, Wall ranks 32nd among point guards in assist ratio, the percentage that a possession ends up in a Wall assist, but he also ranks near the bottom in turnover ratio at 14.3 percent, according to John Hollinger's numbers.
Only Nando de Colo, Earl Watson, Pablo Prigioni, Jamaal Tinsley and Rubio have a worse turnover ratio.
The past two seasons have been a train wreck for Wall, even if he has a winning percentage when he's been on the court this season. The problem is that there hasn't been an improvement at any aspect; only regression.
The verdict is still out on Wall. At only 22 years old, and with a knee injury possibly still hampering him, Wall will have plenty of opportunities to prove just how useful he can be for one of the NBA's most desperate franchises.
Not every player is the same. You will come across players like Kyrie Irving and Derrick Rose who can make immediate impacts and adjust to the NBA extremely early in their career.
Other times they're a Chauncey Billups, who needed nearly six seasons to find the right groove.
John Wall is simply too talented to dismiss. However, he's also found himself far away in terms of being an elite point guard after a rookie season that had fans itching for more.
Unfortunately for him, being a part of the toxic Washington Wizards franchise may end up hindering his career more than helping it.
Word is that he believes he deserves a max contract. If Wall hasn't figured out that he's nowhere near the player so many expected him to be, he and whatever team he will be playing with in the future are going to come upon a rude awakening.
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