Blueprint for John Wall to Blossom into an Elite NBA Point Guard in 2013-14

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Blueprint for John Wall to Blossom into an Elite NBA Point Guard in 2013-14
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

John Wall has been pretty darn good through three NBA seasons. He sports career averages of 16.9 points and eight assists per game, but losses and injuries have overshadowed his individual production.

Many are quick to point out his obvious weaknesses without allowing for the possibility of improvement or growth. 

Only three current point guards are naturally gifted enough to be a consistent above-the-rim presence—Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose and John Wall. They pack the most potent punch of size and athleticism amongst all the NBA's primary ball-handlers. 

Wall shares the same physical tools with two of the top players this game has to offer. If we're going to address the potential of Wall emerging as elite, Westbrook and Rose are the ceilings to aim for.

 

Become Bigger Threat from Outside

Wall is currently one of the biggest threats to attack and ultimately finish at the rim. He's got a dynamite first step and jet-pack explosiveness. At 6'4'', Wall has the size to finish over traffic and the dexterity to finish around it.

But imagine how much easier it will be for him to find the paint if defenders must respect his jumper.

Wall falls under the category of point guards who can't shoot. It's the first thing typically mentioned when addressing Wall's barriers to superstardom. 

But not only would a jumper expand his driving lanes, it would increase his scoring opportunities and make him a tougher overall cover. 

With Wall on the attack, the defense's immediate focus is to keep him from getting to the rack. Opposing guards typically slip under ball screens when covering him, conceding the jumper by eliminating the lane. 

Watch how Brandon Jennings anticipates the screen and shoots under it to keep Wall from exploding to the basket:

With Jennings stepping into his driving lane, Wall now has a wide-open jump shot a few steps inside the arc. But instead, he passes on the jumper for a more difficult off-balance runner. 

Wall is a capable shooter and sports clean mechanics. There's really no reason why the jumper can't become a more reliable weapon.

He's shown he can knock them down—just not with any consistency. 

In 66 games during the 2011-12 season, Wall made 105 mid-range jumpers at an ugly 32 percent clip, according to NBA.com. In 49 games in 2012-13, he made 127 at a 37-percent clip. Clearly his jumpers-made-per-game rate is improving, but his conversion rate is still well under par. 

 

John Wall Shot Chart, 49 Games Played, 2012-13

Wall's shot chart shows he's got promise as a mid-range shooter. He has to do a better job of finishing around the foul line, whether it's recognizing when to pull up or improving his touch on the move. 

But the most glaring weakness in Wall's game is his lack of shooting range. 

 

Three-Point Shooting

A guy like Russell Westbrook isn't considered a strong three-pointer shooter, but he still made 97 of them in 2012-13. 

Wall made just three in 2011-12 and added 12 more in 2012-13. He only played 49 games last season, so let's extrapolate and give him around 20—still a ridiculously underwhelming number for a player of his stature. 

Wall doesn't have to become a sniper—just threatening enough to put him on an even playing ground with opposing guards. Westbrook has found a way to maintain elite status without three-point shooting as a strength. Despite his inconsistency from deep, the three-ball is still a dangerous shot he hit 1.2 times a game. 

Wall has to get to the point where he's at least a threat to knock down a three. Just take a look at how little he hurts defenses from behind the arc:

 

Least Threatening Three-Point Shooting Starting Point Guards

2012-2013 Three-Pointers Made Per Game Three-Point Percentage  Points Per Game Behind Arc
John Wall .2 .267 .6
Rajon Rondo .3 .240 .9
Ricky Rubio .5 .293 1.5
Gorgan Dragic 1.1 .319 3.3
Jeremy Lin 1.1 .339 3.3
Greivis Vasquez 1.1 .342 3.3
Jeff Teague 1.1 .359 3.3

 

Wall is arguably the least threatening three-point shooting point guard in the league. Not being able to shoot the three completely eliminates an avenue for points and limits his scoring opportunities.

Now look at some of the top shooting point guards in the league. Some of these guys feast from downtown. If only they had the physical tools of Wall, they'd be on a whole different level. Unfortunately for them, it's tough to improve your physical tools.

But for Wall, a jumper can always improve.

 

Most Threatening Three-Point Shooting Starting Point Guards

2012-2013 Three-Pointers Made Per Game Three-Point Percentage  Points Per Game Behind Arc
Stephen Curry 3.5 .453 10.5
Damian Lillard 2.3 .368 6.9
Deron Williams 2.2 .378 6.6
Brandon Jennings 2.2 .375 6.6
Jameer Nelson 2.2 .341 6.6
Kyrie Irving 1.8 .391 5.4
Jose Calderon 1.8 .461 5.4

 

It's incredible how big of a role the three-ball plays in some of these point guard's games. And it's even more incredible that Wall has been able to produce without one.   

Right now, Wall has to work extra hard to fight for points inside the arc. The fact that he can average 18.5 points a game on a respectable 44 percent shooting, as he did last year, is crazy for a player deprived of such a damaging weapon.

 

Half-Court Facilitating

Wall is an assist machine. His ability to get into the lane or out on the break allows him to set teammates up for easy baskets. He's averaging a whopping eight assists a game for his career, despite being surrounded by mediocre talent.

But where Wall needs to improve is as a half-court facilitator. Wall can be turnover-prone, letting his speed and athleticism cloud his decision-making process. 

He's got the tendency to lose focus or go through mental lapses.

Here's a silly turnover that would frustrate any high school coach. Out of the pick-and-roll, Wall has plenty of space to see over and through the defense. 

But Wall inexplicably picks up his dribble and leaves his feet, only to realize the roller he wanted to find was covered in the paint. Panicking, he throws a cross-court pass that's easily intercepted and taken the other way for two. 

This is just a textbook unforced error that Wall can't afford to make.  

He's had to force the issue a lot over the past three seasons. He was never given a realistic scoring option to play off, leaving him responsible to make a play almost every trip down the floor. 

As his teammates improve, Wall must try and exploit their strengths by finding them in their sweet spots. 

The ceiling that was set for Wall when he was the No. 1 pick in 2010 remains intact. A couple of poor shooting seasons and questionable decisions shouldn't change that. 

But as Wall grows, so must his leadership presence. Now the clear-cut franchise player of the future, the young guys like Bradley Beal and Otto Porter need a floor general and voice to follow. As a confident kid with a competitive edge, there's no reason why Wall can't provide that. 

By becoming a bigger threat from outside, limiting his mental mistakes and establishing his presence as a veteran, Wall has the chance to become the game's next elite point guard. 

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