Washington Wizards' John Wall: Early NBA Summer League Observations

CJ HempfieldContributor IJuly 13, 2010

It is important to note that many of the current players on Summer League teams will never play on a NBA team. Any analysis of a player's Summer League performance has to take the level of competition, or lack thereof, into consideration before attempting to make any judgments.

However, there are a number of items to take into consideration, such as a player's focus, their attention to detail, how hard they appear to be working, improvement made on identified deficiencies in their game, etc.

After two Summer League games, I have been most impressed by the leadership skills John Wall is exhibiting. In part, I am impressed by this because he is currently the youngest player on the team, yet players appear to be accepting of his leadership.

The Wizards have long needed a “floor general.” Many hoped that Gilbert Arenas would evolve into that role, but it never materialized. Just because a person is your most talented player does not mean they have the mental makeup to be the team leader. Some people are just not suited for that role.

Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler took more active team leadership roles instead. However, I believe there is a significant difference between being a vocal voice in the locker room and being a “floor general.”

That floor general job must belong to the point guard, or other player who is responsible for initiating the offense. Conversely, I do not believe that it should belong to your best scorer.

Antawn and Caron did not initiate the offense, their job was to score. Those two players players passed the ball if and when they did not have a shot. And it was rare when they did not believe they had a shot. An initiator will make others better by getting them shots in places where they can be most successful.

I cannot remember an occasion during the tenure of the “Big Three” in which they corrected a teammate during a game for a less than fundamental play. Consider this exchange between Wall and McGee that was captured by Mike Prada at Bullets Forever:

"...Wall and JaVale McGee ran a typical pick-and-roll that resulted in Wall throwing McGee a lob pass that should have been a dunk. Instead, McGee came down with the ball, took one dribble toward the other side, pivoted back to the same side he caught the pass, leaned away from the hoop and hit a fadeaway jump hook while drawing the foul.

"As McGee started his typical post-move celebration, Wall immediately ran over to him and shouted 'COME ON! DUNK THAT S*** MAN!' A high-five soon followed, but the message was clear - just because the shot went in doesn't mean the shot was the right one."


I was thrilled to see John Wall get in McGee's ear. Too often in recent years the young Wizards have passed up the easy, more fundamental play for the less fundamental and much more difficult one.

They have long needed someone who was willing, able, and best positioned to point these issues out to his teammates. And what is probably most encouraging is that the other players appear to be listening.

I also feel compelled to contrast Wall's behavior against players like McGee and Andray Blatche. Flash back to last season, where Coach Flip Saunders pulled Blatche or McGee out of a game on many occasions, typically for some breakdown in fundamentals.

Both of these players have either walked past Flip (in the case of Blatche) or looked uninterested (in the case of McGee) when Flip was trying to provide them with instructions on what he wanted to see from them.

Through two games in the Summer League, when Wall is not in the game, or during stoppages in play, he is with the coaches, receiving whatever instruction they provide. Again, extremely refreshing behavior particularly for a team leader.

Some other random observations:

  • While JaVale has made some progress, the big man bulked up a bit and his wind appears to be a little better, he still has additional work to do in both of those areas. However, he is still biting on head fakes much too often. This was particularly evident in the Clippers game, when on one play, Nick Caner-Medley got him to bite on pump fakes twice, making JaVale look as if he was on a pogo stick.
  • While JaVale could use all the time he can get to work on his conditioning, I would like to see Hamady N'Diaye get more playing time. The lack of playing time makes me wonder if the Wiz will assign N'Diaye to the D-League for a bit this season.
  • While this is only Summer League, Trevor Booker is beginning to prove those Wiz fans who complained about his selection wrong.
  • While his stats will not jump off the stat sheet, Booker is proving to be what the Wiz thought he would be – a big body who rebounds, aggressively, defends, can hit an open 12-18 foot shot, easily runs the floor, and, most importantly, has some “dog” in him. They have long needed a big who has a bit of a nasty streak.
  • The Clippers' Sofoklis “Baby Shaq” Schortsanitis appears to be the Oliver Miller of Greece, except he's bulkier at 340+ lbs and is less gifted offensively. He sets a hell of a screen, though.
  • NBA TV should consider using anyone other than Kevin McHale for color commentary, they can save him for studio work.
  • Can't the NBA afford better Summer League uniforms? Or at a minimum, can't they find a vendor that produces tag-less, reversible jerseys? It looks cheap to see those little white tags sticking out from the top of the white-side of the jerseys. Hell, hire an intern to cut the darn tags.