This is my first time in Bullets Forever. I will admit that I am a Hornets fan. But i am a sucker for PGs. I follow John Wall, and love his potential. However, his start to the season worries me. Hence the article. This is in no way an indictment on your franchise, the fans or anything. It is just my way of calling out John Wall (in an artistic fashion) hoping he can become the next star PG. I actually hope Wall unseats Rose as the most exciting PG to watch in the league. Cheers.
There was a time when point guards were the runt of all positions in the NBA; when NBA point guards were dwarfed by the giants that roam the NBA landscape at the time. It was a position you could get by with replacement talent, so long as you have another ball handler to dominate the ball. Point guards weren’t really "point" guards back then but just a label for the smallest player in the team. Real point guards were few and far between. You know, Point guards who actually initiate their team’s offense?
Fast forward to today and the PG position has fast become the position of dire need due to the new hand check rules established to make the game faster and more exciting. One of the reasons quick and athletic PGs couldn’t dominate the NBA landscape decades ago was because there was no particular rule on hand checking. The physical play became so bad that for a time, the Detroit Pistons employed what they called the "Jordan Rule" – a rule which states that hack Jordan as hard as you can whenever he drives to the basket. Today? No more of those.
The NBA is now populated with quick and strong PGs who dominate the league. What was once a meaningless position is slowly turning into the prime position to be as a player. You have guys like Jrue Holiday, Brandon Jennings, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Lawson, Nash, Paul, Williams, Curry, etc.. The list goes on and on. It is becoming clear that having a good PG is a necessity. (It’s one of the reasons why so many Lakers fans are bashing the Lakers FO for not getting a solid PG to replace the physically challenged Fisher/Blake.) That is why for the Wizards, winning the prized lottery back in 2010 was a god send after a almost a year an a half of nothing but turmoil. In the ever evolving times of quick guards, that 2010 1st overall pick was the ultimate prize – a player with the rare combination of strength, coordination, speed, agility, skill and drive that was John Wall. He was their saviour.Or is supposed to be...
And with the 1st overall pick, the Washington Wizards select...
That Washington Wizard team was a mess. Prior to the 2009-2010 season, the Washington Wizards were a perennial playoff team. Starting in 2004-05, after the arrival of the scoring SF/PF Antawn Jamison, the log jam in the perimeter was gone. No longer did they have 3 slashers populating their wings in Arenas, Hughes and Stackhouse. Now, they had a clear Big 3 with games that somewhat fit. It wasn’t really a hand in glove fit, but it was enough to bring the franchise 4 straight playoff appearances after years of ineptitude. Things proved to be the same even after Hughes left for Cleveland. Soon after, WAS got a budding star in Caron Butler from the Lakers. However, the franchise turned for the worst when their then franchise player Gilbert Arenas tore his MCL. The franchise was never the same. Arenas never really got back on his feet and the franchise never really got its footing back up. Soon afterwards, Ed Jordan was fired. They tried to reload in 2009-10 (unloading their 5th pick that turned out to be Ricky Rubio for two solid role players in Randy Foye and Mike Miller). This gamble backfired. The results of the season forced the franchise to rebuild and trade Butler and Jamison for a bag of chips(none of the players they got are with the team right now). It was looking like trading the rights to Spanish sensation Ricky Rubio would kick the Wizards right in their ass. They only had a 10% chance of getting the prized rookie that was John Wall. However, as fairytales would have it, they lucked into the pick, and suddenly, the franchise has some foundation to build on.
And the rookie of the year is...
John Wall burst right out of the scenes for the Wizards. In his first 8 games, John Wall averaged around 18 pts, 10 ast, 4 reb, 3 stls, 43% FG, 75% FT.. He was taking charge. You could see the excitement in his step, the domination and drive that defined so many of the past PG superstars and upcoming stars like Westbrook, Rose, Paul and Williams. He attacked the basket like the heady PGs that came before him. And then injuries derailed his welcome. Wall would then miss 13 games due to various ailments, and played injured in some other games. He finished 2nd in the Rookie voting and didn’t win out of a technicality (Blake Griffin was a rookie because he missed his entire "official" rookie season with a knee injury). Everything was going well. Everybody Wizards fan were saying "We finally have a star PG who is capable of averaging 20 pts, while also dishing out a healthy number of assists and stealing the ball like the best. We have OUR guy."
NBA SEASON IS BACK! HOORAY! *sarcasm*
Off course, the 2010-2011 NBA season was foreshadowed by the looming labour negotiations, one that ultimately cost the NBA almost 2 months of NBA basketball. What followed was a compressed 66 game schedule. When I mean compressed, I really mean COMPRESSED. Training camp AND trading season AND signing season were all wrapped up into 2 weeks of pure mayhem. 2 weeks. Pre-season was limited to 5 days and 2 games. Not enough. For a sophomore like Wall, those summer league and training camps are important. Gone are the days when he could have worked on his game the way his coach Flip Saunders wanted him to. Maybe Flip wanted him to work on a jumper, maybe a deadly 15 ft. Develop some consistency in his stroke at the FT line. With the amount of fouls his drawing, making those FTs is as important as drawing them. Instead, what John Wall got is 2 months of personal workouts and exhibition games. People will not question Wall’s drive. I’m sure in those 2 months, he shot countless jumpers, shot a ton of FTs and generally worked on chiselling his frame some more, maybe putting on a little bit of weight to help with the contact. But those personal workouts lacked the guidance of a respected mentor that could point out some details that are bad. Maybe he lacked follow through with his shot, too little legs, too much arms in his shot. Maybe his FTs lacked discipline, lacked consistency. Maybe he made layups a little too fancy. 10 games into this compressed season, and it’s looking like the lockout robbed John Wall the opportunity to take that massive leap that everyone expected of the lightning quick guard. Instead what we get is a Wall that bricks shot after shot, a sophomore that’s lost his step, a superstar that hasn't taken this franchise to the next level.
Last year, Wall had the confidence of a leader ready to make his team better. In reality, he barely did. Wall registered a WS/48 of .041 (that is on average, he’s not actually contribution to team win, nor is he contributing to team losses). Although raw numbers indicate he had a pretty fantastic season for a rookie, in reality he had too many holes in his game that would be easy to counter, given some time to scout. He turned the ball way too many times; shot 16 footers way too many times and converted way too few of them (he took 4.2 attempts in that area /game, or ~30% of his total shots/game), he finished at the rim at only the league average for PGs (at 59.9%) and he allowed his opponents to score too many points(finished with a DRTG of 111, 4 pts below league average). Off course his rookie season did showcase qualities that made it a fantastic one. Below is a chart of Wall’s AST/36 and AST% back in his rookie season compared to notable PGs back in their rookie season.
Name Age as a rookie AST/36 min AST%
John Wall 20 7.9 36
Russell Westbrook 20 5.9 27.5
Derrick Rose 20 6.1 28.8
Brandon Jennings 20 6.3 29.6
Chris Paul 20 7.8 38.2
Deron Williams 21 5.6 28.6
Rajon Rondo 20 5.8 26.3
Jrue Holiday 19 5.7 24.4
Mike Conley 20 5.8 25.3
DJ Agustin 21 4.7 22.6
Steph Curry 21 5.9 24.6
Ty Lawson 22 5.6 24.2
As you can see, John Wall has the highest AST/36 min in that esteemed group which includes the like of Paul, Williams, Rondo, Westbrook and Rose. He also ranked 2nd only to CP3 in AST%. Overall, John Wall’s rookie season proved that he was a willing and capable passer. He was also a capable steals generator at 1.7 STL/36 and 2.4 STL% (percentage of opposing opponents possessions that end up into a steal). Also, John Wall is just 20 years old. Those 3 numbers are what makes Wizards fan hopeful.
Looking into the future
As it stands, Wall is struggling mightily. Although his best quality is still intact (averages 6.8 ast/36 and 33.4 AST %), he hasn’t improved on his weaknesses. He is finishing at a worst clip than last year (.413 TS%, YIKES) and generally being a huge reason why his Wizards are 1-9 and worst team in the league. He currently stands at a WS/48 of -0.029 – that’s 0.07 points worse than last year. He is actually contributing to his team’s losses, instead of contributing to wins.
To summarize, what is the point of this article? Well, it’s a call out to John Wall.
- A call out to play in more than one speed (currently, Wall plays at only one speed – REALLY FAST – which although allows him to zip to the rim at will, it also makes him very predictable since he doesn’t actually have a really great stop and pop jumper he can use. If Wall can learn to change speeds, then his lack of a jumper will not be such a hindrance to his effectiveness as a scorer).
- A call out to finish better at the rim by finishing the easy layup, instead of the reverse scoop layup or the up and under layup, which although looks cool, is also a harder shot to make.
- A call out to convert his free throws, which are called free throws for a reason. A call out to be a better leader, because leading is more than just doing your job. It’s making sure everybody does their job as well. It’s making sure everyone is held accountable when the gameplan fails, including himself. It’s about taking charge, like you did last year. It’s about becoming the FACE of the franchise.
- A call out to play smarter. One of the best ways to be an efficient player is to NOT turn the ball over. It’s better to get a shot up, than to get no shot at all. All stat geeks know this.
- And, my God, a call to help my fantasy team instead of being a drag to it. CMON BOY! GIMME SOME WINS!