Over the next few weeks, we will be evaluating the 2010/11 seasons of all the players who ended the year on the Wizards' roster. We'll offer our quick thoughts, then ask you to grade their season on a 1-10 scale in the comments. For the purposes of this exercise, we'll start with the key players and work our way down. First up: John Wall.
#2 / Guard / Washington Wizards
Sep 06, 1990
Years in NBA: 1
Contract status: Three more years on his rookie contract ($5.5M, $5.9M, $7.4M, plus a qualifying offer for $9.7M in 2014/15)
|2010 - John Wall||69||37.8||5.8||14.1||40.9||0.5||1.7||29.6||4.4||5.7||76.6||0.5||4.1||4.6||8.3||3.8||1.8||0.5||2.5||16.4|
Key advanced stat: Wall shot 59.9 percent at the rim (one percentage point behind Derrick Rose), but just 30 percent from 16-23 feet.
John Wall did not have the direct impact on team wins as many other recent top picks did. The Wizards won 26 games without Wall and just 24 with him. This pales in contrast to recent No. 1 picks like Derrick Rose (+8 wins), LeBron James (+17), Yao Ming (+15), Blake Griffin (+13, technically) and Tim Duncan (+36). But to look at this stat and conclude that Wall's year was a failure is outrageous.
Much like Kevin Durant in 2007, the deck was stacked against Wall in a big way. He came in having to deal with the Gilbert Arenas question, which, as much as we hate to admit, became a real issue just in terms of baggage that Wall inherited. (As a point of comparison, it was a lot like Durant inheriting the relocation drama). He came into a situation with no veteran leadership, to the point where a man run out of Dallas for his lack of off-court leadership (Josh Howard) was the team's captain. He had to play with people who were learning the game themselves and could not put Wall in a position to succeed. For a point guard, that's a death sentence, especially in a league where, increasingly, the point guard is responsible for so much more than they used to be.
But despite all that, Wall still managed to put together a pretty good year. There were growing pains, no doubt, but those were to be expected. Wall was a blur at Kentucky, but his college system was post-oriented and did not incorporate a lot of pick and roll play. He had to adjust to that style on the fly, and it was clear that he needed some time to pick it all up on both ends of the floor. He also is still in the early stages of developing his jump shot, which will help him become better in those situations. These are things no player can learn in a year, and yet, Wall made tremendous progress.
Indeed, this was and should have been a year of learning for Wall, just like it was and should have been for so many others on the roster. The "true rookie" thing we did earlier was a gag, but it was a gag with a point. Blake Griffin had a year to learn how to be a pro, which Wall did not have. The biggest lesson Wall says he learned was the importance of preparation and not putting his body in a position to be in pain. The foot and knee injuries Wall suffered through were very real. They robbed him of a lot of explosiveness, prevented him from being as quick coming off picks and caused him to miss shots at the rim. They also were there for pretty much the whole season, save for a short stretch at the beginning and an even shorter stretch at the end. It's impossible to really tell what caused them, but I know Wall would agree that part of it was because his body was too skinny and his preparation needed to get to a pro level. These are things Wall realized very early, before most 20-year olds do. He's already put on over 20 pounds of weight from his Kentucky days, and he has a personal chef now to help him eat right.
Despite all this, Wall still averaged 16 points and eight assists per game playing on a bad team. The summer of 2011 is a tremendously important time for him, and he knows it. Many rookie point guards experience growing pains as rookies, some even more than Wall did, but they made a big jump between their first and second years. Everything I have seen from Wall, from what I saw on the court to what I saw off it, indicates he will do the same. He learned a lot of lessons this season, and still pushed through them to be at his best at the end. With a whole summer of applying those lessons, the sky truly is the limit.
A LIMERICK ABOUT JOHN WALL'S SEASON, BY JAKE WHITACRE
The start of a bright, young career
Gave fans a reason to cheer
Attacking the lane
Bringing the pain
Piercing the D like a spear
What do you think should be Wall's biggest priority as he works on his game this summer? His jump shot? Getting stronger? Film study to help improve his pick and roll play? Defense?
Rate Wall's season on a scale of 1-10, given the expectations you feel he should have been given heading into the season.