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The John Wall Missed Assist Tracker: Looking At How Many Assists Wall's Teammates Cost Him


The prevailing argument by many Washington Wizards fans and people who follow the league is that John Wall's bad teammates cost him assist opportunities by missing shots. As a team, the Wizards rank 27th in the league in effective field goal percentage, 29th in the league in three-point shooting and 28th in the league in points per possession on spot-up attempts, according to There's plenty of surface evidence to support that point of view out there.

But I wanted to go deeper. Do the Wizards really shoot poorly because they can't shoot, or is it because they take dumb shots. If it's the former, then Wall would be far more affected. To answer this question -- and, on a side note, to demonstrate why I despise the assist stat -- I decided to spend this weekend working on a new project that I'll be keeping up all year.

The project? Drumroll please...


(Graphic by callmecostanza, who also designed the site logo).

Yup, it's the new "John Wall Missed Assist Tracker." Thanks to the incredible video database that is, I looked back at every Wizards' missed shot in the relevant shot-type categories to track which ones came on plays where a make would have meant a Wall assist. Here were my ground rules:

  • I only tracked the following types of plays: spot-ups, pick and rolls where the roll man took the shot, attempts off a screen, cut or dribble-handoff and transition plays. I did not bother to look at isolations or post-ups, which mean I may have missed a few opportunities where Wall threw the ball into the post and the player shot without dribbling, which meant Wall still could have gotten the assist if the player made the shot.
  • I included several plays in which the player committed a turnover as well, but tried to do so judiciously. Understandably, this is subjective, but if the player was in a position to attempt a decent shot that would have given Wall the assist, I counted it if he turned it over.
  • I did not include plays where a Wall pass led to a foul. These wouldn't be normal assists, and therefore, I didn't think it was fair to make a judgment call on whether the player could have converted an and-1.
  • I did not include any plays where Wall himself turned it over.
  • This means that there are potentially several other assist opportunities I did not track.
  • I haven't yet run these numbers against other star point guards, because it took forever (and was depressing) to watch video of every missed Wizards shot in those categories in order to determine if Wall could have had an assist on those plays.
  • Of course, just because Wall has all these assist opportunities doesn't mean he'd actually pick up assists on all of them. Players miss shots. Players aren't open. Wall himself makes poor passes that make it difficult for the shooter to get into his motion. However, given how high these numbers are, he surely would be averaging much more than 7.6 assists per game with an adequate shooting roster playing with him.

I've said too much. Without further ado, here's the spreadsheet.

For those who don't want to look at the chart...

  • Wall averages 7.6 assists per game, with a season high of 15 against the Detroit Pistons on February 12.
  • He has a total of 118 and an average of 3.6 (rounding up) spot-up assist opportunities squandered by missed shots or turnovers.
  • He has a total of 40 and an average of 1.2 (rounding down) pick-and-roller assist opportunities squandered by missed shots or turnovers.
  • He has a total of 87 and an average of 2.6 (rounding down) transition assist opportunities squandered by missed shots or turnovers.
  • He has a total of 69 and an average of 2.1 (rounding up) assist opportunities of any other kind (non-ISO or post-up) opportunities squandered by missed shots or turnovers.
  • His season high of missed assist opportunities was against the Thunder, when he missed out of 17 additional possible assists. He's also had a game with 16, a game with 15 and a game with 14. He's had 15 instances of double-digit assists being squandered. Eleven of those games prior to Flip Saunders being fired.
  • On average, 43.9 percent of Wall's assist opportunities result in actual assists.
That means that Wall is averaging 9.7 missed assists per game this season. I don't know about you, but that seems pretty high. We're talking about 321 total plays where Wall could have had an assist if his teammate just hit the shot. Say Wall's teammates convert on just 100 of those 321 misses. That would take him from averaging 7.6 assists per game to averaging 10.7 assists per game. Only Steve Nash (10.9 assists per game) is posting a higher assist per game average than that.

UPDATE: As several people have pointed out, 100 additional assists is probably too optimistic.

There are plenty of lessons to glean from this on the unreliability of the assists statistic, Wall's own poor teammates and maybe even Wall's passes themselves. We'll be tracking this every game to see if Wall continues to lose out on many assist opportunities.


A HUGE thanks to the incredible video database at for making this project possible. If you're so inclined, they just dropped their rates to half price with the season halfway finished. The service costs just $19.95 to have it for one team and $44.95 to have stats and video for every team. All subscriptions are through September 30, 2012. Here's the website again.