WASHINGTON -- The Wizards were up nine with 30 seconds left in the game as Iman Shumpert drove to the rim for a quick two to pull his team within seven points. The game seemed well in hand, but considering the Knicks bevy of three point shooters and the Wizards' recent penchant for blowing late leads, it would have been possible for New York to, at a minimum, put a scare into the Wizards.
But as Shumpert flew in for the finger roll, John Wall flew over the 6'6 wing, spiking the ball out of bounds and forcing New York to reset its offense. The Knicks wouldn't score again as the Wizards won their third game in four outings.
The block demonstrated the speed, size and leaping ability that helped to make Wall the top pick in the 2010 draft. However, as Lamar Odom once said about former Wizard JaVale McGee, "the game is called basketball, not run and jump." Wall has been capable of wowing crowds with his athleticism for years, but its only recently that he's been able to polish his game to the point where he can use his physical gifts and court vision to truly dominate the court.
Everyone knows that Wall can shoot nowadays, and he's been an excellent transition player practically since he picked up a basketball. Now, though, Wall is developing a skill that may prove even more valuable than the ability to make an 18 foot jumper off the dribble: He's becoming a damn good floor general.
For the 2014 season, Wall is second in the NBA in assists per game and third in pure point rating. On top of that, he's leading the league in hockey assists -- passes that lead to another player immediately getting an assist -- with 2.5 per game. After struggling to run the offense in the halfcourt through his first three years in the league, Wall has become, by almost any metric, one of the game's best through the first 13 games of the season.
Randy Wittman chalks it up to Wall simply learning to take what the defense gives him.
"We've shot the three pretty good and obviously that's on [other team's] scouting report. Take away corner threes, run them off the line," Wittman said. "Well, if they do that, it opens the floor because you're concerned about our guys out on the perimeter. As we've seen in the last couple of games, John's getting into the lane, getting into that 15 foot jump shot because of that. When they want to collapse, we've got to kick the ball out."
Wall's improvement as a pure point guard hasn't been simply a matter of making better decisions. Defenses have to show at least some respect for Wall's jump shot now, which in turn has allowed him to wreak more havoc in the halfcourt by forcing help defenders to account for his improved ability to get past his defender when he plays him tighter, opening up passing lanes that weren't there when Wall was a rookie. He's also demonstrated a tighter handle and a change of pace dribble that he rarely, if ever, used in the past.
Wall attributed much of his recent success to his jump shot.
"[Defenses] know I can knock it down, that gives me a lot more opportunities to get into the paint and find my teammates and get those guys open shots," he said.
The funny thing is that Wall's not even shooting all that well this season. His true shooting percentage of 45 percent is poor, and he's only making 30 percent of his mid-range jump shots. Nonetheless, Washington's offense has been excellent with him on the court and completely falls apart when he sits. The Wizards score 105.4 points per 100 possessions when Wall on the court , meaning that they score as well as almost any team in the league with Wall running the show. When he sits, that number plummets to an atrocious 82. Despite his poor individual shooting, Wall's presence this season has essentially meant the difference between Washington having one of the best offenses in the NBA and one that would be lucky to crack 80 points on a nightly basis.
Tyreke Evans won a Rookie of the Year award the season before Wall made his NBA debut. Much like Wall, Evans came into the NBA with elite physical gifts and the potential to become one of the best players on the planet. Five years later he still has almost all of the same weaknesses that he had as a rookie.
John Wall is no Tyreke Evans. If he's not about to become one of the two or three best point guards in the NBA, it's because he's already there.
"He can do it scoring 31, and he can do it scoring 10 and having 16, 17 assists," Wittman said.
More from Bullets Forever:
- Wizards vs. Knicks final score: John Wall tears it up again in 98-89 victory
- Knicks vs. Wizards: John Wall lights it up again in 98-89 victory
- Randy Wittman says Chris Singleton is 'a lot closer' to returning than Otto Porter
- Wizards vs. Knicks preview: Carmelo Anthony and the struggling Knicks come to Washington
- John Wall drops 37 on the Raptors