Just so we are all on the same page, I want to make sure we agree that when John Wall takes a seat on the bench, he much prefers seeing this…
Unless they have LeBron James and Kevin Durant, great teams are build around point guards today. Chris Paul. Tony Parker. Derrick Rose. The list could go on and on. These point guards have put their respective franchises on the path of consistent success.
The Wizards need John Wall to be included with these names, and he’s surely on his way. But daily tutoring from a 14-year NBA "Professor" only helps give him the extra boost he needs to be top of his class.
Since the arrival of Andre Miller, and thus the departure of Eric Maynor, the Wizards’ bench was a fine-tuned product that didn’t make us all cringe when the starters took their usual breathers at the end of the first and third quarters. We enjoyed seeing Miller take advantage of even the smallest sliver of space to pick apart defenses by finding either a cutting big man underneath the hoop, a shooter spotting up outside the three-point arc and/or backing his defender down before shimmy-ing himself free for a slightly-sideways fadeaway jumper in or near the paint.
Wall isn't Miller. He's faster, younger and more dynamic. But the skills Miller brings to the table are important for him to see, absorb and learn while Miller is still his teammate.
Yes, Wall is a dynamic, explosive athlete. Miller was more explosive in his younger days, but never to Wall's extent. And yes, Wall's jumper is steadily improving. After shooting a dismal 7.1 percent from beyond the arc in his second NBA season, he shot a respectable 35.1 percent from three-point range this past season.
Still, Wall isn't a great shooter, much like Miller never was. In 14 years, 93.3 percent of Miller's shots were two-point field goals. He never shot many threes and isn't about to change now. But he still managed to stay effective using other gifts that Wall can easily learn. When Miller scored eight points in the fourth quarter of the Game 1 victory against the Chicago Bulls, he did all of his damage close to the basket, posting up the smaller D.J. Augustin and using an array of up-and-under pump-fakes to get his points. Having a mentor like Miller teaching Wall how to maneuver his body to feel the opponent behind him allows Wall to be even more diverse in his attacks.
Wall even has two inches on Miller and is bigger and quicker than most point guards in the league. Why not use this more to his advantage and slow things down? We saw ex-Wizard Shaun Livingston use his length in the post against smaller defenders last season with Brooklyn, for example.
But before Wall uses this tactic frequently, he needs Miller's guidance. We've already seen savvy players like Paul out-smart Wall before, which is where Miller comes in. He can teach Wall how to feel a defender on his back hip and when to expect a hand to come around swiping for a steal.
Spending a little more time in the post, working off his cutting teammates and improving his career-low 24.8 field goal percentage from 3-10 feet will help Wall. Learning from Miller, who owns a 40.1 career percentage from the same range, will make that development easier. There's no need to have a 48-minute track meet.
That isn't to say Wall should completely change his game. We’ve witnessed some lights-out shooting performances from Wall, especially last season. He's not Miller. That said, we’ve also seen how Miller’s methodical, old school game has evolved over the years to serve him especially well.
Which brings us to the next point…
People always worry that players like Wall, Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose won't last long in the NBA because their high-flying game exposes them to injuries. As they age, their speed won't be there to rely on anymore.
But Wall has an established 14 (going on 15)-year vet to help alter his approach where needed. Miller has played in at least 80 games in 12 of his 14 seasons, including nine seasons playing every single game. One of those two seasons of not reaching 80 games was last year, when he spent nearly two months at home after being banished from the Nuggets following an argument with Brian Shaw. Wall, meanwhile, has suffered multiple injuries in his four-year career. Miller can help Wall learn how to take care of his body more effectively.
As mentioned earlier with Chris Paul, the older, wiser players have been around the league long enough to know what to expect in different situations and how to turn their knowledge into instinct. Miller has been in the league longer than most, so let's hope he helps Wall understand how to turn knowledge into instinct in multiple situations. For example:
- How to react when a defender goes underneath the pick and roll.
- When to try and thread the needle and when to avoid the risky pass.
- When to slow the ball down and when the push the tempo.
- What to do when faced with a double-team.
And why not start now? This might be Wall's last chance to pick the brain of a vet with this much institutional knowledge.