In the beginning stages of learning how to hoop, players are consistently taught not to leave their feet when passing the ball. Coaches teach that it puts ball handlers at a disadvantage because they force themselves to make a split-second decision. This is taught and understood at every level because when the average basketball players goes up to make a jump pass, it has a good chance of leading to a turnover.
John Wall, of course, is not the average basketball player, and the Wizards coaching staff hasn't stopped him from habitually leaving his feet to pass the basketball. And to be fair, Wall is not the only player who does this. We've seen similar habits from LeBron James, Tony Parker and even James Harden.
However, none of them do it quite as consistently as Wall and one could argue that none of them have done it better. It has been noted how well Wall finds three point shooters throughout his career. His passes lead to 109 corner threes last season. Wall has assisted on 3.0 three pointers per game this season, according to NBA.com's player tracking data, and his passes have lead to 7.1 three point attempts per game.
Though he hasn't been the best three point assist man this season, mostly because the Wizards' stray away from threes when they don't have to take them, Wall is still one of the top three point assist men in the league and a potent corner three creator.
A lot of that creation comes from Wall's penetration and his ability to draw the defense into him as soon as he starts his drive. The defense has to key in on him because he's almost impossible to stay in front of one on one. There has to be some help on the back end of the play, or Wall is going to use his speed to get to the rim.
This is where that polarizing jump pass comes into play. Wall knows how the defense is going to shift when he drives the ball in the lane. Here's Wall putting that jump pass to use on one of his drives against the Pacers earlier in the season.
Once Wall gets a screen from Marcin Gortat, he slows his pace down a bit to attract the defense into the lane. Gortat's man has to come up to help and Luis Scola, Drew Gooden's man, slides over to protect the rim.
Garrett Temple runs to the corner as Wall slithers down the floor and his man slides over to help guard against a pocket pass to a diving Gortat down the lane. The end result is Temple wide open in the corner. Here's where that jump pass comes into the picture.
Wall jumps to get a view over the top of the defense to accurately throw the corner man open. He's a 6'4 guard, which is pretty tall, but he can't find a wide open passing lane to get the ball to the corner without going airborne. He uses the jump to get the skip pass all the way to the corner for the most efficient shot in basketball.
This is a tendency Wall has developed over his first four years in the NBA. After being knocked for not being a "true" point guard when he came into the league, he figured out a way to use his athleticism to his advantage. He added the change of pace to his game in the halfcourt and added the skip pass from a jump with his ability to hang in the air.
Defenses have picked up on that tendency, though. The perfect defense against Wall, similar to what we saw in Boston earlier this season, is to keep that corner three covered and have a big sit in front of the rim with some help not too far behind the play on the weakside. But Wall has picked up on that defense and has been able to adjust accordingly with no look passes down the lane off of a jump.
Because Wall keeps his eyes on the corner, Dante Cunningham is forced to stick with the shooter to prevent an easy look at a three pointer. Wall draws both Ryan Anderson and Tyreke Evans on his jump and that leaves Gortat wide open at the top of the key.
Gortat is able to start his dive a bit early because Wall leads him toward the basket with the ball. This does not allow Anthony Davis to come up and get position to defend against an easy Gortat layup at the rim. Anthony Davis may be a world destroyer, but Gortat is still Gortat when it comes to finishing at the rim.
Wall is one of the best passers in the league and the jump skip pass is a part of his repertoire. He's mastered it, for the most part, and it is one of the main reasons why he is so good at creating corner threes and three point looks in general.
But as good as Wall has become at skipping the ball into the corner with his jump pass, there are still workable issues with the play because of bad decisions Wall makes. As we saw throughout the Western Conference road trip and even against the Knicks last night at times, Wall is not super-human and is capable of making really bad plays while he is hanging in the air.
This goes back to why coaches teach their players at an early age not to jump in the air when they pass. If you predetermine your jump and there is nothing there then the play will result in a turnover almost every time. Even with Wall having made this pass a special part of his game, there are times when he predetermines his jump because the defense baits him into it.
In the previous play Wall is baited into jumping as the shot clock is winding down and he sees the corner defender cheating over. However, he only draws one defender and Anthony Davis retreats back into the lane instead of going towards Wall and getting a hand in his face.
The corner defender starts to walk back over as Wall hesitates and since he has already left his feet, he has to hold the ball a slight second longer than he wants to. That second is more than enough to create the turnover for the Pelicans there.
Instead of Wall jumping to pass here, he should look to take the driving lane against Davis who is still on the ground. His primary defender has complete ceded position as he trails on the screen and Davis is still back in the lane. There is more than an open lane to the rim even with the paint being slightly clogged.
Wall has Davis off balance there and Ryan Anderson is underneath of the rim. Eric Gordon is in no real position to help because that would leave the corner pass on the strong side as a great option. There's no reason for Wall to not penetrate the lane here, but instead he determines he is going to jump and turns the ball over.
The same thing happens in the play below. The only difference is that Anderson has slightly better position than Davis in the previous play.
But, once again, Wall jumps in the air expecting the corner play to be open as the defender cheats over. The only problem is that this is bait and the Pelicans are actually playing Wall for that particular pass.
Wall can either hit Nene on a pocket pass down the lane, or he can drive around Anderson and go to the bucket himself. Either way, he does not have to jump on the play.
And here, we see the same thing against the New York Knicks. Wall makes his jump expecting the corner play to be there after a Gortat screen, but the corner play is not open. He is able to quickly bail himself out by getting the ball to Beal on the wing as he comes down, but the possession is basically dead in the water and ends with a bricked long two.
The negatives obviously stick out more than the positives here, but the jump pass is an overall positive thing for Wall and the Wizards. Wall's ability to suck defense into the paint isn't as useful if he can't get his passes over the outstretched arms of the defense. As much as some hate it and it goes against the fundamentals of the game, the Wizards are better offensively with Wall's jump passes.