Going into this season, Wizards coach Scott Brooks had an audacious vision for John Wall. He wanted Wall, who was coming off knee surgery and a career-low 4.5 free throw attempts per game, to develop into an elite free throw shooter this season. He laid out his expectations in an interview with Candace Buckner of the Washington Post:
“I think he should be a high free-throw” shooter, Brooks said, then tossed out a range of seven to 10 free throw attempts per game. “He has the ability. He has the strength, he has the shot-making, the athleticism to get to the rim.
“My job is to challenge him to get up to another level. That’s the challenge and that’s also the fun part of my job to see where I can take him and the team. The better players in the league get easy points at the free throw line and I think he can be a low-to-mid-80s [percentage] free throw shooter also.”
Though it’s still early, Wall has met Brooks’ challenge. He’s averaging a career-high 6.7 attempts per game this season, even though he’s averaging nearly three minutes less per game than he did last season on a team that’s playing at a significantly slower pace than last season. Once you take pace and playing time out of the equation, Wall’s spike in free throw attempts is more evident. Last season, he averaged 6.0 attempts per 100 possessions. This season, it’s up 10.0 attempts, which is enough to make him a top 20 player in the NBA at drawing fouls this season, ahead of notable players including Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Chris Paul.
Better yet, Wall is shooting a career-best 82.4 percent from the stripe. He has simultaneously gotten better at drawing fouls and making opponents pay when he gets there.
When you add it all up, it’s paying big dividends for Wall’s efficiency. His true shooting percentage (a measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account field goals, 3-point field goals, and free throws) is up to 54.1 percent this season, the best mark in his career.
What makes Wall’s shooting uptick all the more important this season is that he’s being asked to do more than ever on the offensive end. His Usage Rate (an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor) is up to 33.5 percent, by far the highest of his career. Only seven players in the league have a higher usage rate than Wall this season.
The Wizards’ season has been littered with failing to reach expectations, but that can’t be said for John Wall. Although the win-loss record may not show it, he’s taken an important step forward as an efficient scorer this season by getting to the line more often and shooting it better when he gets there. In a season where he’s had to shoulder an even larger load on the offensive end, Wall has still found a way to improve his efficiency.