When John Wall entered the NBA in 2010, he was commonly compared to Jason Kidd, another point guard with amazing passing, rebounding, and defensive skills who needed time to develop as a scorer. Through Wall’s first six seasons in the NBA, that comparison hasn’t exactly gone away. He has certainly proven himself as a passer and rebounder, among other things, but still hasn’t become an elite, efficient scorer, particularly from outside.
On a very basic level, the Wall-Kidd comparison holds up. But how do Wall and Kidd stack up through their first six seasons in the NBA? Let’s break it down:
Rookie Awards - Both players were named 1st Team All-Rookie for their performances. Jason Kidd split Rookie of the Year honors with Grant Hill in 1995. Wall finished second to Blake Griffin in Rookie of the Year voting in 2011, though it’s worth noting Wall finished with the most votes of anyone from the actual 2010 draft class. Blake Griffin was eligible for the award after missing the entire 2009-10 season with an injury.
All-Star appearances - Wall and Kidd both made it to the All-Star Game three times in their first six seasons. Though it’s worth noting Kidd was named a starter twice, while Wall only got the starting nod once.
End of season honors - John Wall earned 2nd Team All-Defense honors in 2015, but that’s the only end of season distinction he’s earned. Jason Kidd was 2nd Team All-Defense in 2000, 1st Team All-Defense in 1999, and was named 1st Team All-NBA both years.
There’s a couple of different ways to look at this. Kidd made the playoff four times in his first six seasons; Wall only made it twice. But keep in mind the Suns made the playoffs in 1997 with a 40-42 record (as the 7th seed!), and the Wizards missed the playoffs last season with a 41-41 record. In other words, they both had three seasons where their teams finished at or above .500 and three where they finished with losing records.
Kidd’s winning seasons with the Suns were a bit better than Wall’s. Phoenix went 27-23 during the in the lockout-shortened ‘98-99 season, and won over 50 games in the 1998 and 2000 to clinch homecourt advantage in the first round. Wall hasn’t been able to help the Wizards do either to this point. But even though Kidd made it to the playoffs more often and did so with higher-seeded teams, Wall won two playoff series in his first six seasons, Kidd only won one.
Almost any way you slice it, Wall has the edge as a scorer. Wall has averaged over four points per game more than Kidd through their first six years, and he’s done so while shooting more effectively. His field goal percentage, free throw percentage, effective field goal percentage, and true shooting percentages are all a notch better than Kidd’s.
Wall’s three point percentage is slightly lower than Kidd’s (31.9 percent to 32.7 percent) though it’s worth noting Wall put together arguably the best single season between the two, shooting 35.1 percent while averaging over 4 attempts per game last season. If he can continue to build on that it won’t take long for Wall to pass Kidd, who couldn’t shoot with that kind of proficiency from deep until his mid-thirties with the Mavericks.
Neither player had the benefit of playing alongside an All-Star during their early years. They both were forced to create a lot of scoring opportunities for others that they couldn’t create themselves. But when you crunch the numbers, Wall gets the nod. Through their first six seasons, he assisted on a higher percentage of his teammate’s field goals (41.6 percent for Wall, 38.6 percent for Kidd) and posted a slightly lower turnover rate (19.1 percent for Kidd, only 17.6 percent for Wall).
Any way you chop it up, Kidd was better on the glass, both on the offensive and defensive end. He had 61 games in his first six seasons where he grabbed at least 10 boards. Wall only had 11. In any other context, a guard with 11 double-digit rebounding games would be awesome, but Kidd was just on another level throughout his career.
Here’s where it gets a little hard to judge, regardless of what measure you want to use. It really just depends on what you value on the defensive end and what you think best reflects a player’s defensive capabilities.
Jason Kidd made more All-Defensive teams in his first six years, but also played on a more popular team that got more national TV time than Wall’s Wizards. Kidd also had more Defensive Win Shares through his first six seasons (19.1 for Kidd, 17.6 for Wall), for whatever that’s worth.
On the other hand, Wall’s athleticism allows him to do things on that end of the floor that Kidd could only dream of doing. He cuts off fast breaks before they lead to points, he can close out on shooters faster than almost anyone, and he will probably go down in history as the best shot blocking point guard of his or any other era.
If you had to pick one, Kidd deserves the nod, but the gap isn’t as wide as the accolades or analytics might suggest.
When it comes to comparing players like this, it’s important to remember how their beginnings shaped the early part of their careers. John Wall was 19 when the Wizards drafted him in 2010. Jason Kidd was 21 when the Mavericks drafted him in 1994, so he was a little more developed when he entered the NBA. He also entered as the final piece of Dallas’ rebuild that started with Jim Jackson and Jamal Mashburn. Wall was the first building block of the Wizards’ rebuild after the Gilbert Arenas era team was dismantled.
While they started out differently, Wall and Kidd have gone through similar challenges in their early careers. Both players had to deal with their teams going through overhauls after their second season, due to locker room immaturity issues. They’ve also gone through several coaches in their short careers, as they’ve struggled to find the right system and teammates to bring out the best in their games.
Kidd had to wait another season before he found the right situation, when he was traded to the Nets to team up with Kenyon Martin and the rest of that young, talented squad. The Wizards are hoping they can spark those same changes through roster changes, rather than a change scenery. If Washington can pull it off, Wall has shown through his early career he’s more than capable of living up to — and quite possibly exceeding — the standard Kidd set in his career.