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The curious case of John Wall’s missing floater

Wall is putting in the work this summer. Let’s hope part of it includes adding another shot to his arsenal.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Washington Wizards Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

John Wall is working hard this summer. He’s calling it the “Summer of Separation” and he’s having Ballislife document the work he’s putting in. If it sounds familiar, it should - because it’s not the first summer he’s recorded, packaged and published on YouTube.

Last year’s theme was “No Offseason.” He was coming off a Game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics - a series that was supposed to catapult the Wizards (and Wall) among the league’s elite, only to have them splutter the following year and barely squeeze into the playoffs.

This summer has been different for Wall. He was largely forgotten last season, appearing in a career-low 41 games because of recurring knee issues. He’s been outspoken about his individual goals - he wants to be MVP and he knows Washington will have to be in the same conversation as Toronto and Boston for him to become just the second player in franchise history to get the award.

But for any of it to happen—for the Wizards to finally break through the East and for Wall to join the MVP discussion—the work he’s put in this summer will have to translate to the court.

Through no fault of his own, Wall’s workouts became quickly irrelevant once the season began last year. Wall was visibly hobbled, playing through pain, and the Wizards had already started suffering demoralizing losses at the hands of the Suns, Mavericks and Lakers.

With a small sample size and the team’s inconsistent play marring any hope the fanbase had, it became impossible to gauge how much Wall improved in the off-season. This season (provided Wall is healthy and isn’t dealing with any lingering health problems) the work he’s put in to improve his game will be evident—perhaps more in a single shot than any other: the floater.

Since he became the team’s star player in 2010 and took on the responsibility of one day leading them to the championship, Washington’s coaching staff has zeroed in on several aspects of his game. His jump shot has undoubtedly improved and optimists will point to his career-high 37 percent 3-point percentage as evidence that he’s becoming a real threat on the perimeter. Through pure immersion, Wall has developed his own pace to the game—by getting enough playing time, he’s learned how to change speeds without using his quickness haphazardly and barreling over defenders.

The floater, though, remains missing.

For Wall to age gracefully, avoid taking any more unnecessary punishment inside the paint (possibly dodging potential injuries) and to simply become more difficult to guard as an offensive player, adding a floater will be critical for Wall.

In 2016-17, his last healthy season, Wall was 14th in total shots made, tied with DeMarcus Cousins. Of the 647 shots that he saw go through the rim that season, only 14 were considered floating shots within the paint/restricted area, per NBA Savant. Some of the leagues most prolific and well-rounded scorers, like DeMar DeRozan, CJ McCollum and Anthony Davis, were atop the list. Wall was tied Courtney Lee, Rajon Rondo, and Zach Randolph.

What stands out even more is Wall’s lack of trust in the floating shot. In that same season, Wall made 11 of the 16 “floating jump shots” in the paint/restricted area. He’s taken the shot, albeit at a low clip, and it’s going in - yet he’s either insisting upon relying on traditional layups or he’s not confident enough to take more floaters despite seeing them drop.

Wall, at age 27, is in the prime of his career. He’s yet to make an All-NBA first team or reach the Eastern Conference Finals, but thankfully the book is written on him yet. Nowadays, players have everything they need at their disposal to extend the primes of their careers. At 33, Chris Paul had arguably the most relevant season of his career. As years go by, Paul’s game becomes increasingly ageless. He’s become adept at the parts of the game he once lacked, particularly 3-point shooting.

If Wall wants to take “the leap,” become MVP and lead the Wizards to their first conference finals appearance in his lifetime, he needs to become more difficult to guard now that scoring has never been more valuable.

Adding a floater to his game seems simple enough, but it takes hard work. Let’s hope the work he’s putting in this summer goes to improving that aspect of his game.