The Game Changer changed his game after taking a beating from agents, unnamed executives in NBA front offices and a former NBA coach. Oh yeah, how can we forget his exclusion from ESPN’s Top 25 under 25?
So what happened exactly?
Wizards fans saw two versions of John Wall this year. The first, a rusty third year point guard with superstar potential who had been limited to ZERO basketball activities for nearly 4 months. And then there was the Wall who finished the season on a tear and giving us a glimpse of all the work he had put in the summer before.
Which Wall should we expect next year? Neither.
We should expect a more determined, better conditioned and hungrier John Wall. As we saw from right around mid-March until the end of the season, Wall went on a scoring spree to go along with steady assist totals that we hadn’t seen around these parts since the Arenas days.
What we’ve always said about Wall is that IF he figures out his jump shot, combined with his speed and athleticism, he not only will make his way back into the Top 25 under 25, but will continue working his way up the pecking order of NBA point guards. Lost in all the dissing of Wall was the fact that he ended the year 22nd in PER among all NBA players at 20.91. His PER was also good enough for 6th mong NBA point guards, and 2nd in the Eastern Conference only trailing Kyrie Irving.
Wizards fans should be excited and I fully expect John to continue improving his turnover ratio, shooting percentage and free throw percentage as a result of his summer workout program. I’ll go as far out on a limb as to say IF he’s healthy, next February Wall will be making his first All-Star appearance for the Eastern Conference.
That said, my father always told me, “IF” grandma had wheels, she would have been a bicycle so take my prognostication for what it’s worth.
Scoring: Wall turned into a lethal weapon for the Wizards when he decided to show off the improved shooting stroke he worked on throughout the offseason. The folks over at NClusive and Adidas would have you believe the lights when on when Wall changed to his CrazyQuick shoes and #QuickAin’tFair happened. They actually make a compelling argument, too. See for yourself below:
My response to that is what I always say to the smart media guys and analytical bloggers…
You can manipulate numbers to show anything you want.
For me, Wall’s game improved when he got his legs back underneath him, got into basketball shape, and started feeling out his teammates, namely Bradley Beal and Martell Webster. His confidence kept growing from there.
So a recap of Wall’s scoring…when in shape and surrounded by better teammates, his scoring abilities increased. No need for numbers folks, just look at the tapes. You can’t leave Wall alone any more and that’s going to present all sorts of defensive issues for Wizards’ opponents next year. I don’t think we should ever expect to see Wall to lead the league in scoring, that’s just not his game, but isn’t it nice to know when Washington needs a lift he can do stuff like this..
Court Awareness: When it comes to court vision and/or court awareness Wall has very few people in the league that can match him. Numerous times we would see John lure the defense over to one side of the court only to throw a perfectly timed, perfectly thrown pass to the other side of the court. Is this the only reason I think his court awareness is superb? Absolutely not. Again, and not to beat the dead horse but as Washington surrounds Wall with more talent, we will continue to see his turnover numbers go down, assists go up and his value improve. Go to the stats all you want to but there is no coincidence to me that, when you replace JaVale, Nick and Dray with Nene, Beal and Webster, all of the sudden a guys’ turnover ratio drops. Not only will talent improve John’s court awareness but Washington needs to continue to find players that can match his basketball IQ and are willing to move without sitting there watching to see what’s he going to do next.
Consider that only two years ago, Wall was making people drool over at Sports Science and no folks, he didn’t peak two years ago, he’s only gotten better and isn’t even close to his prime yet.
Offensive Value: No more than the next guy was I a little nervous about the start to John’s season, which to remind folks came 33 games into the season, but I remained patient. The payoff as mentioned above was obvious. Wall, like most players with his type of talent, are fueled by naysayers and people telling him he’s worse than he is. Luckily for Wizards fans, Wall decided enough was enough and started shutting people’s mouths. Ok, so Nene said it but still, Wall did the talking on the court. Wall’s offensive value increased when he was on the court with Beal and Webster. As long as the Batman-Robin combo of Wall-Beal is together, I think John’s offensive contributions can only get stronger. The one thing keeping Wall from being in that elite class was his ability to make defenders pay for leaving him wide open. Now that he has a proven sharpshooter in Beal, who will only get better (he’s still 19 ladies and gents), and as long as Washington can either re-sign Webster or find an equivalent shooter, John is going to continue improving his offensive game and thus value to the franchise.
As I keep writing this review I’m getting more and more excited about the potential for next year, despite the fact that we are preparing for our fifth straight trip to the lottery. The glass is always half full for me Wizards fans.
Defensive Value: In my humble opinion, I believe Wall has improved on defense each year he has been in the league. As stated earlier, I’m not a numbers/analytics/stats guy, and while Wall’s numbers may have slightly decreased in rebounds, steals and blocked shots, his defensive value comes in the form of timing of plays. One can never underestimate the value of a timely block leading to a swing in momentum. There were too many games to mention where we saw those types of blocks or steals happen for John this year. It’s no coincidence either that Washington’s defensive efficiency as a whole got better this year and that started when Wall wasn’t in the lineup. It only got better as the season moved along. Wall has the athleticism and quickness to be a lock down defender. Hanging around and taking advice from guys like Gary Payton will only make John a better defensive player in the long run. Not even in his prime yet, I’m excited what the future holds for Wall and there is no denying that he will improve. That will come solely as a result of Wall being a student of the game.
Hustle/Effort: Few, if any, are faster but I know fast doesn’t equal hustle and effort. The reason I mention it is because any play that results in Wall having to use his speed shows off how much he plays every play to the max. Whether it’s chasing down a defender to swat a shot, running after a loose ball going out of bounds, or pounding the floor with his palms getting ready to play lockdown D, if there is one thing John isn’t missing it would be hustle and effort. Wall is one of those players who loves the game and it shows in the way he plays. We could sit here and micro-analyze every play of every game but in basketball, most like every other sport, you cannot take single plays and define a person’s abilities. You must take it as a whole and Wall will never get a finger point from me for lack of effort. If we were grading these areas specifically, Wall would get an A+ from me in this category.
Basketball Swag: Coming out of college, the kid had a song made for him. He made the “Dougie” more famous than Cali Swag did; his on court-hype and chatter is second to none; and come on, who doesn’t love watching John Wall’s summer mix tapes to see him telling people “you can’t guard me.” When people talk about basketball swag. it’s about demeanor. Wall’s intensity on the court, and ability to lift his teammates’ abilities using his own God-given abilities as well as his mouth are a few of the things that make Wall so exciting to watch. Want another example of swag? How about Wall facing off with Klay Thompson and getting ejected from a game late in the season? Nobody should celebrate a player getting ejected but swag etiquette tells you that you don’t let anyone punk you, much less Klay Thompson.
Final Grade: B+. I’m not giving out A’s for a team that didn’t make the playoffs, and quite frankly, even had the Wizards made it, I’m not sure I would have given Wall an A. My rationale is simple, I believe he has so much more to offer us in regards to his game. Wall is just scratching the surface as a jump shooting threat. He slowed his game down this year, played much more under control, improved in nearly every other aspect of his game, and will keep getting better as long as he is healthy. The backcourt duo of Wall and Beal should be something that gets every Wizards fan excited. As the summer continues, and we begin to see what this team will look like come training camp, there is one thing we can look forward to: what an even more experienced John Wall can do when the playing field is evened and he gets a full training camp in before being thrown to the wolves. Flip Saunders may not agree with me, but I believe we’ve seen the worst and they say it’s always darkest before dawn. Wall looks ready now more than ever to change the game from rebuild to reemergence.