“I’m picking and choosing people at my mercy. I’m picking and choosing what I want to do at times and not letting anybody speed me up and just start reading what the defense is giving me and what my coaches call at the same time.”
Those were the words of John Wall when asked about his growth over the course of five years playing in the NBA. The key term he used which stuck out to me: picking and choosing people at my mercy.
Let us first define mercy: compassionate treatment, especially of those under one’s power; clemency. A disposition to be kind and forgiving.
Now, let’s define John Wall’s rule of mercy: um, there is absolutely none.
Mercilessness is typically considered an unkind gesture and in most real-life situations, a trait that is disliked and unpopular. The more serious fashions of mercilessness are examples like The Pharaoh and other world tyrants. Lesser forms of mercilessness involve Eric Maynor floaters of the past (here’s one from 25 feet), or to be more relevant, Kevin Seraphin selfies.
But John Wall’s lack of mercy, as it applies to basketball, is in fact unkind but surely not disliked or unpopular. Should we go as far as calling him a tyrant on the hardwood? There’s no question he’s become one. His court vision is dictating; his hesitation move humiliating; a straight bully when he crosses you over; he’s imperious in transition; a domineering authoritarian the way he manipulates defenses into a cluster before zipping a kick-out pass to his wing. His defense? Oppressive. Need more analogies?
Speaking of defense, although John’s quote was more offensive-based, it can very well apply to tyrannical attributes on the defensive end as well, perhaps even more. A defensive rating of 99 marks a career best and is 11 points lesser than the 110 rating he had his rookie season. His steals per 100 possessions this season are at a 3.1 clip, which is a full steal per 100 possessions better than two seasons ago. Wall is a strong dude, he’s wiry and has a ton of length. His speed traps ball handlers, often times forcing them to immediately resort to a plan B on offense. His imposing instincts create turnovers. His chase-down blocks- demoralizing. He’s unforgiving, he’s pitiless, he’s Stalin in a tank top.
Probably the most frightening aspect of all this is that the Association is no where near seeing an end. In fact, the oppression seems to veer to more intense levels. At least that’s what Randy Wittman thinks. After the Wolves game, Witt told reporters that John “still has the best ahead for him,” an agonizing dispatch for all who are due to encounter him. Because, if we haven’t observed the best of John Wall yet, I’m scared to see what that’s comprised of, even as a guy who roots for him. It really is scary. Like, are the habitual double-doubles this season not enough? Are we bound for more unrelenting chase-down blocks? Are we going to witness more renditions of his shimmy dance?
The very, very best of John Wall is likely to be revolved around a completely unsullied jump shot and even that part of his game has improved enough to render defenses undignified. His pick and roll game has become practically indefensible with Marcin Gortat. Here are some numbers to help evidence Wall’s improvement as a jump shooter, specifically from midrange:
John Wall, money maker from midrange?
% of FGA from 10-16 feet, 2013-14: .086
% of FGA from 10-16 feet, 2014-15: .144
FG% from 10-16 feet, 2013-14: .348
FG% from 10-16 feet, 2014-15: .510
Wall’s whopping improvement in percentage of made midrange jump shots has built the confidence for him to attempt a greater amount of them and to put it simply, defenses can no longer disrespect it. Because factually, tyrants are prone to fuel themselves off of things that constitute disrespect. Things like doubt and insolence. It typically makes them more cruel and defending oneself from the cruelty becomes more onerous.
The NBA can be very unfair thanks to basketball tyrants like John Wall. But nobody in D.C. is complaining. The burdensome nature that Wall imposes on his defenders are the prime reason this team is 18-6 and the reason why Player of the Week awards are handed out and early MVP conversations are involving him. By season’s end, Wall and his team of enforcers may very well pillage this league down to ashes. So be wary, NBA.