Watching the Washington Wizards has gotten infuriating. Actually, I take that back.
Watching the Washington Wizards has been infuriating. Watching the Washington Wizards has gotten hilarious. Laughing hysterically, like a psychotic person driven to insanity, is the only appropriate response to watching the team at this point.
Every time Bradley Beal passes up an open three to take a dribble into a long two? Every time Drew Gooden “spaces” the floor to the college three point line, and fires up a long two? Every time an offensive possession unfolds into a wrinkled, raveled mess? Just throw up your hands or plant your face in your palms and laugh like the lunatic you are for loving this team.
But every time John Wall Zoom-Zoom’s coast to coast like he’s auditioning for a Mazda ad, that’s the time to scream. Every time he hits the NOS through the paint, and finishes with either a lay-up, a lay-up for his teammate, or a trip to the free line, that’s the time to scream.
“DO THAT EVERY TIME!!!”
Blame the coach. Blame the player. Blame the refs. Blame whoever. But these are the facts of the case. And they are undisputed.
· The Wizards employ one of the fastest point guards in the NBA. No one debates this.
· The Wizards employ a power forward who can finish plays like this:
· The Wizards employ a center who can finish plays like this:
· The Wizards pace of play ranks 16th in the NBA.
· The Wizards are 9th in the NBA in Field Goal percentage on drives to the basket
· The Wizards are tied for second to last in NBA in drives to the basket per game
— HELLO my name is (@JohnCTownsend) March 30, 2015
Watching the Washington Wizards has gotten hilarious, but it sure is not entertaining. The endless barrage of inefficient shots, and predictable unpredictability of Wittman’s substitutions has created a stale, apathetic atmosphere every night at the Verizon Center. The crowd doesn’t respond to the team, and in turn, the team doesn’t draw energy from the crowd.
Except when John Wall does this:
John Wall in transition gets the crowd going. John Wall driving gets the crowd going. Why? Because John Wall in transition and John Wall driving is what John Wall does best. John Wall is the Wizards best player. John Wall needs to be doing what John Wall does best.
Wall is fast enough to beat entire teams down the floor to the rim, like he does here:
Wall is crafty and athletic enough to draw contact when he attacks the rim, and earn trips to the FT line, like he does here:
Even here, when Wall gets rejected at the rim, look at how quickly attacks before the defense can collapse. Wall gets a lay-up opportunity that requires a tremendous defensive play to take away. Most of the time, this is either an easy two, a trip to the free throw line, or an offensive rebound scoring opportunity as is the case here:
Wall is also fantastic at getting opportunities for his teammates on these drives and fast breaks. He’ll often get into the lane or out in transition, then find a teammate for an open three or an easy lay-up.
Here, he sets up Nene for the easy two:
Here, he finds Beal for the wide open corner three:
Good things happen when John Wall is driving to the basket, and is pushing in transition. So of course, he and the Wizards make the most of this transcendent ability, right?!
Wrong. (Disclaimer: If you want to avoid Wizards related rage, STOP READING NOW)
Of the Wizards 17.4 drives per game, Wall accounts for 7.1 drives per game. (Note: “Drives” defined as “any touch that starts at least 20 feet of the hoop and is dribbled within 10 feet of the hoop and excludes fast breaks” per NBA.com). This ranks 37th in the league. Here are some of the players that rank ahead of Wall: James Harden. LeBron James. Tyreke Evans. Tony Parker. Kyrie Irving. Jeff Teague.
OK, those guys are all awesome, and known for driving into the paint above all else. Here are some more guys that rank ahead of Wall: Damian Lillard. Goran Dragic. Elfrid Payton. Gordon Hayward. Aaron Brooks. Mario Chalmers.
MARIO CHALMERS?! MARIO MOTHERFU&%ING CHALMERS?!
With Wall’s God-given skill set, his minutes, and his role as a primary ball handler, there is no acceptable reason that 36 other players drive to the basket more than him, particularly with his ability to finish and create for others.
Among perimeter players that play at least 30 minutes per game, Wall’s 49.5 FG% on drives ranks 11th, behind the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and Dwyane Wade, and ahead of the likes of Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, and even James Harden (47.6%).
Of course, as we know from Harden, drives are not just about the shot itself, but also about drawing fouls and creating for others. Harden ranks seventh in drives per game at 10.8, but ranks first in team points per game on drives at 14.5 (this includes free throws created and assisted baskets). Walls rank of 37th in drives per game rises to 30th in team points per game created off of his drives, at 8.7 ppg.
Granted, 30th is not great, but it is a reflection of Wall’s efficiency when he does drive to the basket. Not a single of the 29 players ahead of Wall in points created on drives per game actually drive to the basket less than Wall. In other words, when Wall does drive, his team scores at a high rate. How high?
Harden is the gold standard: The Rockets score an obscene 1.343 points per Harden drive. (Look at the gap between Harden and second place, compared the gaps between the others, and you can see why the term “obscene” was used). After Harden, this the list of players who rank ahead of Wall in points per game created while also doing it more efficiently:
1. James Harden: 1.343 points created per drive
2. Derrick Rose: 1.260 points created per drive
3. Damian Lillard: 1.258 points created per drive
4. Kyrie Irving: 1.244 points created per drive
5. Kyle Lowry: 1.240 points created per drive
6. John Wall: 1.225 points created per drive
That’s it. That’s the entire list. Of the twenty-nine players who create more points per game on drives than Wall, Wall is actually BETTER at doing it than TWENTY-THREE of them!
Hate numbers? Here is a summary: John Wall is one of the best, most efficient players in the NBA at creating points for his team via drives to the basket. Yet for some reason (ask Mr. Wittman), Wall drives to the basket far less than many of his peers, and the Wizards as a team drive less than every team except the Knicks.
There is a silver lining (sort of). Wall DOES in fact get out in transition like few others. Only Russell Westbrook (473 possessions), James Harden (409), Wall (372), Eric Bledsoe (360), and Stephen Curry (336), have more than 330 transition possessions this season. (Westbrook has managed his total in just 59 games).
The coal in the stocking? Westbrook’s OKC team ranks 6th in pace. Harden’s Rockets squad ranks second. Bledsoe’s Phoenix team ranks 3rd. Curry’s Warriors rank 1st. Wall’s Wizards rank 16th. So while the other guys transition exploits help push their teams to the top of the league in pace, one can only imagine where the Wizards pace would rank without Wall’s #effort.
Actually, imagination is not required. Just watch the Wizards play. As the eye test has shown, when Wall isn’t in full-fledged road runner mode, the Wizards offense bogs down into possessions that constantly end up like Wile-E Coyote plots, except with far less creativity.
There are no excuses left. Bigs clogging the lane? We’ve seen Wall drive successfully with Nene and Gortat in the game, and we’ve constantly seen Wittman bring in small lineups in response to other teams and play big minutes, opening up space. No shooters to space the floor? Beal and Pierce play for the Wizards. The other guys need to get the ball too? So do Al Horford and Paul Millsap. That doesn’t stop Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder.
“We lacked focus” isn’t enough. “We lacked effort and energy” isn’t enough. 7.1 drives per game for John Wall, 37th in the league, isn’t enough. 17.4 drives per game for the Wizards, second to last in the league, isn’t enough. Whatever Randy Wittman is doing and telling this team isn’t enough.
And if he isn’t telling Wall, one of the fastest, quickest, best attacking point guards in the NBA to push the pace and drive to the basket, it’s time to start looking for someone who will.
Mike D’Antoni? Maybe. Or how about Rihanna?