|Mike Prada: John Wall still has areas to improve
Wizards' star has made strides this season, but he's far from a finished product.
John Wall had a really bad game on Sunday. Fifteen points on 6-13 from the field, eight
turnovers, just four assists and some poor defense on Ty Lawson and Aaron Brooks. It
culminated an uneven road trip for Wall, who shined against the Lakers and had a hot
shooting stretch against Portland, but exhibited similar sloppiness against the Kings and
in the stretches during the Blazers game where his jumper wasn't falling.
In a lot of ways, it was a microcosm of Wall's season. Nobody would question his status
as this team's best player, and few would say his All-Star nod was undeserved. It seems
like he's made THE LEAP. But it's probably more accurate to say that he's made steady
improvement overall, rising significantly in some areas (shooting, pick and roll
execution) while staying the same or even falling back in others (driving to the basket,
taking care of the ball, competing defensively every night instead of some nights).
We've focused on a lot of the good with Wall, which makes sense. Wall carries such a
heavy burden on a team with few other efficient shot creators, especially with Nene
injured. He is far from this team's biggest problem.
But he's also not perfect. Here are a few things he needs to clean up:
As Grantland's Zach Lowe correctly noted, Wall's improved jumper, especially from
deep, is a positive development. However, there's a tradeoff to such proficiency,
especially as Wall continues to feel more confident firing it up from long range. Wall
is still most dangerous attacking the basket, but his improved shooting has caused
that area of his game to decline somewhat.
We can see this in several ways. Wall's free throw attempts per game are down from
6.2 last year to 5.1 this year. He would say that this is due to referee bias, but a drop
that steep can't just be because officials are ganging up on him. He's only taken 342
shots in 66 games within five feet this season; he attempted 264 in 17 fewer games
last year and 414 in the same number of games in 2011-12. Amazingly, Wall is just
35th in the league in drives per game, behind luminaries such as Will Bynum, Mario
Chalmers, Jameer Nelson and Ramon Sessions.
Obviously, this is a complicated situation that cannot be explained fully by these
numbers. Wall needs driving lanes to drive, and there aren't too many of them when
teams can help off Trevor Booker and don't need to worry too much about Trevor Ariza
beating them on a cut or dribble drive. These numbers also don't include the many
times that Wall draws defenders and dishes for open threes, a Wall specialty. Wall's
also curtailed his own drives to some degree in order to allow Marcin Gortat to roll to
But there are still situations where Wall settles for jumpers when he should look to
attack. Here's one example:
Wall's doing the right thing by crossing back over against Denver's coverages, but
rather than go directly to the basket when Timofey Mozgov retreats, he veers
sideways for the jumper. Perhaps he's setting up Gortat's roll, but that'd make little
sense because Booker is on the same side. He'd be better off going straight to the
rim and living with the consequences.
Point guards who dominate the ball like Wall will commit turnovers, especially if
they are actually driving to the basket. But it's still concerning that Wall's turnover
percentage has increased despite his usage going down and, as noted, fewer drives
to the basket.
Where are those turnovers coming from, then? Watching the tape, two things stand
out: poor handle and jump passing. Last summer, I noted Wall's tendency to drive
and jump to make a play without really knowing what he was doing. He was getting
better at curtailing that practice, but we've seen a reversion of late. This is a play,
for example, where Wall looked like he wanted to shoot, then threw a pass to the
corner at the last moment, well after Martell Webster had vacated the area.
And Wall's handle is still...CONTINUE READING AT BULLETS FOREVER