Although John Wall has already been selected to an All-Star roster this season, put his team in position to make the playoffs, played in every game this season and performed better than almost every other point guard in the NBA, he still has promise.
This season is only the first in a number of seasons when Wall could easily work himself into one of the three best point guards in the league. Although this is a career year for him, he is still the most promising player for the Wizards.
What He's Doing Now
For starters, let's look at what Wall is doing now to show that he is the most promising player on the roster. Keep in mind he is only 23 years old.
Most importantly, Wall is having a season that no Wizard has ever had before.
According to Basketball-Reference's player finder, no one for the Washington franchise (this includes the team's time in Baltimore) has ever averaged more than 19.5 points, 8.8 assists and 4.2 rebounds in a season, which Wall is doing right now.
He is currently leading the team in assists and points, and is on his way to getting the Wizards their best season since the Gilbert Arenas days.
Wall's also averaging career highs in points, assists, steals, three-point shooting and free-throw shooting. Remember, he's only 23.
His jump shot has improved from where it was his rookie year, and Wall simply makes the players around him better.
Beal has improved this season compared to his rookie campaign, Trevor Ariza is in the middle of a career season and the Wizards are actually comfortably above .500.
And, at 23 (his age is worth mentioning a third time) he is the leader of the team. The Wizards have taken on Wall's personality and have put him as the leader of the team, even with so much veteran presence in the locker room between Nene, Marcin Gortat and Al Harrington.
Earlier in the season, there was a team meeting when the rest of the players gave Wall the floor and let him assign roles to different players.
Wall told the website RealGM that:
From that day forward, I knew I was the guy, the leader, and I knew that they trusted me. I let everybody know what I thought about our state. I think we were passing the ball, but when you’re not playing good for a stretch, frustration sets in. So guys find a way to blame it on somebody else or something else. Nene told me to stand up in front of the whole team and told me, ‘You’re our leader, you’re our franchise guy, so tell us what you think everybody’s roles are.'
You have to see potential in a guy who is already the leader of a team at his age, and since he is under contract for six more seasons, there is no doubt that Wall will be a staple of this franchise.
But in order to have upside, you have to have some flaws. There are a number of areas that Wall can improve in to step up to the next level.
We already established that Wall's jump shot is significantly better than when he left Kentucky, but there is still room for improvement.
Wall's mid-range shooting has fallen by a percentage point, according to NBA.com/Stats, and his shots in the paint are falling at a below-average rate.
His strength is getting to the basket and either drawing a foul, making a layup or dishing outside to someone like Beal or Martell Webster in the corner.
However, Wall attempted 33.61 percent of his shots at the rim last season and just 28.59 percent this year. He is also getting to the line less, averaging one less free-throw attempt per game this year compared to last.
His overall field-goal shooting has also fallen by about two percentage points.
Overall, Wall's player efficiency rating (a measure of Wall's productivity per minute based on a scale where 15 is the league average) has slipped by a little over a point to 19.9 compared to 20.8 last season, according to Basketball-Reference.
Wall needs to get better shooting off of a pick, and he needs to pick his spots. He seems to struggle when shooting off of a pick and sometimes makes poor decisions with the ball when thinking to shoot (he'll sometimes throw an awkward jump pass to one of his teammates mid-jump).
Imagine what kind of damage Wall could do to a team if he could bump his field-goal shooting up to 45 percent, which would put him up with Deron Williams (45.7 percent for this season). It's definitely an achievable goal and something that would push Wall's game to the next level.
There's no doubt that Wall's defense has improved over the years, but like his shooting, there's still plenty of room for improvement.
Cameron Purn of the Wizards blog Truth About It compared Wall's defense to seven other point guards in the league: Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul, Williams, Derrick Rose, Tony Parker, Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook.
Out of all of them, Wall's Defensive Regularized Adjusted Plus-Minus ranked fourth.
Purn described the stats as:
RAPM looks to reduce error in Adjusted Plus Minus calculations, which offer more in-depth and accurate look at Plus/Minus—how much a player is helping his team while he’s on the court. It acts as one of the most reliable all-encompassing defensive stats and has received the biggest amount of attention and praise from analysts and statisticians. For the rating itself, the higher, the better.
Wall's DRAPM was -0.44, which is by no means terrible, but over the last three years, it means that when he's on the floor, opponents are outscoring the Wizards even if it's by a small margin.
As this video shows, Wall can lose focus on defense and doesn't see what's going on around him on defense.
This causes him to run directly into on-ball screens or to misjudge how much space he has between his defender, which can lead to a slight opening for the shooter.
Play Late in Games
If Wall wants to meet his maximum potential eventually, he needs to come up bigger late in games to get the Wizards those last-second wins that great teams are able to get.
In those games, Wall is shooting just over 30 percent from the floor, according to Basketball-Reference, and he has missed all six of the three-pointers he's attempted in overtime periods this season.
The same goes for the fourth quarter of games. His field-goal percentage drops to 40.6 percent, down from 49.3 percent in the first quarter of games.
If Wall wants to break into the list of top three point guards in the league, he has to be able to take over late like Parker and get the Wizards wins that they are supposed to get.
Wall is no doubt the Wizards' best player right now, but there is still a lot to his game that he has yet to unlock. If he can just do a few things better, there is no doubt that in four years we will look back on the 2013-14 season for Wall as just a stepping stone to what he could eventually achieve.
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