James Straton and Nithin Kuchibhotla weigh in on John Wall’s roller coaster but memorable 2012-13 campaign. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comment section.
2013 was a tale of multiple seasons for John Wall. He came back from injury, looked stellar in comparison to the players he was taking minutes from, and reinvigorated the team; he tailed off, played miserably despite the incredible defensive effort from the entire team and continued (relative) success; he turned it on for what was one of the best stretches of play in recent memory, culminating in in his first Player of the Week award; and then he tailed off again, as the focal point of a six game losing streak that ended the season.
What an interesting and unpredictable year.
The positives of the season are many. He posted career highs in PER, true shooting percentage, effective field goal percentage, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, free throw percentage, turnover percentage, offensive rating, defensive rating, offensive win shares, defensive win shares, win shares, and win shares per 48. In short, he finally improved, as his first two seasons were almost identical.
Out of nowhere, he started hitting jumpers. After shooting 29.2% on jumpers on over 1000 tries in his first two years, he drilled 37.8% and 37.2% from 16-23 feet. This was an incredible feat for Wall, and should be celebrated, BUT only because it shows he has the ability to develop. Taking mid-range jumpers at 37% is a surefire way to lose basketball games, and is still not a good percentage. Of players who took 150 or more shots from that distance, Wall was in the 26th percentile… yeesh. That’s Cody Zeller territory, for those wondering.
But the improvement was clearly there, and that’s the most important part. I think less highly of this season from Wall because it is so obviously skewed by two great weeks, but what I find intriguing and most important is that he showed that he is capable of more than what he had been over the last two years. We don’t expect Wall to carry a crappy Wizards team to the Finals or even the playoffs. We expect him to show improvement, play hard, and be professional. He did all three of those things this year and that is what Wizard fans can hang their hat on.
And still, the Wizards were not very good with him. They finished 24-25 with him in the lineup, which would have been good for a 7 or 8 seed if extrapolated, but still were the worst offense in the league. If everyone else gets the blame for his only-decent (what I mean to say is that people speak of Wall as if he is only good teammates away from averaging 100 assists a game), he should get the blame for being the reason for a bad offense, since he dominates the ball, right? It’s only fair. He still has a long ways to go.
What is most difficult is determining who Mr. Wall is going forward. Is he the guy who was regularly outplayed in the beginning and end of the season or the guy who torched absolutely everyone in the middle? I can’t say I have much of a clue. Was it rust in the beginning of the year? Was it tanking at the end? Who knows? I’ve been harsh on Wall for the entirety of his up-and-down three year career, and it will take more than a phenomenal two week stretch to convince me he’ll definitively make it, but I’m more sure of him now than I was at this time last year, that’s certain.
The next step for Wall will be consistency and study. He should not come back in 2014 and shoot over 10 jump shots a game. He should not come back and force 1 on 2, or 3, fast breaks. He should not cheat on defense or show a general disdain for pick-and-roll effort. That will all come with more time on the court and with his coaches (I hope).
All in all, this season was a success for Wall. Even his most adamant detractors cannot ignore a stretch for the ages. To grade his season is to grade expectations, hopes, and outcomes. We expected him to come back and for the Wizards to much improve. Check. We hoped to see improvement in all facets of his game, despite injury. Check. We hoped his breath-taking athleticism had not slipped away. Check. And we hoped he’d show he was a max player…. Nope.
Oh well. You can’t get everything you ask and hope for in one injury-shortened season.
Final Grade: B+