Washington Wizards’ John Wall Needs To Increase His Productivity


Washington Wizards guard John Wall has to play better…

“I want to be in the MVP conversation and give myself a shot at being the MVP.”

In an interview with Basketball Insiders, among John Wall’s many goals this season was to be in the MVP discussion.

Ten games into the season, Wall is performing at a high level, currently ranked third in the NBA in assists per game, but he hasn’t nearly approached an MVP level of play. To be frank, this team needs more from the franchise point guard and aspiring MVP candidate.

Wall is off to a solid start this season posting the following averages: 16.6 points, 8.4 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 2 steals and 1.4 blocks per game.

However, there are three problems that stick out:

  1. FG%- Wall, a career 43% shooter who shot 44.5% from the floor last year, is currently shooting the ball at a 41.5% clip;
  2. 3-Pt FG%- Wall, a career 30.4% 3-point shooter who as recently as 2013-2014 shot 35% from the deep, is currently shooting 26.2% from beyond the arc;
  3. Wall is currently averaging 4.1 turnovers per game, which is above his career average of 3.7 and currently at a career high level.

Not exactly MVP caliber basketball.

John Wall is the most important current player on the Washington Wizards roster.  His ability to create for teammates and put pressure on a defense with his speed and playmaking changes how defenses have to play against the Wizards.

When Wall is aggressive and engaged, he’s a game changer.

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The game versus Milwaukee is a perfect example; Wall had five turnovers versus Milwaukee but they were through aggressive play where he was in attack mode and putting the defense on its heels, opening up easy opportunities for his teammates.

Five turnovers in the midst of that type of performance are tolerable (at times).

The ones that aren’t are the lethargic outlets passes, the risky bounce passes in traffic while the defense is set, leaving his feet when he has nowhere to outlet, and the low percentage unforced errors.

There’s also the issue of aggressiveness.

The Washington Wizards lost Paul Pierce to free agency, Nene has missed time and moved to the bench, Alan Anderson hasn’t played yet this season, Jared Dudley is working his way back into basketball condition after offseason back surgery, and Bradley Beal has missed several games with a shoulder injury.

This team needs John Wall the scorer as much as John Wall the facilitator. Through 10 games, Wall is currently averaging 14.2 shots per game, which is the third lowest total of his career.

On the positive side, he has been getting to the free throw line for 5.1 attempts per game which is a 0.5 increase over last year, but the team as constructed has limited options in terms of players who can create their own offense. The opportunity and need for Wall to take on an expanded offensive role is there, but he hasn’t seized it yet.

Last week’s game versus Oklahoma City was a perfect example.

The Washington Wizards were desperately shorthanded with the absence of Bradley Beal and Nene, but they stumbled into some luck with Kevin Durant aggravating a hamstring and sitting out the second half.

In a game that this team needed Wall more than any other, he responded with 9 points and 5 assists on 4-13 shooting with only one attempt from the free throw line.

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His counterpart Russell Westbrook also didn’t shoot well, but didn’t let that stop him on his way to a 22/11/11 triple double.

Unfortunately in just 10 games this year, it feels like we’ve already seen more passive and mistake filled John Wall than most anticipated.

Instead of taking the next leap towards NBA stardom, Wall has continued a pattern of high level of play, followed by inexplicable binges of mistake-filled basketball or passive play.

This has been a career pattern for Wall, particularly in his early years.

The hope was he would weed that out of his game entering his 6th NBA season and coming off his breakout playoff performance last season. Given the mentors he’s been around, including Trevor Ariza and Paul Pierce, this progression to MVP candidacy seemed natural and this seemed to be the year John Wall would make that leap.

Instead we’ve seen much of the same. That leads to the question, has John Wall peaked?

I’m not ready to make that argument and don’t believe it to be the truth. When a player averages 17.4 points and 11.9 assists per game in seven playoff games with a fractured hand for two and a half of those games, put me on the side that believes that the level of play we saw last year was indicative of a special player.

So what is it then?

The talent is there. John Wall was always a great playmaker and how he can dissect a defense has put him amongst the league’s best passers. Wall is off to a slow start shooting the ball this offseason but he’s miles from what he was as a shooter when he entered the NBA.

Pierce may have figured it out in his one year in the nation’s capital when he said the following about John Wall (and Bradley Beal):

"“You’ve got to make up your mind. Do you want to be good, or do you want to be great? Because if you want to be great, you gotta do it every single night, not just when you feel like it.”"

Showing up for 82 games and playing at your peak level and effort level nightly when teams are gunning for you is what separates the good players from the great players.

LeBron James and Stephen Curry show up to the arena every night knowing that they’re going to get their opponents best shot. They embrace that and impose their will on the floor. John Wall is a good player, an All-Star; that much is proven and beyond question, but does Wall have the will and consistency to want to dominate his opponent and impose his will on a nightly basis?

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That’s what separates the good players from the great players. If in five years we look back and realize that John Wall had in fact peaked, it won’t be because of his ability but it likely will fall on if John Wall embraces the challenge of being a star night in and night out. The opportunity is in front of him; it’s up to John Wall to decide how badly he wants it.