Wizards’ John Wall says he was ‘kind of the same’ in his second season
By Michael Lee,
Depending on whom you ask, John Wall regressed, made some non-statistical strides or remained stagnant in his second season with the Washington Wizards. Wall might have unrivaled end-to-end speed on the court, but for varying reasons, the career of the 2010 No. 1 overall pick is developing at a much slower pace.
Wall’s scoring and assist numbers were down slightly, but his shooting percentage and turnovers were up slightly from his rookie season. The Wizards (20-46) also finished with the league’s second-worst record and needed to win their final six games to ensure that they had a better winning percentage than the year before. But Wall ended the season encouraged about the direction of the franchise and believing that he has plenty of room for improvement.
“I think I’m kind of the same,” Wall said recently, when asked if he got better in his second season. “A little better, but not too much.”
Wall entered his sophomore campaign aspiring to ascend into the discussion of elite point guards, and possibly make the all-star team. He had finished as rookie-of-the-year runner-up despite dealing with injuries to his knees and feet, but in many ways he fell significantly from the spotlight as the Wizards endured yet another season of dysfunction and instability.
The team lost its first eight games, Flip Saunders was fired as coach a few weeks later, players had different agendas aside from winning, and it took a toll on Wall, who couldn’t hide his disenchantment early in the season.
“That was tough to see some guys accept losing,” said Wall, who has won 43 games in two seasons in the NBA after winning 35 games in his one season at Kentucky. “I’ve never accepted losing in my life.”
A toxic environment
Many league observers believe that the environment in Washington — before the Wizards traded away the mercurial JaVale McGee and Nick Young to get veteran big man Nene, and sent home Andray Blatche — wasn’t conducive to allowing Wall to fulfill his potential.
“He’s a had a tough cast down there. I don’t want to put anybody down but he’s not playing with the smartest guys in the world,” New Jersey Nets all-star guard Deron Williams said about Wall. “That’s tough, man. That’s tough. They’re not smart. I’ve been watching. JaVale McGee was on the Not So Top 10, like, 50 times this year.”
David Thorpe, executive director of the Pro Training Center in Clearwater, Fla., and an NBA analyst for ESPN.com, compared the situation for Wall to rowing a kayak in a stream, but going against the current. “It’s very hard to see any real improvement in players, when almost from the get-go, there is no real opportunity to win. That team was so fatally flawed at the outset of the year and so bad to start that I think you can only go so far on your own,” Thorpe said. “He might’ve gained from being more or less the same player as last year, despite really being caught in a whirlpool that was going straight down. It’s almost like he stabilized himself.”
Wall made comments in the last week of the season that revealed his frustrations with playing with McGee and Young, but one Eastern Conference assistant general manager wasn’t willing to absolve Wall. “It’s not about them,” the executive said. “What are you going to do? They picked you number one to make everybody else better.”
Coach Randy Wittman said Wall “made great strides” in game-management the final two months of the season and no longer had to look over to the bench to call the right plays to exploit the defense. “That’s huge in being a top-caliber point guard,” Wittman said, adding that Wall improved in controlling tempo as well. “How many times did we see him crash and burn going too far when there was nowhere to go? We hardly saw that at all, coming down the stretch. He’s got a ways to go to become the player I think he’s going to be capable of being. If he’s going to be an elite player in this league, he’s going to have to put in a hard summer.”
No proper preparation
Wall recently said that he didn’t prepare properly for his second season, participating in too many charity exhibition games because of uncertainty with the lockout. He said he is “cool on that” this summer and will instead work on improving his shooting as he trains in Los Angeles and Washington.
Teams managed to neutralize his speed in the half court by staying back and daring him to beat them with his jumper, which he had little confidence in and took reluctantly. Wall made 61.9 percent of his shots inside three feet (237 for 383), but he struggled to connect from everywhere else. He shot just 27.6 percent (141 for 511) from three feet and beyond and Thorpe said his three-point shot “fell off the face of the earth.” He missed 39 of his 42 attempts from long distance; his 7.1 percent accuracy ranks as worst among any player to make a three-pointer this season.
“For two years, he’s regarded league-wide as a talented player with a couple of exceptional physical attributes, his speed in particular. But he seems to be a little stubborn in adjusting to the NBA game,” said an Eastern Conference advance scout, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not at liberty to make comments on behalf of his team. “You get the sense on the whole, he’s not doing a lot of thinking the game yet. He’s kind of run into a little bit of roadblock as far as understanding why what he’s doing isn’t good enough yet. I do feel there is a lot more that’s still there.”
Wall has already shown plenty. Only Oscar Robertson, Damon Stoudamire, Tim Hardaway, Phil Ford and Chris Paul needed fewer games to score at least 2,000 points and hand out 1,000 assists, which Wall accomplished in 124 games. Since steals became a stat in 1970, Wall became the fastest player in NBA history to have 2,200 points, 1,000 assists, 600 rebounds, 200 steals and 90 blocks (134 games).
Wall was also incredibly durable this season, playing all 66 games and finishing fifth in the league in minutes played. Golden State Warriors Coach Mark Jackson, who ranks third all-time in assists, believes Wall is on the right track.
“Truthfully, he’s far ahead from these other guards, because you can see the point guard in him. He knows how to run a team. I think he’s a heck of a player and [is] going to be special.”
Worthiness as a No. 1 pick?
But the standard for Wall is somewhat higher since he was expected to be a difference maker. “He is already at the point where his worthiness as the number one pick is being questioned. What kind of point guard is he going to be? How good of an NBA player is he going to be? Because he’s not in the top half of NBA point guards. In year two, he should be,” the advance scout said. “The problem is, he’s rightly or wrongly become the centerpiece of a franchise when frankly, I don’t think he was ready to be that. Him being able to live up those expectations as the first overall pick; you’re either going to meet the expectations that come with that, or you’re going to be judged severely.”
Wall said he understands that his draft position comes with great scrutiny and expects to hear criticism. “That’s what happens when you’re supposed to be the franchise guy and star player of the team. If it’s not going right it comes to you. But when things are going good, they put it on your shoulders.”
Thorpe believes that it is still far too early to judge Wall, especially since the Wizards finally appear to be getting serious about being a more competent team with the acquisition of Nene. The team will likely expunge Blatche and Rashard Lewis, add a top five pick in a talent-rich draft and sign free agents — and possibly hire a new coach — in the offseason.
“If I’m looking at most improved players for next year . . . he’d be in my top five,” Thorpe said. The Wizards “will be more relevant and competitive next year and I think John is going to be one of those guys, because he’ll be in more of those moments where he has a chance to shine. . . . If we’re having this conversation a year from now, about is he the same player, even if he’s improved incrementally, then this is kind of who he is. He may still really improve, but the odds go down. . . . I feel like next year is when he will really explode.”
He played on a pretty terrible team
Wall had a weird season. He started the year off horribly and everyone jumped on his back at the beginning of the year. But he progressed the next two months and was actually playing very good basketball in January (19.2 ppg 4.6 rpg 8.2 apg .480 Fg % 7.0 FTA). Then the last two months of the season he declined steadily. I was hoping he would keep improving every month, but he ended up doing the opposite. He's still only a 2nd year PG who has played with more selfish players so writing him off now would be foolish.
they're not in a tragic situation. they have a future all star PG (john wall), and several young players (vesely,crawford,chris singleton,kevin seraphin) who can develop and form a good team. plus a veteran like nene. they're heading to the right direction and they're showing it by trading javale mcgee for a veteran. if they get an experienced guy during the off-season and considering that one of the following players(anthony davis,drummond,thomas rob,barnes,kidd-gilchrist) will wear a wizard uniform, they're going to be a playoff team next year.
I'm not concerned about John Wall.
This was a weird season in so many ways for not just Wall, but a lot of players and teams.
Next season will be a lot different in my opinion. For one, players will know what to expect heading into the off-season and will have a real training camp.
the guy ran out of steam in this condensed season. thats mostly where i would attribute his production drop off. now what he needs to do is learn how to adapt his game when he doesn't have energy or his stamina is low. sure getting more fit is part of it, but learning how to adapt youre game to a gruelling season is also part of being an NBA player, not to mention main player who will average in the upper 30's in minutes per game.
i still expect great things from Wall and im confident he can live up to them. but the organization has to decide on a direction of this team. will they be offensive or defensive? play fast pace or slow? focus the ball on the stars' hands or have more ball movement? then they have to instill discipline in the players on offense. not to shoot to fast in the clock or take the first shot you see when you touch the ball. move it around and look for the best shot, wheather thats comming from wall, nene or a collective effort of all 5 guys on the floor.
develop a consistent jumper John...
He needs to lock himself in the gym with a shooting coach to fix his mechanics. Get Jordan Crawford in their too.
he will be fine...ive watched nearly every wizards game this year and they are (were) truly awful...there really was no chance for him to be a star when he had a bunch of morons on the team...if he doesnt step up next year, then there is a problem, but still he would be a very good player...honestly how many 19 year olds come into the NBA and dominate from day 1? we had high hopes for him being the #1 pick and all but i think people need to take a step back and let the kid develop and the Wizards get better players around him.
I didn't watch a lot of the Wizards, but based on some of the games I caught towards the end of the season I thought I saw things from Wall that I've never seen from him.
I thought he was starting to change pace and not just go at one speed. Once he learns to do that (a la Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Steve Nash, etc) that alone will take his game to a new level.
The only thing I really saw improve in his game was his defense. He was much more concerned on that end and really made an effort most of the time. If he can continue to improve his defense and his overall game, he could be the second coming of Gary Payton. Not saying that he will but he definitely has all of the tools to be that guy (except the swagger and trash-talking, of course).
I think the Wizards did a good job of changing up the team this year. I loved the trade with Denver getting Nene for Javale. That really boosted the team's IQ. They also traded Nick Young, another chucker who shoots 40% like Jordan Crawford, and they finally benched Andray Blatche after realizing that he is an idiot, and that a 38% field goal percentage is terrible for a post player. Seraphin started to play well at the end and I liked what Trevor Booker was doing down low. They have a chance for Anthony Davis this year, if not a top 5 pick for sure. John Wall is a very good player, I don't think fans should be worried too much. He will improve his turnover rate with experience.
The Wizards just need a couple more team players for them to start really improving. John Wall will improve, that much is certain. If he can start to slow down and take whats given while also creating for his teammates, because I believe he is one of the more pure point guards drafted in the past couple years, he can really help this team become good. It will just take a much better coach who can get guys to buy into a defensive scheme, while also focusing on team play for them to get better. The trade was huge because it boosted their team IQ while also getting a good veteran in to help lead the team. Add another guy like MKG and another vet in the offseason and they might be able to have a 30 win season next year, which would be a HUGE improvement for them.
Bring in DC's own Michael "B-Eazy" Beasley and John Wall and Beaz will be a very good Duo both elevating their respective games!
At least he did not get worse like blake Griffin
i dont think they want beasley because they dont want him around the same bad influences he used to associate with...
plus they need some defense (although i guess they need everything lol)
i would do it for the right price
Beasely would be good for them on offense... But he's been a ball stopper at times in MN, and that's why Adelman benches him, Wizards do not need another ball stopper on offense. They need a defender that can do for the team what Iman Shumpert did for the Knicks.