As we inch closer and closer to training camp, Wizards fans everywhere seem to get more and more anxious about what their new max contract player is going to come back with in his arsenal next year.
Its no secret that the success of the Wizards really hinges upon John Wall and what he’s able to do next season. But after his phenomenal run late in the year, its apparent that he has the tools to be an NBA star. What Wall needs to do is improve upon what he did last season and make a few tweaks–this is what the John Wall improvement series is all about.
We already went over some of what Wall has to improve upon on the defensive end of things. If what we saw at the team USA minicamp was any indication, Wall has definitely worked on his ability to fluidly navigate through screening. Furthermore, he’s working with Gary Payton this offseason and that should strengthen Wall’s technique as well.
The next thing that we’ll go over that John Wall needs to improve on is his ball handling. There are many aspects of ball handling that Wall needs to improve upon, but today we’ll talk about his dribble quickness and carrying. Wall was called for a discontinued dribble in multiple instances last season. I don’t have an exact count, but I’m certain that I’ve never seen so many discontinued dribble calls called on one point guard.
It wasn’t only a problem for Wall last season, either. He’s had problems with discontinued dribbles throughout his entire career. There are multiple reasons as to why Wall has struggled with this throughout his career–especially in his first two seasons.
Wall, for one, is a very fast player–maybe the fastest in the league. But the more speed you use when dribbling a ball, the less control you have over it. Now, he can use push dribbles to initiate the break and go north and south. But as far as going east and west goes, Wall needed to gain more control over the ball. He worked on that during last offseason and came back a better player for the most part.
He still struggles with controlling his speed at times, but his crossover has improved and he can get to the rim effectively with it now. But, getting back to the discontinued dribble, there is another reason why Wall has gotten those calls–this is especially true to last season. Wall has a tendency to place his hand underneath of the ball and move too slow when hesitating or crossing over.
When dribbling, you are supposed to dribble the ball with your fingertips. You keep a low base and protect the ball with your body to keep it away from defenders. The ball is not supposed to touch your palms. When crossing over, a dribbler exposes the ball to the defenders and allows them chance to gamble in order to steal the ball. To prevent this, dribblers often will do a hesitation or a head fake to throw the defender’s timing off.
As you matriculate through multiple levels of basketball, carrying and palming get called less and less. In the NBA today, especially, its very rare to see carrying and palming called unless its egregious. Most players are able to get away with it because of their low base and quick dribbles. Officials don’t catch it as quickly as they should, so players are normally free to do it as long as its quick.
With Wall, because he’s really just learning how to go laterally when dribbling at an NBA level, his gathers can get slow at times. Because his base isn’t as low as others his dribbles aren’t as quick. He’s got a great crossover, but it doesn’t have the consistency that you’d hope it would at this point. He’ll allow the ball to get caught on his palms and then go. As he continues to get better, his dribble will become consistently quicker and he’ll see less and less discontinued dribble calls.
Lets examine what I’m taking about through video. In the video below, we’ll see John Wall getting a discontinued dribble penalty called against him when facing the Miami Heat. Take a look at it in real time:
As you can see, the official has a perfect sideline view on Wall’s hand as he brings the ball back in an effort to drive to the baseline. Wall takes his time in whipping the ball back, so its obvious to see that he carried. The ball is directly on his palm and being cradled in his hand. Take a look at the same video in slow motion:
Here, its obvious to see how Wall carried the ball from his left hand back to his right. The official made the correct call here, even if its a rarely called play.
Now, lets take a look at a similar crossover against the Boston Celtics. This one, he gets called for carrying as well. The same issue plagues Wall here–his dribble speed is entirely too slow. When he whips the ball from right to left, he holds it in his right hand clear for the official to see. The ball is still being cradled by his palm instead of gripped with the fingertips.
Now, here it is again in slow motion:
Now, for some clarity, we’ll use Chris Paul to show how to avoid discontinued dribble. He’ll do the same dribble in this next video that John Wall did in the first one when using a screen. Take a look:
Paul’s dribble is far quicker than Wall’s is. Partially, because his center of gravity is lower its easier for him to execute these quick moves. Because of Wall’s height, it isn’t going to come as easy for him as it does for Paul. Still, the skill that Paul has when dribbling is probably unmatched in today’s NBA as far as quickness goes. Take a look at the dribble in slow motion:
The main difference is that Paul keeps his hand on the side of the ball and then whips it back instead of putting underneath of the ball and then bringing it across. This is the proper way to execute this dribble without getting a call made against you.
As long as he keeps the ball from touching his palms and grips it from the side with his fingertips, the carry won’t be called. Take a look at this isolation against the Utah Jazz. Wall keeps his hand on the side of the ball instead of placing it under it just as Paul did in the video above. Take a look:
Now take a look at it in slow motion. You can see that, now, instead of his hands being directly below the ball they’re on the side of it. This way, he can get enough grip to keep control of the ball and he can also hold his hesitation long enough to throw his defender off balance.
If Wall can continue to make plays like the latter instead of the former two, his handle will be markedly better. The turnovers will cut down, for sure, and that’s always been a problem with Wall. Keeping control of the ball is key at any position, but none more than the point guard position. If Wall can do that, he’ll be well worth the contract that he just earned from the Wizards.