John Wall hasn’t had a bad year by any means, according to his pertinent statistics. He’s averaging 18.0 points per game, 9.5 assists per game and 3.5 turnovers per game. His assist to turnover ratio is 2.7 which is pretty good. He’s managing the team very well even when he isn’t scoring and that’s what you want out of a max point guard.
But the issue with Wall so far this season has been a lack of driving and his shot selection. He’s shooting 38.9% from the field and also has a 44.2% eFG percentage. Both of those numbers need to improve, but the reason why they’re the way they are is because Wall isn’t getting enough opportunities to finish at the rim. He’s taking a lot of jump shots and he isn’t a good enough jump shooter to take so many jumpers.
Taking a look at Wall’s shot chart, you’ll see what I mean:
A majority of Wall’s shots have come from the midrange area. While he’s improved his three point shooting so far in the season, he needs to focus more on getting into the restricted area and getting shots up at the rim. He’s got 34 total shots in the midrange area and 8 shots from close range compared to just 25 shots at the rim where he hits shots at an average clip.
So why is that? Why hasn’t Wall been able to get to the rim? According to Stat VU’s data available on NBA.com, Wall only had 30 total drives this season that have come outside of fastbreak opportunities. Wall’s shot percentage on those drives is 21%. He only has scored 12 points on those drives. That means he’s only scoring two points per game on drives–something that is unacceptable.
While Wall’s monstrous assist numbers and improved three point shooting have really gotten him off to a good start, I’d still like to see more shots at the rim. But in examining why Wall hasn’t been able to get to the rim, I think we can easily see why. Take a look at this screen shot below.
Take a look at the spacing on this play. Wall takes an early shot in the clock because the play is broken here. With Beal and Ariza in the paint, that gives the Pistons a lot more leverage in guarding a Wall drive.
Plus, Will Bynum and Andre Drummond have layered up against him. Drummond has sagged back toward the paint and is giving Wall the middle of the floor instead of sending him toward the sideline. If Wall get’s by Will Bynum, Drummond will serve as the wall between Wall and the rim.
Wall has seen this type of coverage even without a clogged paint area.
As you can see here, there are four 76ers in the paint while Wall has the ball. Michael Carter Williams has been caught on Trevor Booker’s screen so Thaddeus Young becomes the on ball defender. But Spencer Hawes leaves Marcin Gortat to add another defensive layer if front of the rim. Evan Turner leaves the corner to box out Gortat if Wall puts up a shot. James Anderson also leaves Bradley Beal alone on the wing.
If Wall wants, he can either make a pass to the corner or the wing. Instead, he settles for an off-dribble jumper. It wasn’t the most solid option, but it was uncontested and open.
As you can see, teams are stacking their entire defenses against Wall. It’s difficult to get to the bucket when the defense opts to play this way. And since a lot of Wall’s PnR opportunities come from the side of the floor, it’s easy to stack against him or even ICE him if you need to.
Take a look at this possession where Wall starts from the middle on a screen. Gortat screens his man out of the play and he gets a one on one with Spencer Hawes. Wall is able get to the rim. The three other defenders are hesitant to help because Wall’s passing options are easier to locate.
Not to mention that a lot of Wall’s drives have turned into assists. He’s really been a pass first point guard through these first couple of games. That’s why we’ve see a slight inflation in Wall’s assist numbers. He’s done a great job of getting his teammates involved while driving and kicking.
Wall is second in the league in “secondary” assists per game. A “secondary” assist is defined as the quantity of passes made by a player to the player that earned the assist. In other words, it’s a pass to a player that passes to another player for an assist. This generally reflects a given player’s ability to collapse the defense and create openings for others. John Wall is second behind NATE WOLTERS?!? with 2.8 “secondary” assists per game.
Wall also is second in the league behind Chris Paul with points from assists per game. The Wizards score 24.2 points per game off of Wall’s assists. So Wall’s lack of rim attacking on drives is for a reason. He’s getting his teammates more involved and sees that finishing over two or three defenders would be hard. He needs to draw more fouls, but it’s good that he doesn’t try to force them.
I think that as defenses start to defend the three point shooting on the Wizards more, the driving lanes for Wall will come. We’ll see his shooting percentages go up along with his free throw rate. It’s a long season and defenses are going to have to change the way that they’re playing him as things start to develop.