Puff…Puff…Pass: Is John Wall ready for “The Leap”?

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 3: John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards shoots the ball against the Los Angeles Clippers on April 3, 2016 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)


The Wizards held a press conference yesterday to announce Scott Brooks as their new head coach.  Shortly following the pleasantries and soft ball questions that make up an introductory press conference, Scott Brooks sat down with a local radio station for a brief Q&A.  The question of John Wall’s development came up.  More specifically, the question was juxtaposed with the development of Russell Westbrook and whether Brooks saw similarities between the two players.  Full disclosure, I zoned out during Scott’s answer because I got to thinking myself: What else does John Wall need to do to become the transitional player the Wizards need him to be?

The easy/boilerplate answer would have something to do with his long distance jump shot and how he needs to improve that.  Wall finished this past season with a new career high in 3PM (115) and matching his career high in 3P% (35%).  In fact, that jump shot argument has been lazy for a few years now.  Once Wall put in some offseason work with trainer Rob McClanaghan and coach Dave Hopla following the 2012-2013 season, he got rid of the white noise in his shooting motion and became a more willing shooter.  Him simply being more willing to shoot and trusting the work he’d put in forced teams to stop playing him under the pick and roll and allowed him to use his first class speed to attack his defender. What did he do with this newfound wrinkle in the way players defended him? HE PASSED.

I’m one of John’s biggest defenders. He’s the best player on my favorite basketball team. It’s my duty. However, while cleaning my DVR last week of all the Wiz games I taped, I decided to watch a few of them over again. About 4 games in, I began to ask myself, “Is this dude keeping a running tally of how many assists he has???” Open layups were told to screw off in favor of cross court passes to a 3 point shooter.  Driving lanes Ray Charles’d for pocket passes to a midrange shooter. It became so evident that he was chasing double doubles I had to watch 2 more games to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. That has to stop. HAS TO.  When Westbrook became the player he is today, equal part attacker and facilitator, he didn’t sacrifice any part of his game in favor of the other. He seamlessly added pieces on without taking a step back. Westbrook’s advantage over every player that tries to defend him is that a passing Westbrook and a scoring Westbrook looks exactly the same. Aggressive. If John is to realize the immense talent he has in his game, that attacking style of play has to be a mainstay, every possession occurrence in his game. Erase the possessions where he’s clearly looking to tally assists and gives his defender what amounts to a possession to relax.

Understand, John was responsible for a majority of the wins this season. He’s unquestionably the best, most reliable player on the team. For a player with the ball in his hands 95% of the time he’s on the court, I want to see his effect on the game show up in more ways than hollow assist totals.


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