John Wall’s second offseason will look much different from his first, since the progression from year one to year two in the NBA wasn’t as dramatic as he had hoped. Wall aspires to take the Wizards to the postseason and enter the discussion as an elite point guard, meaning that he’ll avoid the summer league exhibition circuit – which he dominated with relative ease because of his superior athleticism.
But the NBA game requires more thought, more skill and the ability to adjust to varying defensive schemes. He said he will focus on improving his “jump shot, making threes, and mid-range floaters and try to add a post game.” Wall will also work on discovering how to use different speeds on the floor.
His more intense workouts won’t begin until he takes a month off to rest, but Wall said he would start by studying how Tony Parker and Chris Paul switch up speeds and run their teams this postseason. He will split his offseason between Washington and Los Angeles and also plans to attend some of their playoff games.
“Those two, [Parker] and Chris Paul, in the playoffs, they are very in control of their team and they are smart type point guards that pick [you] apart throughout the whole game,” said Wall, who had also intended on watching Derrick Rose before his postseason came to an abrupt end after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in Chicago’s series opening win over Philadelphia.
Wall’s speed is probably his greatest strength, especially since he is arguably the fastest player with the ball on an end-to-end sprint. Can anyone recall a player tracking him down from behind for a block? If it has ever happened, it hasn’t been too often.
“He has that fifth gear, or sixth gear, where he can where nobody else can keep up with him,” Jason Kidd said of Wall.
But the league’s best point guards believe that Wall’s speed could become a more dangerous weapon if he learns how to take his foot off the pedal sometimes.
Wall ranked seventh in assists at 8.0 per game, but he also had the worst assist-to-turnover ratio of any player in the top 10 at 2.08-to-1. His 3.9 turnovers ranked second behind New Jersey Nets guard Deron Williams, and many of those miscues came from unforced errors and moving too quickly.
“It’s about pace and tempo. It’s about understanding the game,” Paul said earlier this season. “I always say that guys that go at one speed, they are easy to prepare for because you know they are going to be going real, real fast.”
Paul is probably the best in the league at knowing when to turn on the speed and turn it off to execute in the half court. He admitted that he didn’t always know how to change pace. “It comes with time, especially when you’re really fast and at a young age, you’re always able to go by everybody. When I first came, I could just zoom by everybody, but I still had a nice little pace. I feel like if I change speed, you can never relax.”
Wall is starting to realize that his rapid-fire jaunts can work against him. Sometimes he forced things out of sheer stubbornness; at other times he rushed out of desperation. Near the end of the season, Wall had begun to avoid those one-on-four dribble drives – which Coach Randy Wittman described as “crash and burn” since they rarely ended well.
“That’s something I’m going to watch film to see when to attack and when not to,” Wall said. “I think that’s what I was doing when we were struggling, made it tough for myself...I think I got better down the stretch of this season, knowing when to go and when to slow it down.”
Kidd was a speedster when he went second overall to the Dallas Mavericks in 1994. The 39-year-old is still effective 18 years later and credits his trade to Phoenix before his third season with helping him stay under control. “I had a coach tell me to try to knock it down to fourth or even third, because when you’re in third, it’s still faster than anybody,” Kidd said. “Once you can get it in third, fast or under control, you’ll see things a lot better.”
More on John Wall