John Wall is having the most prolific scoring month of his career, as the rookie point guard is averaging 19.2 points in 14 games in March. His 28-point outing in the Wizards’ 100-95 overtime win on Monday over the Utah was his sixth game with at least 20 points this month.
Wall has been thrust into his role as primary scorer because most of the Wizards’ other options -- Nick Young, Andray Blatche and Rashard Lewis -- have missed significant time because of injuries. It’s a role that Wall would prefer not to have, since his goal -- which he has never revealed publicly -- was to average 10 assists a game, something no rookie has done since Mark Jackson averaged 10.6 assists in 1987-88.
But that has been a considerable challenge with the Wizards ranking 22nd in scoring (96.5 points), 26th in field goal percentage (44.0) and 27th in three-point shooting (32.7 percent) this season. Still, Wall was averaging 8.9 assist per game at the all-star break, putting him well within range of becoming the fourth rookie in NBA history to average at least nine assists per game. His scoring spree in March has come at the expense of assists, as he is also averaging just 7.5 per game, which is the lowest of any month this season.
Wall has handed out at least 10 assists twice this month, getting 12 assists on Sunday in Golden State and 10 in an overtime loss to the Los Angeles Clippers last week. He also had a career-high 32 points against the Clippers, becoming the first rookie to record those numbers for the franchise since Earl Monroe had the same line for the Baltimore Bullets on Feb.24, 1968.
He ranks sixth in the league with 8.6 assists. And, with nine games remaining, the possibility of Wall joining Mark Jackson, Oscar Robertson and Damon Stoudamire in the nine-assist-per-game-as-rookies-club is becoming more remote. Wall has 527 assists in 61 games this season and would have to get 103 assists -- or average 11.4 -- the rest of the way. Unless more of the Wizards’ top offensive weapons return, that would be difficult. And even if Blatche and Young come back, they would still have to shake off some rust to work their way back.
Wall said a few weeks ago that he always tries to think pass first, unless he is rolling offensively, and in the first half against the Utah Jazz on Monday, he couldn’t be stopped. He scored 24 on 10 of 11 shooting as he ran circles around Earl Watson and Ronnie Price, making them look silly with his dizzying drives to the basket.
He even raised his arms to flex his muscles after making a difficult layup in traffic while getting clobbered. The rare taunt was a display of confidence that Wall hasn’t been able to flash many times this season, with opposing point guards taking it to him so many times. But he didn’t have any mercy on the Jazz.
“This whole year, guys have been coming at me because I’m a rookie and they aren’t going to hold nothing back because of my age,” said Wall, who has his third consecutive Eastern Conference rookie of the month award wrapped up no matter what happens on Wednesday against Miami.
When the Jazz went to a zone defense in the second half, it disrupted Wall and the Wizards’ offense and made Wall a much more willing passer. He tried to set up his opponents and get some assists, but his teammates couldn’t make shots, as they went 13 for 46 (28.3 percent) in the third and fourth quarters. Wall had just three assists in the second half, including the overtime period.
Wall likely won’t get nine assists per game, but 8.5 or more is still not bad.