Did Team USA overlook John Wall?


(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

John Wall is miffed with Team USA’s decision to boot him off the roster.

Wall voiced his displeasure yesterday, telling CSN Washington’s Ben Standig:

“I think [Team USA] already had kind of in their mind what they wanted to do and what decisions they were going (to make).”

When asked if he thought he had a fair chance to make the roster, Wall said, “Nah, I don’t think so, but it’s a part of the game.”

Wall competed against Damian Lillard, Stephen Curry, Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving. If you believe that Rose and Curry are considered locks to make the team, which makes some sense as they own the most impressive resumes, assuming Rose is healthy —and  let’s trust Coach Mike Krzyzewski on that one— that left three point guards competing for either one or two spots.

Even with his improved jump shot, Wall can’t argue that his shooting is on par with Lillard, so let’s also remove Lillard from the discussion. So really, Wall’s strongest case is that he deserved the hypothetical fourth point guard spot over Irving.

In the first few years of Wall’s career, one of his biggest weaknesses has been his outside shooting. But last year, Wall significantly improved his three-point stroke, knocking down 108 threes on 35.1 percent shooting, while Irving shot 35.8 percent.

This is reflected in their true shooting percentage, which factors in the added value of three-point shooting

So the notion that Irving is a significantly better outside shooter, may have been true two years ago, but the gap has closed. Wall clearly had the stronger season last year, leading the Wizards to 44 wins, while Irving’s Cavaliers finished with a 33-49 record. Wall has played more NBA games than Irving and after last season’s trip to the conference semifinals, has more playoff experience, as well.

When Wall was on the court, the Wizards scored 104.6 points per 100 possessions, and allowed 101.7 points, per NBA.com. When he sat, the Wizards scored  99.2 and allowed 104.5. So, the Wizards were plus-2.9 when he played and minus-5.3 when he was on the bench.

Cleveland were actually better last season when Irving sat on the bench. When Irving played, the Cavaliers were minus-5.1 points per 100 possessions, compared to just minus-.7 when he sat.

This is reflected in ESPN’s real plus/minus metric:

With those numbers in mind, you can see why Wall is upset. However, there are a few caveats.

We don’t know how important last season’s performance is to Krzyzewski relative to performance in practice. In Wall’s last scrimmage, he struggled with turnovers, arguably his biggest weakness last season.

There is also the trust factor. Irving played one season for Krzyzewski at Duke, which is not to say that this is the only thing separating Wall and Irving, but it would be silly to dismiss that factor.

Still, that will be little consolation to Wall, which should add a layer of interest to next season’s Washington-Cleveland games.

Wall was clearly the better player going into training camp, so you can see why he thinks he didn’t get a fair shot. In this regard, he’s right. But when the three other point guards on the roster are clearly better, you can’t argue that you were entirely overlooked.

 

Thomas Johnson is a reporter.
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