Right now, the Washington Wizards have an enormous responsibility to Wall. They need to see him clearly and let him know that, despite his big contract, his No. 1 overall draft pick status, his face-of-franchise public relations role and his obvious talents, he is still not yet a good NBA player.
In two respects, he is actually one of the worst players in the league.
Last year, Wall was second in the NBA in turnovers per game among starting players. Everybody noticed, including Wall. It’s a hard stat to miss.
However, another number, slightly below the radar, but crucial in the NBA is “effective field goal percentage.” It’s the best measure of overall shooting ability, both from two-point and three-point range. (The formula is field goals plus half of made three-pointers divided by field goal attempts, according to basketball-reference.com). Last year, Wall tied with Travis Outlaw for the NBA’s lowest eFG percentage at .427 (minimum 1,600 minutes). Now, he’s fallen to .420 (career). He has no company at that level.
For reference, the NBA averages .498 in this metric. The Spurs were best at .527; the Bucks, worst at .467. Most NBA teams do not have a single player with meaningful minutes who has an effective percentage under .450.
Great point guards are usually selective shooters. They try to create for others before shooting themselves. So, their eFG percentages are often better than .500, such as Steve Nash (.555), John Stockton (.546) and Magic Johnson (.533).
All in all, Wall’s turnovers and bad shooting are neutralizing his strengths — speed, creative passing, ball-hawking and good rebounding for a guard. Even his free throw shooting is a hair under the NBA norm (.760 to .763), unusual for a guard. Thus far, he is probably an average NBA player.
Pro basketball has had so-called advanced stats for years. The Spurs win titles with them. Player efficiency rating is a decent measure of per-minute production, adjusted so that the league average is 15.0. Wall is at 15.6.
Wall has an enormous amount of work to do on his game. That should actually be good news, not bad.
Right now, as his coach has said, Wall doesn’t look like he’s enjoying the game. Flip Saunders wonders where Wall’s smile is.
If Wall were better instructed or if the Wizards’ front office looked him in the eye and told him how far he needed to go to be the player he wants to become, then the 21-year-old might reclaim some of his basketball joy.
Help him improve. Teach him the pro game, when to hit the jets and when to cool them, what constitutes a good NBA shot and what doesn’t.
Instead of pretending he already can carry a team, teach him how to play his position. Let him lead, but while blending, not always forcing everything.