In an 82-game schedule, 10 games is a small sample size. It’s also big enough to inspire some optimism — finally — about the franchise’s direction with Wall playing at the highest level of his career. There have been other encouraging developments, too.
Center Emeka Okafor woke up once forward-center Nene joined him in the starting lineup, a move that occurred before Wall came back, and rookie shooting guard Bradley Beal is proving those favorable pre-draft comparisons to Ray Allen were on point. Wall’s big step, however, has pulled everything together. The difference is most evident in the weakest part of Wall’s game: shooting.
The scouting report on Wall hasn’t changed since his days as a prep standout. He has always been considered exceptionally fast with the basketball, highly athletic, intensely competitive — and a below-average shooter.
There are only so many fast-break opportunities. In the NBA, it’s nearly impossible to become a star point guard unless you can score consistently in the half-court game. That means making mid-range jumpers.
Wall’s doing it better than ever. He’s shooting a personal-best 45.3 percent from the field. That’s after Wall made only 40.9 percent of his shots as a rookie and 42.3 percent last season. Beyond the statistical proof, Wall’s jumper passes the eye test.
In Wall’s first two seasons, it was clear he had about as much confidence in his jumper as he did in the ability of some of his teammates to remember Washington’s plays. Wall often appeared reluctant to shoot when the Wizards were struggling to score and needed someone to take charge. Not anymore.
Before the knee injury cut short his offseason workout program, Wall focused on improving his touch. He shot and shot and shot, “and I’m making it more because I just really worked at it,” Wall said, explaining his roll-up-your-sleeves approach. “I didn’t do anything crazy or different. I just put in the time . . . and they’re going in. It’s a good feeling when you see the results. It makes you better.”
Especially because of how fast he is. Opponents used to back off Wall, essentially daring him to shoot, which put them in better position to guard against him driving. Now, they’re playing him tighter.
“When guys come up on you, that’s when you go” toward the basket, he said. “It opens up the offense. It makes it better for my team.”