The Washington Post

Wizards at Halftime, Part V: Is John Wall going to continue his improved play?

John Wall entered this season with all-star aspirations, but with those dreams were dashed as the Wizards lost their first eight games and he languished through a sluggish start to the season.

How much more can my numbers spike in the second half? (Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP)

The Wizards hope Wall can continue his improved play in and that spending all-star weekend in Orlando, surrounded by the game’s best talents and humbled by the experience of coming off the bench in the Rising Stars Challenge, will provide another boost – to what Wall can do for both the box score and the win column.

Wall entered the all-star break averaging just 15 points and 8.9 assists as a rookie. After winning the MVP of the Rookie-Sophomore game, Wall came on strong, averaging 18.5 points, 7.4 assists and 5.2 rebounds over the final 27 games and raising expectations for a breakout sophomore campaign.

But through his first 11 games, Wall left much to be desired. His body language was awful, he was erratic on the floor, and had many wondering what was wrong. Former coach Flip Saunders benched him the final three minutes of the first half after he committing seven turnovers during a loss against Philadelphia. Wall has been a different player since he came out of the locker room.

He scored a career-high 38 points in his next game against Houston and helped the Wizards upset the Oklahoma City Thunder after that. But the early funk – which contributed to Saunders being fired – had already done enough damage to his reputation, which took another hit when Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal selected 11 players – and six guards – ahead of him for the Rising Star Challenge.

The snub overshadowed some improved play but also pointed to a need for progression in several areas. Despite his impressive run, Wall hasn’t been especially consistent over the past eight games. His shooting percentages in those games have been up and down: 54.5, 46.2, 30, 71.4, 30.8, 66.7, 36.4, 53.3.

Wall still needs to improve his halfcourt decision-making and jump shot, but on the positive side, he has managed to be in the top 10 in assists despite being on a team that ranks 24th in field goal percentage (42.9) and 29th in three-point field goal percentage (30.3). Wall has scored at least 20 points in nine of the past 22 games, though the team is just 3-6 in those contests. As Wall figured out over the weekend, point guards are measured more by wins than anything else.



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