With an all-star selection, growing recognition that he’s “arrived” as a marquee player and a decent playoff run for a postseason rookie, Washington Wizards guard John Wall had a particularly fruitful season. But, and you had to know there was a “but” coming, he still is not a finished product, with his most obvious area for improvement being his play out of the pick-and-roll.
Despite being one of the most prolific practitioners of the pick-and-roll this season, Wall was one of the least efficient performers. In this somewhat arbitrary list of top point guards (plus Monta Ellis, who operated as a point in many ways for Dallas this season), only the oft-maligned Ricky Rubio was a less efficient scorer out of the pick-and-roll:
Given Wall’s speed, ballhandling and athleticism, it seems impossible for him to perform so poorly in one of the fundamental tenets of NBA half-court offense, but there it is. The main reason is his reliance on two-point pull-up jumpers. Over the course of the regular season, Wall took 559 of these shots, tops in the league. Yet among players who took at least 300, Wall had the second-lowest accuracy, beating out only Brandon Jennings:
I’ve written before about how Wall (and to some extent Bradley Beal, also an extremely inefficient shooter on a high volume of long two-pointers off the bounce) is artificially limiting himself and the Wizards’ offense by operating at “one speed” out of the pick-and-roll. Game 6 of the Wizards’ second-round series against Indiana provided the perfect example of what he can be capable of if he operates with a little more craft and patience:
Instead of simply settling for a jumper, Wall uses both his speed and his ability to change speeds to get to the rim, where he was one of the most effective guards in the league in terms of finishing over the course of the season. Most importantly, he didn’t decide what he was going to do before he saw what how the defense reacted. But much like the season as a whole, for every time he attacked the rim with speed and guile, there were several instances of him settling for long jumpers:
The truly troubling thing about these shots is not simply their low efficiency, but that there is plenty of time on the shot clock and that Wall has given the team’s offense no chance to get a better shot whatsoever. He has already decided he’s shooting as he comes around the Gortat screen, and there are still 12 seconds left on the shot clock.
Other high-volume two-point jump shooters, such as the Trail Blazers’ LaMarcus Aldridge, rely on these shots after they and their teammates explore other options for more effective looks at the rim. But Wall often makes up his mind early, meaning the long two-pointer is simply the best the Wizards are going to do, and it’s not very good.
Whatever other moves the Wizards make this offseason, Wall taking this club out of his bag, or at least relying on it far less, could be the single biggest improvement the team can make.
Seth Partnow lives in Anchorage, Alaska, with his wife, daughter and dog. He blogs about the NBA and related topics at WhereOffenseHappens.com. His work can also be found at Hickory-High.com and ESPN’s ClipperBlog.com, where he is a regular contributor. Seth can be reached on twitter @WhrOffnsHppns.