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John Wall is a basketball genius, so why hasn't he been able to carry Washington further on offense?

September 14, 2016

Wall is a genius of basketball geometry who sees through the clutter and the rotations to find the best possible angles. Even some of the game’s other top passers operate within a read-and-react framework—the lane opens and a play is made. Wall operates in a way that actively engineers those openings, not just through speed and agility but creative design. An open layup comes to Wall by first gently guiding two defenders out of position with a drive and headfake. An open three materializes because Wall anticipated the moment of a defense’s collapse and rocketed a crosscourt pass to answer an opponent’s early rotation. Every relevant passing statistic, general or specific, sings the praises of Wall for both the volume of points he creates and the specific kinds of looks he generates. No other guard in the league last season generated more three-pointers off the pass and only one set his teammates up with more potential assists. The trouble in ranking Wall is reconciling that obvious, sensational ability with the fact that he was one of the three highest-usage players in the league and captained an offense that too often went nowhere at all. Wall wasn’t the cause of Washington’s lost season but he did surprisingly little to redeem it. Zoom out further and you see a troublesome, Rondovian trend: Despite his impressive playmaking, Wall hasn’t yet led the Wizards to average offensive efficiency in six seasons. That’s concerning—especially now that the Washington has attempted two dramatically different styles. Wall’s rough shooting off the dribble undoubtedly plays a part, given that he insisted on taking nine pull-up jumpers a game last season to miserable ends (38.4% eFG). Overdribbling can be a problem at times, too, when Wall is hunting for a particular passing angle that might not materialize. Making plays and running offense are, in a sense, two discrete skills. Wall is noticeably further along in one than the other—to the point where even his strengths are undercut by his judgments. (Last year: No. 13)

+ Long, pesky defender with a good feel for applying pressure
+ Size and length allow him to overwhelm some opposing point guards
Poor shooting complicates his team’s operations
Weirdly inefficient in transition situations, given his quickness

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