The Washington Wizards won their first round series against the Chicago Bulls in pretty dominating fashion, winning three road games to dispatch their foes in just five games. This despite entering the series with very few people picking them to win, let alone to win with relative ease. Washington also took their first game, again on the road, off the top seeded Indiana Pacers and played the Pacers down to the final minute of game 2 in an absolute must win for Indiana. One might assume that with such unexpectedly positive results that the Wizards’ face of the franchise, and newly-minted superstar, John Wall must be single-handedly lifting Washington to new heights. Such an assumption would be very, very wrong.
The dirty little secret of the Wizards’ exciting and unexpected run towards the Conference Finals is that they are doing it while getting very little scoring help from their best and most important player. Wall is averaging just 16.1 points per game on a miserable 32.7% from the field.
(Pictured: enough bricks to build a firehouse).
Wall has been absolutely ice cold from outside of the immediate basket area. In addition, Wall is only getting roughly a third of his shots at the rim and he’s not finishing very well at all.
Given that Wall has faced off against the two best defenses in the league so far in these playoffs, it’s perhaps not surprising that he hasn’t been able to get to the basket more frequently, but the Wizards need more scoring punch from him if they hope to continue to advance.
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Wall hasn’t been all bad. He’s provided some of his usual playmaking and set up his teammates for good looks, but even his assist rate is down from his regular season numbers. Wall has been a bit more conservative with his passes, and as a result, he’s turned it over less, which helps a bit, but this also means fewer easy opportunities created for his teammates. There’s a balance to be found, and the Wizards typically rely on more creation and effective, efficient scoring from Wall.
There are some mitigating circumstances to consider. Bradley Beal has been incredible thus far these playoffs, and as such, he’s taken over more of the responsibility on the offensive end, both for dribble penetration off of pick and rolls and creating shot opportunities for teammates and for simply getting buckets. In addition, the Wizards have Nene healthy, and as such, they have another source of playmaking and scoring which was missing for much of the season (as is usually the case with Nene). All of this has reduced the need for Wall to do everything. It’s also, largely, the reason Washington have been able to score enough to win, despite Wall’s struggles putting the ball through the hoop while playing heavy minutes.
Wall has also managed to largely be a disruptive force defensively, as he spearheads a Wizards defense which finished in the top 10 in defensive efficiency over the full season and has had the privilege of going up against the offenses of the blundering Bulls and the grindingly mediocre Pacers. Wall has also benefitted from matching up against opposing point guards who are largely not scoring threats or were small enough for Wall to easily contain them (looking at you, D.J. Augustin).
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All told, Wall has done enough to remain a very positive contributor for Washington, despite his inability to toss the ball in the ocean. It’s also a safe bet that Wall won’t continue to shoot this much worse than his season average percentages from all over the floor, and should progress towards the mean. If he can get it going, the Wizards, already having a very successful postseason, might be able to make another jump to something truly special.
Statistical support for this post via NBA.com/Stats
(Photo Credit: Keith Allison)