I’ll admit, I was fooled.
I saw John Wall crisscrossing the country looking phenomenal in the wide-open, no-defense rec leagues and charity games last summer and thought he could translate that to the NBA. I thought he looked healthy. When left open his jumper fell, when given room to use his athletic gifts he was a force. I thought he would explode.
Then it came to the NBA season, the defenses got tighter, his shots were contested and he was the same old guy. Go under the pick, take away the drive to neutralize his speed, and dare him to beat you with the jumper. Wall admitted that all the time spent playing in fun games last year should have been spent on his jumper.
But it was more than just that, according to a scout who spoke with the Washington Post.
“You get the sense on the whole, he’s not doing a lot of thinking the game yet. He’s kind of run into a little bit of roadblock as far as understanding why what he’s doing isn’t good enough yet. I do feel there is a lot more that’s still there.”
The real question about Wall is can he take the next step? Can he understand how to fit his game in, can he knock down the outside jumper.
To me, we don’t know yet because we haven’t seen Wall on a team that could succeed, a team that had a good locker room. A team that would push him. Think of it this way, what would have happened to him if he had landed on the Celtics like Rajon Rondo, surrounded by veterans? How would he and his game be different than coming into a locker room with Gilbert Arenas, JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche?
How much will a new coach change him and change the direction of the team on the court. Outgoing interim coach Randy Wittman praised the leap Wall was making in game management, something seen in Washington’s ultimately meaningless six game winning streak.
Wall has said he plans to spend his summer working on his jumper in the gym and spending less time in rec leagues. It may help. Friend of this site David Thorpe — ESPN.com analyst and executive director of the Pro Training Center in Clearwater, Fla. — summed it up well for the Washington Post:
“If I’m looking at most improved players for next year . . . he’d be in my top five,” Thorpe said. The Wizards “will be more relevant and competitive next year and I think John is going to be one of those guys, because he’ll be in more of those moments where he has a chance to shine . . .. If we’re having this conversation a year from now, about is he the same player, even if he’s improved incrementally, then this is kind of who he is . . . I feel like next year is when he will really explode.”