John Wall covered many subjects during his time on NBC Sports Washington last Friday from his interview on 'Wizards Pregame Live' to his role as guest analyst on the Wizards-Pelicans broadcast during the first quarter. One particular point he made seemed to pique the interest of quite a few Wizards fans.
Wall mentioned his role next year when he returns from a lengthy recovery following Achilles surgery, and how his game will now have to change in part to accommodate the ways Bradley Beal has grown while he has been out. Beal has added more play-making and ball-handling responsiblity in the Wizards' offense and has thrived by doing so.
That has Wall thinking he can venture away a bit from the high-usage, floor-general style he has played his entire career.
"My game is going to be totally different than what it was before because now with the way Brad can handle the ball, I can be off the ball a little bit and score from the wing and score in transition by running the wing," Wall said.
Head coach Scott Brooks has mentioned in the past how effective he believes Wall could be off-the-ball given his size and speed and how difficult it could be for other point guards to defend him cutting through the lane and on catch-and-go plays. But we haven't really seen it in practice to any real extent, and when Wall was in his prime before injuries derailed his career, he was one of the most ball dominant players in the NBA.
Still, there are some reasons to suggest Wall could find success in a new-look offense where Beal gets to initiate things. And incorporating those elements into his game more could be the next evolution of him as a player, especially considering he is entering his 30s and won't be able to rely on his elite speed forever.
Changing his game, though, could be easier said than done. Last season, Wall was second only to James Harden in isolation plays per game (5.6) and time of possession (7.8 sec). He was fifth in seconds per touch (5.68).
In the 2016-17 season, Wall's last fully healthy campaign and the best year of his career, Wall led the NBA in time of possession (9.5 sec), seconds per touch (6.39) and dribbles per touch (5.95) among qualified players. He was third in touches per game (89.3) with Harden and his now-teammate Russell Westbrook as the only guys ahead of him. Wall was also eighth in pick-and-roll points (8.7/g) that season.
That style for Wall helped the Wizards form a successful offense. In 2016-17, they were eighth in the NBA in offensive rating (110.4). Though their offensive efficiency has been slightly better this season without Wall (110.5), the league has changed and that now ranks 15th.
The potential for a clash of styles going forward is apparent in usage percentage. This season, Beal ranks sixth among NBA players in the category (33.8). That is up from 2016-17, the last time Wall and Beal played together for a full season. Beal was 44th in usage rate (25.8) while Wall was 13th (29.9).
If Wall's role does evolve significantly, as he suggests it will, the Wizards will have to find a balance in maximizing Beal's newfound strengths while not overlooking the fact they were good at scoring the ball when Wall led the charge. And looking at the makeup of their roster, there is reason to believe they could be better offensively than ever before while playing a similar style due to the revamped supporting cast.
Wall is one of the game's best distributors and now has an improved Beal to run the floor with. The Wizards want to re-sign Davis Bertans and, if they do, will have two of the best shooters in the league to create space. Rui Hachimura is a threat in the midrange and Thomas Bryant is one of the most efficient players around the rim.
The Wizards could have weapons in all three levels of offense with Wall to set the table for them. It's an ideal scenaro for a point guard with his court vision and passing skillset.
But if Wall does indeed venture off the ball more often moving forward, there are a few reasons to believe it could work. For one, Wall has been decently effective on catch-and-shoot threes, regularly shooting better on those than off the dribble. Here is a year-by-year snapshot at his catch-and-shoot three point percentage as it compares to his overall percentage and his clip on pull-ups:
Overall 3PT%: 30.2
Catch and shoot 3s: 37.3
Pull-up 3s: 20.6
Overall 3PT%: 37.3
Catch and shoot 3s: 43.8
Pull-up 3s: 31.3
Overall 3PT%: 33
Catch and shoot 3s: 35.9
Pull-up 3s: 30.5
Overall 3PT%: 35.4
Catch and shoot 3s: 38.4
Pull-up 3s: 31.3
Wall has essentially shot 36% or better on catch-and-shoot threes in each of the past four seasons. That is enough to be a threat and help space the floor.
Another area Wall could be more effective in if he lets go some of the ball-handling responsibility is on post-ups. Earlier this season in an interview with NBC Sports Washington, Chauncey Billups highlighted that as an area of Wall's game that could be expanded, especially coming off the Achilles surgery, with which Billups has experience. If Beal triggers the offense, that could allow Wall to get deeper into the defense before he is fed the ball.
Wall hasn't posted up much in his career so far, but it would be both a way for him to utilize his size advantage over most point guards and another avenue for him to be effective as a passer. By passing from the block, Wall could fip the geometry of the Wizards' halfcourt offense.
He could set up teammates for threes while they are already facing the rim. In addition to Beal and Bertans, Bryant can also step outside and shoot threes very well and especially for a center, this season hitting 39.3% of his threes overall and 40.5% on catch-and-shoot plays.
Last season, Wall was only 27th in post-ups per game (0.5) among guards. He was 43rd the season before that and 45th the year before that.
Billups was really effective at posting up as a guard, especially later in his career. Jason Kidd and Dwyane Wade are among the best do to it in recent NBA lore. In today's game, Chris Paul and Ben Simmons regularly show up at the top of related statistical leaderboards.
As much as Wall indicates his game could change, however, the Wizards are going to want to use much of what they did before with Wall. When he's healthy, he's about as good as anyone in transition. And if Bertans and Bryant are on the floor, that could be taken up a notch. Bertans was the best catch-and-shoot scorer in the NBA this season and Bryant could develop into the best rim-runner Wall has ever played with.
It will all be about finding a good balance. But the good news is that it sounds like Wall is embracing the change and likelihood he will have to defer a little bit more to Beal than he used to.
Stats via NBA.com and Synergy
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