NBA / Mar 30, 2011 / 11:00 am

John Wall Is Set To Blow Up

John Wall

John Wall (photo. Reebok)

I was certain I was right. He was young. He was wildly exciting. He got called a whole lot of names, like a lot of other young guys his age got called, and he was going to play for a man known for all of the best and worst in college hoops. But damn, son had game. The type of game that made you go hit up his YouTube mixes at random times. You didn’t realize what you were doing. You couldn’t help it. Yeah, that’s what they call an addiction.

I was convinced. I figured I had just seen the future best point guard in the world.

Fast forward a few years and it’s easy to digress. If there was ever a weirdly disappointing rookie year, it was John Wall‘s this season. That’s what happens when you get caught up in a tornado of a dunking machine. Since then, some kid named Derrick Rose grew up and everything about some kid named Wall was forgotten. The Wizards stayed a laughing-stock and people forgot. Forgot that there’s a rookie not named Blake Griffin who might just be ready to checkmate every player, fan and media member in this game.

Lost between the rise of Rose and the emergence of Russell Westbrook and the continued dominance of other great guards, it feels like people are underestimating him for the first time in a long time.

Still, to Kyle Weidie, the founder of one of the best Wizards blogs, Truth About It, Wall’s ceiling is “all-time great.” He says, “as long as he’s not dealing with injury, he’s going to be a one-man fast break opponents will not be able to successfully stop on most nights.”

If there was ever anyone who was going to become a YouTube sensation, it was Wall. He was made for it. Eye-popping tomahawks. Violent spin moves. Blocked shots from across the lane. Buckets. Dimes. Lobs. Fans. Shocked. Opponents. Shook ones. The stereotypes were created, and he was easily labeled. People saw a great athlete, but didn’t believe in the rest.

But then something else happened. We all found out he could lead too. We had him looped in with DeMarcus Cousins. Then he went out and became the old man to Cousins’ psycho. Then he went to Washington and became the grandpa amidst Andray Blatche and Nick Young‘s duck, duck, goose.

Was it possible? He outlived his own hype, and yet no one cared? The Wizards suck, but we’ve given love to a lot of players on really bad teams. Wall wouldn’t have been the first. This season, Griffin was really good, and Rose was really valuable. But damn, am I the only one who feels like something is missing?

He’s only averaging more assists than Chris Paul did as a rookie (8.6 to 7.8). He’s only averaging more steals than Rose did as a rookie (1.6 to 0.8). He’s only averaging more minutes than Westbrook did as a rookie (38.2 to 32.5). He’s only averaging more of everything than Rajon Rondo and Deron Williams did as rookies (a lot to a little).

This is a kid who can’t really shoot, but still makes shots. This is a player who averages 3.8 giveaways a game, but is still one of the league leaders in assists. This is a kid who is stuck in a dreary situation, but has the will to turn it around. I guess that’s where our hesitation comes in. The only thing Wall has proved with Washington is that he doesn’t win games. He’s a loser right now. Win and people will love you, however unfortunate that sounds.

When will that happen? For the Wizards, it’s going to take more than just a drastic step up from their cornerstone. They need their youth to mature, and they need to get lucky in the NBA Draft. But by next year, none of the blame will be Wall’s because I’m convinced he is set to blow up. If Washington can surround him with some players who can shoot, defend and won’t turn it over, the renaissance could be quick.

Weidie says:

Not to say that Wall cannot fit well with a number of styles, but to take advantage of his talents, you want guys who can run with him like JaVale McGee and Trevor Booker; you want bigs who can stretch the floor and pick and pop with Wall (Yi Jianlian has been a decent pairing with John in this regard, but obviously there’s a lot left to be desired from him); and you want shooters, as many as possible (of both the spot-up variety and of the kind who can attack the rim and create for others), to fill the corners and any other area of the court Wall can find. Wall is the point the Wizards have proclaimed they will build around; he’s not a scoring star who needs complimentary parts to adjust to a more narrow ability.

The good news for Washington fans is that everything Wall needs to improve on will come with time. Because of his athleticism, length and skill level, there is no future Achilles heel. His turnovers will drop as he learns to change speeds. His defense will get better, even though he is already one of the more disruptive guards on that end. And Wall is promising his set shot is finally on the way out.

“He’s shown flashes of confidence in his long mid-range jumper, but most of that comes from shots where he needs an extra dribble or an athletic jump-and-fade to gain separation,” Weidie says. “He needs to be able to make opponents pay by immediately nailing the shot when defenders go behind screens.”

It took Rose less than three years to reach the apex of this game. Wall is an entirely different player, but that’s whom he should be shooting for.

“The most important things for Wall to do now are be patient,” Weidie says. “Learn from Flip Saunders and Sam Cassell, and let the losing drive his desire to become great.”

Follow Sean on Twitter at @SEANesweeney.

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  • http://www.dimemag.com Aron Phillips

    Great piece, Sean!

  • Abe504

    I have to say as a Wiz fan, this season has been a positive one for him even with us losing. It is a rebuilding process, we weren’t going to the playoffs. Right now its about getting the right pieces around Wall and McGee, everybody can pretty much go. But we definetly need to get rid of Flip Saunders, he just plain sucks as a coach.

  • kingralf

    promising pg and c, just get the rest in order
    good article

  • nizzio

    John Wall is the future. He will be the MVP one time in his career.

  • Tha Boddy “DMV DUNKS”

    Why do people forget about Nick Young??? He is young and can score countless ways. He doesn’t do much else but the Wizards need buckets and he is by far the best option. Jordan Crawford is a great backup to Young so all the Wiz need is a PF with power and a SF who can defend SGs and SFs. They have cap space and Wall has shown more than enough to grab some good FA attention… The Wiz can make a splash just gotta watch it playout.

  • First & Foremost

    Great writing lately

    Until they upgrade the roster, Wall will be an all-world talent on a middle of the pack team.

  • First & Foremost

    Nick Young is some trash!!! Scorers come a dime a dozen, just because the ball is passed to you doesn’t mean the shot must go up. He would be a great player if he learned how to be patient.

    Don’t tell me the ball is passed to him deep into the shot clock. I’ve watched enough games with 13 seconds left he is trying to force something.

    No one volunteers to go to a losing team unless they cap space. Meaning, you are paying a premium in free agency which will eat that cap scape in no time.

    The Wiz need to get to 30-35 wins next year to attract and fairly pay what some free agents are worth.

  • http://deleted dagwaller

    Great article.

    He’s getting himself right in many ways this year. Taking his lumps.

    How many people bemoan the “shoot first” PG? Rajon Rondo and John Wall are on something different.

    Honestly, though, they have guys that can do their thing on offense (Blatche, Nick Young, Jordan Crawford, Gil earlier on, McGee catching lobs, Rashard when he’s healthy), but…everyone say it with me now…they need to play some defense.

    When that happens, they’ll win games.

    And when that happens, Wall will get more credit.

    Look at Devin Harris and Steph Curry, guys that have all the same tangibles (shooting, athleticism, etc) but don’t get as much credit as Rose and Rondo. If their team was WINNING, they’d be in the same conversation as the best PGs in the game.

    On the flipside, look at Nash, who really hasn’t dropped off as much as a PG, but whose team isn’t winning as many games – he’s dropped out of the conversation of top 5 PGs for that as much as anything else.

  • ctkennedy

    see the most important skill is your teammates…lmmfao…all these young guys got skills but they losin so dont nobody care ..wall vision is already better than rose …but look who he passin too compare to rose…look at the d his bigs play compares to rose ..if they was too switch bulls would still be top 4…n the wizards wouldnt be in the playoffs

  • Wake

    I posted this at hoopshype. Might as well post it here.

    During his rookie year, Rose had the advantage of having a team that could have reached the playoffs without him. There was a certain amount of pressure lifted off him. He wasn’t the leader outright and had to earn that. He’s got seasoned guys both play-wise and maturity-wise. He had a Hunter and Hinrich helping him adjust to the PG role. That pretty much helped boost his play and understanding of the NBA game quickly.

    Then you have John Wall’s team. Young and eager to prove themselves. But at times it really is painful to watch them. It’s like a chicken getting its head cut off and still continuing to run around. I hate to say this because it will offend a lot of Wiz fans but they really have selfish players in that team. They need a dose of maturity. There isn’t anyone mentoring Wall in that team and some of their vets don’t really help their image with their past dealings. Wall doesn’t have the luxury of taking his time as a leader. He’s already the leader whether he likes it or not.

    Changes need to happen in Washington. Big changes. An overhaul. Surround Wall with the right guys that can help him with his game. Surround him with good influences.

  • First & Foremost

    Exactly – They really have selfish players on that team. Instead of running plays it is one maybe 2 passes and then iso. Nick Young never has the ball for more than 4 seconds. He has the mentality but not the shot selection.

    Good Luck John Wall

  • Mark

    Remind the kid KD took a couple years before they’ve become a scary good under-the-radar team, in the West no less.

    Sometimes a HoF right off the bat who wins games like CP is a curse, draft-wise.

  • Shee

    Yo what’s Duck Duck Goose mean?

  • Shee

    Good article btw…

  • Hot Fiyah

    John Wall is the truth!

  • pipdaddyy

    I guess its just unlucky timing, but I couldn’t keep from laughing after reading this headline and seeing him play 15 minutes, get ejected and possibly suspended. Of course I have him in two fantasy leagues :(

  • Kobeeeee

    Yep. Man. John Wall needs to be a Laker and start working on his Legacy. Somehow I am not convinced that the wizards can build a foundation for him to be super great – which is his potential.

  • http://getyourishbusted.net Chicagorilla

    Did one of you just claim that if Rose and Wall switched places that the Bulls would still be a top4 team and the Wiz wouldn’t make the playoffs with Rose?

    Did the Bulls not have the #1 pick to get Rose? And how do you get the #1 pick….that’s right you have to suck. and the Bulls did just that. So don’t give me that ish about them being able to make the playoffs with that team that Rose came to. Hell there is a reason they fired Skiles.

    Rose’s situation his rookie year:

    -Vinny Del Negro as a rookie coach with ZERO previous exp
    -pressure of #1 pick in his hometown city
    -sharing the ball with Ben Gordan, Kirk Hinrich, and eventually John Salmons

    Wall’s situation his rookie year:

    – veteran head coach Flip Saunders
    – was given the ball from day one over Kirk Hinrich and Gil Arenas
    – team trades both Gil and Kirk to clear the way even more for Wall.
    – Javel McGee as a great shot blocker who allows Wall to gamble on defense

    Both of them have a ton of pressure but i would say Wall has it a little easier than Rose had it. Plus with Blake Griffin doing his thing as ROTY, Wall can make mistakes without it being a big deal.

    I think we won’t see the real John Wall until his 3rd or 4th year. Most PGs come around during that time. The wrtier pointed out Walls biggest problem…he needs to learn how to change pace and be patient.
    Any fast guard can run full speed and get lay ups. Rose, Westbrook, Collinson, Wade, Ty Lawson, Rondo, Ellis, TJ Ford, and Lebron are all great speed guys who can outrun people for lay ups. thats great in the open court, but John has to play the half court much better to be successful in this league.

    For example, Wall is terrible at running the pick and roll. With his speed and long strides he could be a real problem coming off that pick if he knew how to use them. Half the time he starts going before the screen is even set. Then when the screen is set, he never has the proper spacing coming off that screen to keep both the options of passing to the roller, to the corner shooter, or shooting the mid range J. He should really watch Nash work off the pick n roll more. That and fine tuning his mechanics on his jumper would put him on a path to be an all time great.

  • Wiz fan


    Washington’s pick and role game sucks because our bigs cannot set proper screens. McGee always leaks out early, Yi doesn’t want to be touched so as soon as he is about to hit the opposing player, Booker is actually ok at setting picks but doesnt do it very often and Seraphin idem.

  • Wiz fan


    Washington’s pick and role game sucks because our bigs cannot set proper screens. McGee always leaks out early, Yi doesn’t want to be touched so as soon as he is about to hit the opposing player, Booker is actually ok at setting picks but doesnt do it very often and Seraphin idem.

  • ctkennedy

    they want as bad as the wizards ….they luckly won the lottery…heat had 15w that yr….hinrich n deng was hurt that yr(im not sure a 100percent)…hinrich is a great backup…ben gordon was a top 5 closer at that time..noah was comin along…deng was dealin with the kobe shit ….they had pieces atleast ..so they made the 8th seed back to back yrs…the wizards dont got shit…NOBODY in they top 8 could play for any playoff team

  • http://getyourishbusted.net Chicagorilla

    @Wiz fan

    As a big man, if the guard begins to attack before you set your feet on a screen, you HAVE TO bail early and get out of the way otherwise you get an offensive foul. Sometimes they do it on purpose (its called slipping the screen) but most times they do it because they aren’t being taught well. Wall and his bigs both need to practice that pick n roll to get it right. It’s not an easy thing to do, especially when you are used to going so fast all the time.


    making the 7th or 8th seed in the weak east is not something to be bragging about. Also like i pointed out, that particular coach was fired (Scott Skiles) and a new guy (Vinny Del Negro) was brought in who has no coaching experience whatsoever. He never even coached high school ball. Yet he was taking over the keys to Roses career and in general was making some pretty horrible decisions. If you look back to any of my post over the last couple years, you’ll see me calling for Vinny’s head.

    Besides that, Wall had a top scorer in Gil Arenas (much better than Gordan) and Kirk Hinrich. Apparently he didn’t work well with them because he was forced into being the Alpha male. DRose played his role, the organization didn’t make it a point to force him into stardum. He didn’t come out doing the dougie in his first home introduction like the city was his. Even if everyone KNEW it was Roses team, the kid still deferred, which allowed his teammates to get used to him. Once they did, Rose turned it on the 2nd half of the season and the Bulls played a nice playoff series vs Boston that year.

    Thats not to say Wall won’t be good, I just think his skill set is different and he’ll progress diffrently than Rose (or Westbrook for that matter). Hopefully the kid is a hard worker and doesn’t spend the off season resting on his rookie year like Tyreke Did. He needs to work at bettering his Jumper and his IQ of the game. Team USA workouts would be a great thing for John Wall. It seemed to do wonders for every young player who has done it.