Washington Wizards: Wall 'Til We Fall

John Wall made his NBA debut last night in a 112-83 beat down served up by the Orlando Magic. I carefully watched the game because I wanted to see how the rookie would fare against a dominant Orlando team, and really his performance spoke volumes about his level of talent given the teammates he plays with. He did nothing that was really extraordinary, but was solid across the board in his first ever NBA game. Despite the jitters that probably came with making his NBA debut, I was still impressed with his performance. I’m pretty sure every basketball fan has glanced at Wall’s line from last night, but just in case you didn’t’ get a chance to check it out, here it is:

John Wall

What the boxscore fails to capture is that Wall plays with terrible teammates. They consistently failed to rotate on defense and also had this knack for taking amazingly bad shots. Wall to his credit tried to run the offense and get his players some open shots; however players such as Cartier Martin and Andray Blatche figured they would try to showcase their skills and play Iso-Joe (short for “isolation Joe Johnson”, but sounds like a euphemism for masturbation). Often, players like Blatche caught the ball with a wide open jump shot but instead went towards the defense to shoot contested jumpers. To his credit though, Wall kept trying to feed his guys and was successful in doing so as evidenced by his nine assists.

When the Magic scouted the Wizards, they probably realized that Wall displayed phenomenal speed and quickness, especially in the open court. Consequently, their pick and roll defense strategy was to go under every screen and force the former Kentucky point guard to shoot uncontested jumpers. The end result? Several misses.  The Wizards new franchise player has a lot of talent, however he is not yet able to knock down midrange shots.

Despite his offensive struggles, John Wall is terrific in the open court as he is able to get to any spot that he wishes too. His ball handling is exceptional (seriously, it never dawned on me that he was a rookie while he was dribbling the ball) and he demonstrated the ability to beat defenders in one on one situations so far. He is a decent finisher at the basket and that should improve with time, as he gets a better feel for angles and how to time his himself when challenging shot blockers (he unsuccessfully tried to convert lay up attempts against Dwight Howard).

One area of concern I had for Wall was his ability to quickly get acclimated to the world of defending NBA point guards. Flip Saunders did not allow him to match up with Jameer Nelson; instead he opted to have him guard Quentin Richardson and play the passing lanes to disrupt the Magic offense. Wall had some individual success on defense, but collectively the Wizards were putrid. They gave up more lay ups and dunks than Santa’s reindeers did to the Kobe and LeBron puppets video.

Worth pointing out though, John Wall felt comfortable enough to get up in Chris Duhon’s grill and challenge him to go at him. Surprisingly, the former Duke Blue Devil was not able to do much against the former Wildcat. The #1 pick in this year’s draft seemed to become more comfortable defensively as the game progressed which bodes well for the Wizards. As the season unfolds, I expect to see Wall make life miserable for all the non-elite point guards in the league given his superior athleticism.

The biggest question mark so far on this rookie sensation is how long it takes for him to truly make this team his. There were numerous times when he should have asserted himself offensively and put his teammates on the backburner given their poor shot selection. Although it is a great trait to have especially for a point guard (it’s easier to teach a player to be selfish than it is not to), Wall will have to put his stamp on the team and decide which course of action is beneficial to his squad depending on situations. And keep in mind, it’s not a matter of if he will be able to do so, but rather when.

Young point guards such as Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo (Russell Westbrook is just about there now) all had to go through that maturation process and look at them now. Is it a bit premature to put John Wall in the same paragraph as these guys after one NBA game? Most definitely. But the talent that this player has just forces us to recognize that he will soon be amongst the fraternity of terrific guards that the league has to offer. Let the John Wall era begin ladies and gentlemen.

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Image courtesy of ESPN

Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments section or you can contact me by email at Shyne@Sbgorillas.com. You can also find me on Twitter with the handle name ShyneIV.


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