Reading Defenses With John Wall

(AP Photo/John Raoux)

Coming off a strong rookie campaign, John Wall was expected to make progress in the 2011-12 season.  That, however, has not happened yet.  His shaky jump shot has been dissected, but Beckley Mason’s post on Derrick Rose at Hoopspeak.com made me think about John Wall’s struggles in reading the defense.  Mistakes like this are just part of learning on the job.  As Mike Prada pointed out, even Gary Payton did not look good early in his career.  But he wasn’t forced to carry his team.  Unfortunately, John Wall makes the Wizards go, and his decision-making is key to that.

According to the invaluable numbers at Hoopdata.com Wall’s assist rate has dropped drastically, and he is taking more shots at the rim and from 3 to 9 feet when compared to last season. His perimeter shooters, Nick Young, Rashard Lewis, and Jordan Crawford (using the term “shooter” loosely here) are all being hurt by this change.  Young and Crawford have each seen their percentage of assisted three-pointers drop.  Lewis, who relies almost completely on others to set up his three-point attempts, is shooting 1.5 fewer threes and has seen his percentage drop by nearly 11 points.

Synergy data shows 30% of Wall’s possessions are as a pick and roll ball handler, so improvements recognizing help defense will go a long way in his overall development.  Javale McGee is dynamic enough a finisher to collapse the defense as the roll man, but it is up to Wall to recognize where the perimeter help is coming from.  In the video below we see examples of Wall forcing shots instead of passing to his open shooters.  The weakside help defender is highlighted in the red circle and Wall’s open teammate is in green.


Just like we’ve seen flashes of Wall’s potential in the stat line (think of the five game stretch in January where he averaged 24-8-7), we have also seen him make good pick and roll decisions.  The video below shows him attacking the defense and kicking it to the weakside corner for an open three.


You don’t have to be a “pure” point guard to develop the ability to read the defense; ask Derrick Rose.  And just like another point guard who came into the league wearing number 2, Wall has time to make improvements.

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