2010 Draft Preview – Know Your Prospects: John Wall
With the June 24 draft fast approaching, we’ll run a few posts previewing the top prospects in the draft using excerpts from the top scouting sources and quotes from NBA coaching staff running predraft workouts.
John Wall (Freshman) – 19 yrs.
Point Guard, University of Kentucky
16.6 points, 6.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 1.8 steals
46.1% FG, 32.5% 3pt FG, 75.4% FT
Height (in shoes): 6’4
Weight: 198 lbs.
Maximum vertical leap: 39.0″
For in-depth analysis of point guard pre-draft measurements, read this article by DraftExpress’s Matt Kamalsky.
As a Nets fan, this one hurts bad. I watched a dozen Kentucky games this season (which usually start between 1am and 4am where I am) and no, it wasn’t to watch DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledose or Daniel Orton. No, I was amateur scouting the teenager who was supposed to be the face of my favorite team for the next decade, salvation for a 12-win season: John Wall.
Nobody has come into the NBA with more hype than Wall since another teenager named LeBron James declared for the 2003 Draft. How hyped is Wall? A video, entitled “The John Wall Phenomenon” – a compilation based on a little hand dance he did when introduced to Kentucky fans for the first time – has nearly a million YouTube hits:
Even with an All-Star in Gilbert Arenas playing his position, he’s a lock for the number one overall selection heading into the draft (sigh). Why? In short, his athleticism is otherworldly, his court vision is exceptional, he hits dangerous speeds in the open court, he has the strength to overpower opposing point guards, even as a teenager in the NBA, and finish in the paint, in traffic and with contact. Another thing that works for Wall going into the NBA is that the three-point line is extended, meaning he has more room to operate with in the paint. On top of that, he’s clutch. He hit a game-winning mid-range jumper in his very first college game and effectively played the role of closer for Kentucky several times when they needed him to take over. A player with as unique a combination of skillset and physical gifts comes along maybe twice a decade (this is where I have to refer you to a pair of ESPN Sports Science videos featured on Hardwood Paroxysm – just highlights Wall’s freakishness). There’s a reason he’s been by far the most hyped of the the last three Callipari point guard products (Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans the other two, both Rookie of the Year winners).
“He might revolutionize the point guard position because of his athleticism, but he has an extremely intelligent mindset as far as running a team.” – Wizards coach Flip Saunders
The immediate concerns are that he’s turnover prone – probably due to an overdependence on his dominant hand as well as his inexperience and youth – and he needs a dependable jumpshot, both off a catch and off the dribble. They’re enough of a concern that I wouldn’t say he’s expected to make a LeBron-sized immediate impact and dominate from day one. This is baseless but I don’t think he wins Rookie of the Year.
DraftExpress.com article dated December 16, 2009:
John Wall’s freshman season feels like one big highlight reel thus far, starting with his very first game against Miami Ohio in which he knocked down a terrific pull-up jumper to win the game for Kentucky. That continued with more late-game heroics against Stanford in a tournament in Cancun, keeping his team in the game to force overtime and win a game they probably shouldn’t have.
The legend only grew after that as seemingly the entire basketball nation tuned in to CBS on a Sunday afternoon to watch him carve up North Carolina’s defense with some incredibly athletic plays in transition, only to see his value magnified as his team fall apart the moment he was forced to leave the game with a minor injury. As the stage got bigger—this time in Madison Square Garden—Wall’s notoriety continued to grow, as more clutch second half play and a season high 25 points gave his team yet another big win against a very tough UConn squad.
He’s in a class of his own in college basketball as far as his quickness and explosiveness is concerned, as he’s shown on countless occasions with some incredible highlight reel plays. After all, how many NCAA teams have a set play in their offense for a backdoor cut and alleyoop lob intended for their point guard? We called Derrick Rose the “most athletic point guard we’ve ever evaluated at the college level,” and feel strongly about the fact that Wall is every bit his equal in that category, if not better.
The most glaring weakness we can recognize revolves around his ability to operate in the half-court. According to the data we have at our disposal, Wall’s field goal percentage in transition situations sits at an amazing 77%. Once he’s forced to play in the half-court, though, his field goal percentage plummets to just 40%. Similarly, he’s been able to draw fouls in the half-court on just 10% of his possessions, as opposed to 27% in transition.
Wall’s ball-handling skills in tight spaces are currently not up to par with his amazing athleticism. His ability to change speeds and directions when creating his own shot out of a stand-still position is just average right now, as he tends to struggle if he can’t just blow by his defender purely with his first step. He overwhelmingly favors driving left (doing so in 71% of his possessions), and is mostly relegated to either passing or pulling up off the dribble if forced to drove right. Because he’s a far better slasher at this point than he is a shooter, defenses tend to sag off him and force him to beat them with his still-erratic pull-up jumper. He’s been showing major improvement with it as the year’s moved on, though, so it will be interesting to see how he progresses in this area.
NBA Comparison: Russell Westbrook/Derrick Rose
Strengths: One of the most electrifying players to come out of the college ranks in years … Has an heir of supremacy/confidence that only the truly great ones possess … His speed in the open floor and first step blow by ability is absolutely jaw dropping … His body control and ability to make plays around the rim as well as find teammates with passes while playing at such a break neck speed is what sets him apart. At first you think he’s out of control but he actually makes great decisions while playing at such a fast pace … Fearless attacking the basket off the dribble and seems to find a space in the defense when it isn’t there … His ability to contort his body and finish from all angles around the basket with both hands borders on the absurd … There is a ton of room for growth and improvement, and his style of play (SPEED) is tailor made for the NBA level … Point guards with his size and athleticism are rare, Rose and Westbrook are two of the most athletic lead guards to come along in years, and Wall has some of each of their attributes … Possesses elite athletic ability with unusual length and explosiveness for a point guard … Excellent finisher in transition with both hands and his speed and ability to change direction allows him to get any place he wants on the floor … Pushes the ball up the floor as well as any 6-foot point guard … Can become dominant at both ends of the floor being able to use his length as both a defensive stopper and above average rebounder from the wing … An excellent passer, particularly on the move. Can pick a part a defense setting up teammates for easy scores using his great vision, and creativity … A true floor general, not just an athlete masquerading as a point … Huge hands give him excellent command of the basketball … Good ball handler with either hand … A ball hawk able to rip opposing point guards using his quick hands and feet and long arms. Excellent anticipation on passes contributed to his 1.8 steals per game … Shows leadership ability and will look to become a more vocal leader as he matures … Has a chance to be a merchandising phenomenon with his incredible talent and charisma …
Weaknesses: Similar to Derrick Rose entering the league, Wall’s jumpshot is a work in progress … Shooting is the easiest skill to improve upon in the league and Wall’s shooting form is not horrible, but it will require some tweaking and hard work (repetition) in the gym to become a real strength to his game … Wall is not a good set shooter, preferring to create a rhythm using the bounce. His shot lacks great lift and is a little slow to get off. His form and release are decent, but should look to get a little more trajectory … At times it appears Wall is too caught up in impressing instead of focusing on the ultimate goal of winning … More comfortable operating in the open floor than in the half court … Will need to hone his pick and roll skills and half court command of the game … His ability to get into the lane and make plays around the basket in the half court game is more effective than his jump shooting … While possibly even quicker than Rose, he lacks the same body strength and ability to absorb contact. Adding some core body strength would allow him to finish stronger around the rim … Gets careless passing the ball at times. 4 turnovers per game show his lack of ball protection and that his point guard skills are still raw. His 1.6 a/to ratio is solid for a freshman but should be better for such an elite level player … Wall is blessed with such incredible physical gifts that it will be up to him to put in the work to get the most out of his abilities. Too often the most talented players aren’t the ones willing to work the hardest, and at such a young age it’s too early to definitively say whether he “wants it” … Competitive player, but will need to develop his killer instinct and ability to take over at the end of games …
Most of the basketball world knows John Wall as the muscle-flexing point guard whom the Washington Wizards are expected to make the first overall pick in the NBA draft on Thursday. Wall sat courtside at the NBA Finals, has dined with LeBron James and is a rare teenager who has earned praise from President Obama and Dick Vitale.
Beneath that glitzy reputation and swagger is a 19-year-old whose inspiration comes not only from a mother who worked multiple jobs to support the family, but also from a father who was born in Washington and spent most of his final 30 years behind bars in North Carolina.
While there has been a lot of debate about whether Wall would be able to share the backcourt with Gilbert Arenas — because Arenas plays the same position — what often gets overlooked is that Arenas is not, nor has he ever been a pure point guard. He often scoffed when people compared him to other elite point guards like Chris Paul or Steve Nash who collect assists within the flow of the offense, because his natural instinct is to attack and score. And hey, he became a three-time all-star with a nine-figure contract playing that way; he did something right. Wall has made it clear that he has to have the ball in his hands in order to succeed. Wall added that Arenas would have to move over to shooting guard. He encountered a similar situation at Kentucky with Eric Bledsoe, who arrived as a highly touted point guard and will play that position in the NBA. “Look how me and Eric Bledsoe did. Guys said we both needed the ball, and it wasn’t going to work together,” Wall said last week in Chicago. “Eric did a great job of not pressuring, not worrying about having the ball. He knew I was going to find him and I was the point guard. And just like that, Eric can score just like Gilbert. So if I go there with that pick, I’m going to find him with the ball. He’s a scoring person and he’s been in the league for a long time. He’s a veteran. He’s going to help me out and give me advice while I’m going through the process.”
Wall has a chance to be a superstar, and rest assured that the Wizards will work harder than ever to find a trade for Arenas. It won’t be easy with the $80 million left on Arenas’ contract; they’ll have to take back someone else’s issues. Philadelphia’s Elton Brand, perhaps? Nevertheless, the Wizards will give Wall a locker on one side of the room with Arenas completely across the way. Truth be told, there will be tension between the old and new guard until Arenas is moved. With his suspension for most of the past season and the knee injuries that ravaged the two prior ones, NBA teams will need to see Arenas show some staying power. He’s a tough sell, but he’s still talented and perhaps he’ll prove himself worthy of redemption.
Crowded D.C. backcourt (scroll down) – David Aldridge – NBA.com
There is a school of thought that says the Wizards shouldn’t have Arenas within a mile of Wall, such is Arenas’ supposed toxicity. Arenas, the argument goes, will drag down Wall with him, into his world of bringing guns to the locker room, and suspensions, and unmentionable acts with teammates’ footwear. Wall has no chance to resist the devilish charms of Arenas, the anti-teammate depressant, and the Wizards will sink deeper into the morass. Could go that way, one supposes. But not me. “It’s the same thing I’m going to say: Look how me and Eric Bledsoe did,” Wall said last week at the pre-Draft combine, referring to his Kentucky teammate. “Guys said we both needed the ball, and it wasn’t going to work together. Eric did a great job of not pressuring, not worrying about having the ball. He knew I was going to find him and I was the point guard. And just like that, Eric can score just like Gilbert. So if I go there with that pick, I’m going to find him with the ball. He’s a scoring person and he’s been in the league for a long time. He’s a veteran. He’s going to help me out and give me advice while I’m going through the process.”
Arenas looking for fresh start with Wall – Mike Jones – CSN Washington
Arenas, according to sources, has spoken with John Wall since the Wizards landed the No. 1 pick in last week’s draft lottery, and is confident that the two can play together. The drafting of Wall likely will force Arenas out of the point guard spot and over to shooting guard, which many believe is his more natural position anyway. Although Arenas was suspended, Flip Saunders late this past season added a new wrinkle to his already extensive offense, and expects to feature more of a two-guard attack rather than his typical point-guard-initiated schemes. Saunders said in April that the new look relieves some of the pressure on the point guard and also gives the team flexibility having two guards sharing ball-handling and facilitating duties. It also could have been a “just in case” experiment to see how things would look if Washington were to either land the top pick, or feature Arenas and Shaun Livingston together this season. Obviously, the Wizards did land that pick. There had been debate as to how Arenas would respond to not having the ball in his hands 90 percent of the time, but the guard is said to be very receptive to the change, and believes that sharing the back court with Wall will be similar to his early days with the Wizards when he and Larry Hughes (another combo-guard) played off one another and in the 2004-05 campaign averaged a combined 47.5 points (25.1 for Arenas, 22.4 for Hughes) and 9.8 assists (5.1 for Arenas, 4.7 for Hughes). Sharing a backcourt with Wall also could mean that Arenas wouldn’t have to draw the assignments of guarding the league’s quicker younger point guards – a task that’s not exactly attractive for a 28-year-old who has survived three knee surgeries.
The 19-year-old Wall became a wealthy man as he signed an endorsement deal with Reebok – which Wall announced on Twitter, scooping every news entity. Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski filled in the details, as he reported that Wall signed a five-year, $25-million deal with the shoe company which has been seeking a superstar face since the retirement of Allen Iverson. Wojnarowski reports that Wall’s representatives, Dan Fegan and Brian Clifton, negotiated two signature shoes.
As I reported earlier, Wall met with Reebok last Friday in Boston. It apparently presented a package that trumped both Nike and Under Armour, which were also in the running for Wall’s services. Wall’s deal with Reebok makes sense because he immediately becomes the face of the brand, whereas he would’ve been just another endorser for Nike, which already heavily promotes LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, or Under Armour, which has Brandon Jennings.