Mar 3, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards point guard John Wall (2) shoots as Memphis Grizzlies shooting guard Courtney Lee (5) defends during the first half at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

John Wall's Elimination of the Mid-Range Game Spurs Greatness


John Wall of the Washington Wizards made a major shift in his game after the 2012-13 season, when he decided to essentially eliminate mid-range shots from his arsenal. It was a risk, to be sure, but he wasn’t exactly becoming known as a knock-down shooter. That change in his offensive philosophy has paid tremendous dividends, including his first All-Star appearance. Let’s take a deeper look.

When Wall first entered the league back in 2010-11, he wasn’t much of a shooter. He made just 40.9 percent of his field goals, 29.6 percent of his 3-pointers and 76.6 percent of his foul shots. He was as fast as anyone in the league and could get his shot off, but he just couldn’t make them.

In year two, Wall took a much different approach, as he almost completely stopped shooting 3-pointers. After taking 115 in his rookie campaign, he took just 42, making only THREE during his sophomore year (7.1 percent made — ick). While he saw a small uptick in his field goal percentage (to 42.3 percent), he also saw a rise in his offensive fouls.

While it sounds great to take it to the basket every time, defenses in the NBA are going to shut you down at some point. Wall had a career high with 27 offensive fouls in 66 games in 2011-12 (this year he’s at 16 through 61 games). He did draw a lot more shooting fouls (a career-best 175), but it came at the expense of winning and making his teammates better. He took a remarkable 95.3 percent of his shots from inside the arc and a career-high 41.3 percent of his shots from inside three feet.

After injuries derailed his 2012-13 season, Wall came back as a smarter player for the 2013-14 season. He realized that the mid-range game was a major weakness for him (attention: Ricky Rubio) and all but abandoned it. He’s taken just 16.5 percent of his shots from 3-to-16 feet, after taking 32.3 percent in 2012-13. Wall has realized that making the defense respect his outside jumper is a necessary evil if he expects to get to the front of the rim.

Wall is taking a career-high 34.3 percent of his shots from 16 feet to the 3-point line. He’s making 37 percent of those shots. He’s taking 22.2 percent of his shots from beyond the 3-point arc, making a respectable 33.2 percent of those. What’s that doing to his ability to get to (and finish at) the rim? He’s shooting 67.3 percent from inside 3-feet. Look at this shot chart:

John Wall's 2013-14 shot chart. Photo Credit: NBA.com

John Wall’s 2013-14 shot chart. Photo Credit: NBA.com

In particular, pay attention to where most of Wall’s shots come from. He takes the vast majority of his shots in the paint, but also look at that right wing. He knows where his strengths lie and he’s taking advantage of it. That’s a player who’s maturing before our eyes.

I haven’t even mentioned the fact that he’s leading the league in assists right now. Why? Because teams are realizing that Wall can break them down in a multitude of ways. Wall is realizing that he can trust his teammates and is making them better (see: Trevor Ariza).

How much of a difference is Wall making? The Wizards are a net plus-15.0 when Wall is on/off the court. His personal offense is coming around, he’s making his teammates better and not surprisingly, the Wizards are 32-29 and firmly entrenched in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Is he the league’s best point guard? Not yet. But if he keeps evolving like this, it won’t be long.



Tags: Washington Wizards