After a season filled with turmoil, the Washington Wizards finally caught a break. In a surprising development, the Wizards wound up winning the 2010 NBA Draft Lottery, giving them the right to draft the country’s most tantalizing draft prospect, John Wall. Getting Wall with the first pick in the draft was the icing on the cake and was one of the final moves made to complete the rebuilding process that the Wizards started near the trade deadline last season. Veterans Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood were all sent to contenders as Washington looked to build around center JaVale McGee, forward Andray Blatche and the troubled but still talented Gilbert Arenas.
And now that they have added John Wall to that core, well the Wizards are going to have a better go around this season than they did in 2009-2010. The first thing you have to do when assessing the Wizards’ potential this season is to figure out what John Wall is or will be.
To start, let me tell you what I don’t think Wall is going to be in the NBA. I don’t think he is going to be a dominant, 30/8/8 LeBron James type of guy. It may go without saying but his athleticism and ability at that age (19 going on 20) is often compared to James’ and you can actually make a pretty good case that Wall could have a similar ceiling. That being said, that’s not going to happen and we actually may never see anything close to that again with LeBron joining forces with a couple of other players that will steal some of his numbers. I also don’t think that he is going to be the leading scorer on a championship level team. To be more specific, I think John Wall is an excellent offensive prospect but I don’t think he will ever be the top “scorer (highest PPG)” on a title team. Someone like Kevin Martin (shooter/scorer, not much else) or a big man that feeds off of him for 25 a night will have to be paired with him.
But here’s what I do think he is going to be. I think he is going to be a cross between Derrick Rose and LeBron James. A guard that will attack the rack relentlessly, draw fouls, is a freak athlete, has tremendous potential defensively and will end up putting up averages of 22 points, nine assists and five rebounds. Of course, everybody is different and Wall certainly has some dissimilarities with those two. For starters, he’s a better jump shooter than LeBron was when he came into the league and he has a better feel for the game when it comes to distributing the basketball than Rose does right now. But again, Wall has the athleticism of LeBron and Rose, has the ability to take over a game simply by driving to the rack, and he has a dominant personality that is required to be a leader on a team.
The Wizards may not have that Kevin Martin like player to go along with Wall right now, they do have some young and interesting pieces with the aforementioned JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche.
McGee is a physical specimen. A seven-footer with extremely long arms that has no trouble running the floor even with his big frame. In fact, he’s one of the most athletic centers in the league, and flying down court seems to be rather easy for him. His long strides make him a threat on every fastbreak and his long arms make him a fantastic finisher at the rim.
His long arms also contribute to his defensively ability. The common perception of players with long arms is that they are or can become good shot blockers simply because, well, they can contest almost every shot. While most of the time that is false, because blocking a shot requires more than just the raw physical abilities to leap and contest the shot as players need to have anticipation skills and need to know how not foul the player shooting the ball. Well, in McGee’s case, its all about the physical aspect. If JaVale sees a player coming at him, he contests the shot. There’s no logic to it really. He’s not making quick assessments as to who the shooter is and whether or not allowing him to get a bad shot off is better than contesting and getting called for a foul, he’s just trying to block the shot.
And he’s good at it, too. For such a raw player in his second season, his 3.8 blocks per 36 minutes is a fantastic number. Once McGee develops a better feel for the game and starts comprehending defensive schemes, his physical abilities will turn him into one of the best defenders in the league at the center position.
Andray Blatche has been a bit of the opposite. Instead of showcasing his defensive talents, Blatche has looked like an all-star offensive player since the fire sale. A lot of his success has come because Flip Saunders has turned Blatche into the center of the Wizards’ offense, which isn’t a bad thing. He’s embraced the opportunity and has been making the most of it.
For a power forward, the best comparison for Blatche is David West of the New Orleans Hornets. Blatche prefers to play on the perimeter like West but also has another gear offensively with handles and the ability to get the basket and finish with various lay-ins. Andray is incredibly effective with his jumpshots. Blatche finishes at the rim 62% of the time and also shoots 48% from inside 10 feet, 46% from 10-15 feet, and 41% from 16-23 feet. Those numbers aren’t better than West’s, but they are close and it seems to me that West gets a few more open jumpers than Blatche.
The six-foot-11 power forward has been in the NBA for five seasons (counting this year) since being drafted out of high school in 2005 and, after spending four seasons mostly on the bench, he seems to have found himself a starting job that will give him consistent minutes to showcase his talents. After Jamison was traded, Blatche averaged 37 minutes a game, leading to what would have been career high per game averages in points (22), rebounds (9), steals (1.2) if extrapolated over an entire season and a career high in field goal percentage (52%).
Blatche has such a variety of offensive weapons that he can keep any defender on his toes. Normal power forwards aren’t quick enough to stop his first step, small forwards generally aren’t tall enough, allowing Blatche to shoot over them, and centers are vulnerable to the drive and a nice fadeaway jumper. With Wall, his looks open looks should increase thanks to his playmaking abilities and his own passing is improving as well. The only big problem with Blatche right now is his defense, which is below average. If Blatche can motivate himself on that end of the floor this season, which should happen thanks to the better attitude around the lockerroom, then Andray will be one of the better power forwards in the league this season.
When you add in veteran combo guard Kirk Hinrich that can still defend any wing position and shoot the three, a scoring guard like Nick Young coming in off the bench, forwards Josh Howard and Al Thornton contributing 20 or so combined points, undersized center Trevor Brooker proving a Carl Landry-like force for stretches and Yi Jianlian still providing some tantalizing potential as a mobile stretch forward, the Wizards have a strong starting group and a pretty good group of reserves as well.
The only thing preventing the Wizards from making the jump from a complete mess to a potential playoff team is the possibility of a blow-up between Wall and Arenas. Gilbert has been saying all of the right things and has essentially conceded the team to Wall. I’m not saying he shouldn’t have done that, but its a little to good to be true in my mind. Until I see Arenas take a backseat to Wall for 82 games without making a big deal out of it, I won’t believe it is possible.
If he does cause problems, then perhaps the Wizards can convince a team to take on his massive salary in order to win. Its a hard sell but if they were able to deal him while getting back a quality starting two guard or a pair of proven rotation pieces, then Washington may be able to compensate for losing him.
But if he stays true to his word and he contributes effectively as a second banana to Wall this season, then the Wizards have some serious potential, at least when it comes to playing in June. I’m not saying they will be challenging the Heat, Magic or Celtics but they can make the post-season and that’s not such a bad way to kickoff the John Wall-era in Washington.
This is a legitimate question. JaVale McGee is a great defensive player when it comes to shot blocking and defending the pick and roll but he struggles a bit in one-on-one situations, especially against tougher centers. Andray Blatche hasn’t played any defense in his NBA career to date, Yi Jianlian is mobile but not strong enough to hang with the other fours in the NBA and the same goes for Hilton Armstrong. Trevor Booker is the only big man that has some nasty in him and its going to take more than him to form a title team.
2. Will John Wall win rookie of the year?
I think so. Blake Griffin is going to surprise a lot of people this season but I think Wall will be able to score a bit more per game and will have the assists, rebounds and steals to go along with it. Fellow Kentucky Wildcat DeMarcus Cousins may take a shot at RoY but I’m sticking with Wall.
3. Where does Nick Young fit?
Wall, Hinrich and Arenas all figure to dominate the guard spots this season, leaving only few minutes for reserve guard Nick Young. On a bad Wizards team, Young has shown a lack of motivation in the past and doesn’t seem to do much else but score. The thing is, he can score, he shot 41% from three last season, he can run the floor and finish and would be a great counterpart for Wall on the break and on the wing. Will he play well enough on the other end to justify playing time, though? That’s something I’m eager to find out.
4. Will Gilbert Arenas be traded?
I don’t think he will but that doesn’t mean that he won’t butt heads with Wall. His contract just makes him too hard to trade. Like I said before, if Arenas does follow through will his promises to let Wall run the show, then the Wizards can exceed expectations this season. That’s a big if, though.
5. What’s better: the John Wall dance or John Wall doing the dougie?
This was a common site during Team USA training camp this summer in Las Vegas, Nevada: while going through the motions on a few offensive sets, JaVale Mcgee flashed to the wing, set a couple of screens and found his way back into the paint. The end game was a pass into McGee. Kevin Durant would make that pass to McGee, who pivoted towards the basket, hopped up, and actually dunked it off the backboard.
Andre Iguodala, one of the game’s greatest athletes and best dunkers himself, couldn’t help but chuckle. Time after time, McGee was getting his elbow to rim level and throwing the ball off the backboard with extreme authority.
A week or so before, McGee was participating in the NBA Summer League, which was taking place in Las Vegas as well. As the second half of a young dynamic duo that featured 1st overall pick John Wall, JaVale and the Kentucky product produced excellent results. He averaged 20 points per game on 69% shooting and the Wizards won all four games he and Wall played it. And once again, his supreme athleticism was on display on plays like this when he went up and dunked on the city of Las Vegas.
McGee’s play got him a spot in Team USA’s training camp and although he didn’t make the final roster for the World Championships, it is still an honor to get invited to the training camp, especially considering his addition was based on four summer league performances that impressed the Team USA staff immensely.
JaVale, who is just 22-years old, is set to embark on a new chapter of his professional career as the Wizards are looking to do the same with their franchise. Veterans Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and Brendan Haywood were all traded last season after a disappointing start which leaves Gilbert Arenas as the last remaining veteran from two seasons ago. And if it wasn’t for his massive contract, Washington would have no problem continuing on without him, too.
McGee is a physical specimen. A seven-footer with extremely long arms that has no trouble running the floor even with his big frame. In fact, he’s one of the most athletic centers in the league, and flying down court seems to be rather easy for him. His long strides make him a threat on every fastbreak and his long arms make him a fantastic finisher at the rim. Last season, he scored 1.28 points per possession in transition, one of the top marks in the league.
His long arms also contribute to his defensively ability. The common perception of players with long arms is that they are or can become good shot blockers simply because, well, they can contest almost every shot. Most of the time that is false, because blocking a shot requires more than just the raw physical abilities to leap and contest the shot as players need to have anticipation skills and need to know how not foul the player shooting the ball.
Well, in McGee’s case, its all about the physical aspect. If JaVale sees a player coming at him, he contests the shot. There’s no logic to it really. He’s not making quick assessments as to who the shooter is and whether or not allowing him to get a bad shot off is better than contesting and getting called for a foul, he’s just trying to block the shot.
And he’s good at it, too. For such a raw player in his second season, his 3.8 blocks per 36 minutes is a fantastic number. Once McGee develops a better feel for
the game and starts comprehending defensive schemes, his physical abilities will turn him into one of the best defenders in the league at the center position.
McGee is not a great isolation defender and his lanky frame isn’t ideal against a banger in the post, but in every other situation, his numbers were sterling last season. He held opponents to just .58 points per possession on pick and rolls, the second best mark in the league, while also limiting spot-up shooters to .74 points per possession. His long arms allow him to contest not only shots at the rim but also power forwards and centers that like to step away from the basket and shoot.
Offensively, McGee will likely primarily be a pick and roll man that finishes at the rim with that top of the line athleticism. His range extends to 10 feet at best, where he shot 46% from last season with just 1.1 shot attempts from that distance per game. During Summer League, he did knock down a couple of 12-foot jump shots and displayed a low post move or two, but its not likely that giving him the ball on the block will be a frequented play this upcoming season.
And that’s OK. JaVale has enough defensive potential to make an impact for a team so there’s no reason to make him an offensive focal point. Being an effective pick and roll player, which JaVale was last season, scoring 1.18 points per possession (23rd in the league), will be good enough, especially with John Wall running it with him.
Wall and McGee showed a surprising amount of chemistry (some video evidence here) not only while running the pick and roll, but also on drives to the basket by Wall that JaVale tracked down and finished if they came off the rim. Being able to read your teammates shots near the basket is a useful tool to have because it gives the big man an advantage on the offensive glass because they know what to expect from their teammate.
Wall, a dynamic point guard with top notch athleticism for his position, is the future and face of the WIzards. Over the next eight to nine years, Wall should lead the team in scoring and assists while being the crunch time scoring option on every night. But everybody needs a wingman, and right now, McGee seems to fit the bill. He doesn’t have a complete skillset, but he has the potential to be dominate defensively and he looks to have great continuity with Wall on the other end. This long seven-footer, with inspector gadget like arms has the ability to control a game with his shotblocking and might be the league’s highest leaper at the basket.
Washington has a nice looking core going forward. With Wall, McGee, power forward Andray Blatche, small forward Al Thornton, and international big man Kevin Seraphin growing together and with Gilbert Arenas being the only player that will make over $9 million over the next four years, the Wizards have an excellent foundation and money to spend on free agents over the next four years.
The Wizards may not be in the playoff picture just yet, but they’re on the right track. And McGee is one of the main compartments on the train.
John Wall has been at the center of the NBA off-season this summer so long as you didn’t pay any attention to free agency. Of course, likely nobody skipped out on those fun two weeks so you may have forgotten that Wall was the #1 pick this summer and, well, he’s kind of a big deal.
Wall showed some instant chemistry with his teammates in Summer League, mainly JaVale McGee, who is also a shoe-in for a roster spot on the actual Wizards. Wall found McGee many times on alley-oops and rolls to the basket and when Wall drove to the rim and missed, McGee was there most of the time to follow it up with a dunk. Wall also found whoever the corner shooter was multiple times and he would have averaged 13 or 14 helpers a game if those guys where making shots.
In one of his games, Wall finished with 21 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. The Wizards won and Wall had some game-clinching free throws. That may look like another day at the office but Wall actually had one of the worst shooting performances of the Summer League, going four-of-19 from the field with most of his misses coming on jumpers that were the result of a failed crossover or dribble drive move. What’s impressive is that Wall still found his corner shooters, still got to the rim which cleared space for JaVale McGee and was in complete attack mode when it mattered, resulting in 15 free throw attempts (13 makes).
Obviously, Wall will have to tighten up on his turnovers. That was a big issue for him and college and defenses aren’t getting any worse in the NBA (well, at least most of the time they don’t). Almost all young players will struggle taking care of the ball when they enter into the league and Wall is no different. He isn’t an excellent passer as of yet. He has a feel for the game but he’s young and can be tempted into making the highlight reel pass a tad too often which is another reason his turnovers were high at Kentucky.
On the defensive side of the ball, Wall has a chance to be one of the league’s best defenders. And really, look around the league right now and tell me if there is one point guard that you can consider an elite, shutdown defensive player. I think the closest thing is Russell Westbrook and he still has some room to grow. The advantage Westbrook and Wall have is their height (both are around six-foot-three or four) and their strength. Chris Paul is hard nosed but he is too short to shut down his opponent. Wall has the size and athletic ability to be an excellent defender and he’s willing to work on that end.
The one wildcard in all of this is the relationship between John Wall and Gilbert Arenas and how it may hamper his progression as an NBA superstar. From everyone I have talked to surrounding the Wizards, the plan right now seems to be to allow Wall to dominate the basketball and run the team as the true point guard. Is Arenas going to be OK with that? Hopefully he is so we can see Wall at his full potential but I still think the best option is trading Arenas for a shooting guard so that he has 100% complete control over the team.
When it comes to Wall I think I know what to expect. A dominant athlete that will take over games on dribble drives and make those LeBron-esque fancy passes to JaVale McGee and nice corner dishes to Gilbert Arenas (?) that result in efficient looks. But even though I have a good idea of what he will be, the suspense is not gone. Thousands packed into a tiny college gym in Las Vegas during Summer League to watch John Wall because you never know what you’re gonna get with him. He’s just like LeBron in that sense. He’s going to put on a show in every game he plays and every game he plays is going to be a spectacle. And again, just like LeBron was when he was drafted, Wall is nowhere near done growing as a player and he will definitely progress his game as time goes on.
- John Wall will average 19 points, seven assists and four rebounds. He will win rookie of the year, be named to the All-NBA rookie first team, and score 27 points in the rookie-sophomore game. He will have two triple-doubles this season.
- JaVale McGee will block 2.1 shots per game.
- Andray Blatche will come close to average 20 points and 10 rebounds but will end up at 18 and 9.2.
- Gilbert Arenas will have a seven three-point game this season.