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John Wall Isn't Helping Wizards Offense...Yet


The Wizards Meme o' the Day is this: John Wall's return to the lineup has made life easier for his teammates, which has led to them being more productive, which has helped the team to its current winning streak. This delightful story-line makes analysts (such as ESPN 980's Tony Massenburg, among MANY others) sound smart and sophisticated, makes fans feel happy, and when properly distilled will cure polio.

Okay, I made that last one up.

So what's the problem?

It's not true.

At best -- at best -- the available data would be termed "inconclusive." A more reasonable reading of the numbers would say that overall, Wall hasn't helped the Wizards...YET. At least not in the way these analysts keep saying he's helping.

Click over a moment to Wall's on/off numbers at 82games. If we are to believe what the analysts are telling us, the Wizards offense should be more productive. Except, in Wall's scant minutes, it isn't. During Wall's 41 total minutes, the Wizards have produced an offensive rating (points per possession times 100) of 97.6. In the minutes he hasn't played (1673 total minutes), they've produced 97.2.

Except, those numbers are deceptively good. Wall's 41 minutes have come in the past two games. While he's been on the floor, they've produced an offensive rating of 97.6. But, the team's offensive rating for those two games has been 113. In other words, the Wizards offense has been significantly worse when Wall's been on the floor since he's been back.

Drill down a little, and the numbers start getting equivocal. There's ample evidence for optimism (team shooting percentage was significantly higher when Wall was on the floor), and for pessimism (turnovers skyrocketed and offensive rebounding plummeted when Wall was on the floor).

But, I can hear folks saying, Wall's presence helps certain players (like Jan Vesely) more than others. Vesely is playing better, and Wall's alley-oop passes help give Vesely confidence. Nope, wrong again.

In Wall's two games back in the lineup, he and Vesely have shared the court for a total of 23 possessions. During that time, Vesely had two (2) field goal attempts (he made one). Vesely's improved play cannot be linked to Wall.

But...the Wizards are +6.8 points per 100 possessions when Wall's been on the floor. This is true -- and it's because the team defense has been significantly better. How much of that is attributable Wall...who knows?

My point here is decidedly NOT to trash Wall. When he rounds into shape and can play full-time, I believe he will make the Wizards better. Last season, the offense was a bit better when he was on the floor, despite his personal inefficiency.

Rather, I'm annoyed by the persistence of thoughtless memes -- of awarding credit where it isn't due. While he's a decent player and a good guy, Wall hasn't actually improved the team's offense since he returned to the lineup. He's been along for the ride, and the offense has actually been significantly better these past two games when he's been on the bench.

It's extremely likely that he'll be a net help to his teammates as he gets in better shape. But that's not what has happened on the floor...yet.