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Has John Wall Hit His Ceiling? A Response

 

Yesterday over at ESPN Insider, NBA writer/talking head Chris Broussard presented the views of some NBA executives and scouts about the present and future of Wizards PG John Wall. Some of the comments hit the target (Wall's jumper is bad, he doesn't use pace in his game, and his decision-making isn't good); others were baffling enough to make me wonder if the scout being quoted actually watches much basketball. I mean, Wall is like Steve Francis? What?

At any rate, Broussard and his anonymous execs and scouts have offered a lists of players they consider similar enough to Wall to warrant comparison. The article talks about the first two years of a PG's career, so let's start there -- a look at the first two years.

Here are the players mentioned in the article:

  • John Stockton
  • Gary Payton
  • Steve Nash
  • Chauncey Billups
  • Chris Paul
  • Kyrie Irving
  • Derrick Rose
  • Tyreke Evans
  • Deron Williams
  • Russell Westbrook
  • Steve Francis

For good measure, I'm going to add some names that William Stokes (from WizofAwes.com) and I discussed on Twitter yesterday: Kevin Johnson, Mark Jackson, Jason Kidd, Rod Strickland, Isiah Thomas, and Gilbert Arenas. Just for giggles, I'm also throwing in the gold standard for PGs: Magic Johnson.

Here's a table showing some key stats for this group of players, sorted by PPA. PPA is the overall rating stat I developed, which credits players for doing things that help teams win and debits them for things they do that don't help teams win. PPA accounts for defense, adjusts for pace, and includes a "degree of difficulty" adjustment based on how many starters are on the floor during that player's minutes. In PPA, 100 = average and higher is better. (Table shows stats for each player's first two seasons. I've included Kyrie Irving despite the fact that he's still in his second season because he was mentioned by a scout.)

PLAYER  GMS  MPG  PPA 
Magic Johnson 114  36.5  216 
Chris Paul 142  36.3  172 
Kevin Johnson 161  31.7  165 
Mark Jackson 154  37.2  153 
Kyrie Irving 81  32.5  146 
Steve Francis 157  38.0  141 
Jason Kidd 160  35.6  133 
John Stockton 164  20.9  130 
Rod Strickland 163  21.5  122 
Derrick Rose 159  36.9  121 
Gilbert Arenas 129  31.2  113 
Gary Payton 163  29.4  111 
Russell Westbrook 164  33.4  110 
Isiah Thomas 153  36.1  107 
John Wall 135  37.0  104 
Tyreke Evans 129  37.1  104 
Deron Williams 160  32.9  97 
Steve Nash 141  16.7  87 
Chauncey Billups 125  29.6  87 
       

So, Wall rates slightly above average for his first two seasons combined compared to the NBA, but is solidly below average for this group. Average PPA for this set of PGs is 128. If I eliminate Magic, the average drops to 124.

However, a glance at that table would suggest that the scouts are mostly talking out of their collective asses when they attempt to argue that Wall has hit his ceiling. Yeah, he definitely has LOADS of room to improve, but look at the names of the guys less productive than Wall through their first two seasons -- Deron Williams, Steve Nash and Chauncey Billups. Now look at the names of the guys just above Wall -- Isiah Thomas, Russell Westbrook, Gary Payton and Gilbert Arenas.

Williams, of course, has become a perennial All-Star. Nash, of course, became a two-time league MVP. In the years Nash won MVP, Billups might have actually been better.

Isiah had a peak PPA over 200, and won a couple championships. Westbrook's PPA this season is 165. Payton's career average PPA was 150. Arenas had a 3-season run in Washington with a PPA over 150, and a peak over 160 -- the year Gerald Wallace wrecked Gil's knee.

That said, Wall still has lots of work to do on his game. If he wants to have the kind of career these guys had, he needs to address some of the deficiencies in his game the scouts and execs identified, specifically shooting, the ability to change pace, and improved decision-making.

One last chart. This one compares Wall's pace-adjusted per 40 minute stats with the average for this group of PGs.

STAT  WALL  AVG 
GMS 135 145 
MPG 37.0 32.0 
USG 25.5% 23.6% 
ORTG 100 107 
2PT% .432 .468 
3PT% .236 .326 
FT% .777 .779 
PTS 17.4 18.0 
REB 4.9 5.0 
AST 8.7 8.3 
STL 1.7 2.0 
BLK 0.7 0.3 
TOV 4.1 3.5 
AST/TOV 2.1 2.3 
PPA 104 128 
      
Has Wall hit his ceiling? If he has, he oughta be embarrassed. There's nothing wrong with his game that can't be fixed with diligent work and study. If he puts in the work, he has all the physical tools necessary to become an elite player. If he doesn't put in the work...he'll hang around the league for awhile as a good, but limited player. The kind of guy who tantalizes with his ability, but frustrates with his limitations.

If you have questions or have other players you'd like compared with Wall, shoot me a tweet @Broom_Kevin.

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