Ever since the draft, I’ve been anxious to see more of John Wall’s play on the basketball court. Sunday night I got my first exposure to the post-draft John Wall, albeit a day late thanks to a leg injury Thursday that sidelined Wall for Washington’s first Las Vegas Summer League game on Saturday.
After watching him play, he looked very impressive, although I will reserve more definite judgment until he faces a team other than the Golden State Warriors, whose ragtag collection of Summer Leaguers are no better on defense than their NBA counterparts. Still, there were some things to note.
First of all, the significance of Wall’s injury appeared to fall somewhere between negligible and looking like it never happened, as he was very sharp from an athletic point of view. The remarkable speed we’d grown accustomed to seeing from him day in and day out in college was there, and there were no signs of pain when he tried to press on the gas.
The result was a continued exuberance in the open court, slashing up and down in the transition offense looking for quick buckets. It appears that he will have no trouble succeeding on the fast break at the highest level, if this game was any indicator.
One very good sign was Wall’s incredible chemistry with center JaVale McGee, and the two were in rhythm the entire game. Wall looked great off the pick and roll with McGee, putting pressure on flashing big men and either blowing by them or finding McGee as he dove to the rim. He even connected on several alley-oop attempts with the 7-footer over the course of the game, which got a rise out of the small crowd.
Coming into the league, one of the concerns about Wall was his ability to score from the perimeter with his jump shot. In this game, he looked like he had been working on his stroke. In fact, his shots off the dribble looked beautiful. It was his set shot that looked like it still needed some work. Nevertheless, he’s way ahead of the curb in developing his perimeter game.
In the half-court set, Wall did not look as comfortable on offense, struggling to get to the rim on his own. Most of the time, he resorted to passing to an open teammate, and he racked up 8 assists on the night thanks to his willingness to distribute. That said, he’ll need to work harder on blowing by his man and getting to the cup if he wants to be an elite scorer in the league.
Additionally, Wall’s risk-taking in this game was a red flag, but that’s the nature of Summer League basketball. At times he looked like he was running too fast for his own good, and a couple times lost the ball out of bounds off of a bad dribble in mid-stride. He was also very daring on some of his passes, and that resulted in a number of giveaways. The consequence was a sub-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. But like I said, that’s all part of the league. These players are looking to impress and take chances in games that don’t truly matter, and Flip Saunders should enjoy seeing that out of Wall. He’ll need to be an impact player right away for the Wizards, and the more practice he gets at those home-run plays, the more likely he is to convert them come regular season.