John Wall’s Rookie Season in Context and Recent Point Guard Comparisons

In his 2010-11 rookie campaign, rookie John Wall valiantly led the Washington Wizards through another losing season. Despite his team’s struggles, his first season was a personal success. He stayed hungry (too hungry?) throughout a litany of injuries, a Gilbert Arenas trade, and unfocused teammates. How did John Wall’s season look on paper and how does it compare to the rookie seasons of other young successful point guards?

The Simple Picture–Wall vs. 2011 Rookies: Few rookies put up better per-game numbers than John Wall (these are the more traditional stats that are used for determining ROY contenders and winners). This is the story of how Wall’s season will be remembered by most fans and analysts. These more rudimentary statistics suggest Wall had a statistically dominant season for a rookie point man. He was 2nd among rookies in PPG (16.4), 1st in APG (8.3), 7th in RPG (4.6), 1st in SPG (1.8), 18th in BPG (.5). In fact, in looking at the entire league, he was 6th in the APG and 5th in SPG. That being said, league-wide, he was also 2nd in TOPG (3.8) and he shot 41% from the field and under 30% from three-point land. On the whole, Wall filled up the box score, albeit inefficiently, despite suffering through injuries and Andray Blatche as a “teammate.”  It comes as no surprise that he finished 2nd in ROY voting.

The Muddled Picture–Wall vs. Recent Rookie PGs: The previous paragraph, not without reason, reflects a stellar rookie campaign from John Wall. But what happens when we compare Wall’s rookie year to other recent rookie seasons from point guards on the basis of more advanced statistics? Although we have reason to expect big things from J-Wall, the picture becomes fuzzier when his comparisons are the likes of Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, and Deron Williams. Here’s how Wall’s season ranks in a more telling analysis among 8 different rookie point guard seasons.

Click to zoom in!

Wall is able to stand out in both positive and negative ways among this elite group.

The Good: Among the 8 players shown, Wall ranked 1st in MPG, 1st in Block %, 2nd in Assist %, and 3rd in Steal %. Wall was far and away the best shot-blocker (unsurprising given his size, length, and athleticism) and along with Paul, was in a separate league as a passer (both made assists on over 36% of possessions used, while no one else here eclipsed 30%).

The Bad: While Wall wasn’t last or even second to last in FG% (6th), 3PT% (4th), or FT% (6th), he finished 7th in PTS/36min and 6th in True Shooting%. Wall obviously needs to improve his scoring and shooting efficiency, but as Chris Paul (among others) has proven, these can be improved with practice and time. Paul shot 43% from the field his first season, but he has shot as high as 50.2% from the field (2008-09). Paul’s 28.2% from beyond the arc improved to 40.9% in 2009-10. Wall just needs to improve his shot, shot-selection, and finishing. Wall’s shot-selection wasn’t the only indication of poor decision-making–of the displayed group he ranked dead last (8th) in Turnover%, and it wasn’t particularly close. Turnovers are about the worst thing a player can commit in basketball, and coupled with his inefficient scoring, it led to Wall finishing 7th in both Win Shares and WS/48min.

Rookie Season Recap: Wall’s ranks among his peers more or less confirm what most experts would say about him: He is a hard-working and unselfish leader who could stand to improve his shooting efficiency, decrease his turnovers, and couple lock-down defense (via lateral movement) along with his disrupting length.

The Future: The point guards on that list with 3+ years experience (Rose, Westbrook, Paul, Williams) all made their biggest leaps after their 2nd year (i.e. in their 3rd year) in the L. Observe:

Click to zoom in!


Two things stand out in these data: 1) Chris Paul is an APBR monster (old news, I suppose). 2) The rate of improvement between year 2 and year 3 is twice as large as the rate of improvement from year 1 to year 2. The average PERs among the four point-men for year 1, year 2, and year 3 are 16.4, 18.9, and 24.1, respectively. They improved on average 14.9% after their rookie season and 27.4% after their second season. Based on these average increases, Wall could expect to improve his PER from his rookie 15.8 to 18.2 in year 2, and 23.1 in year 3.

PER is a catch-all metric, however, and in looking at the chart, we can see how other players changed in Wall’s “problem areas”–shooting and turnovers. Mostly everyone consistently improved their shooting percentages, which is expected and a good sign for Wall. What is surprising is that of the four players, only Paul and Westbrook improved their turnover rates; Rose was more or less even and Williams got significantly worse. The good news for Wall is that he can’t get much worse, so improvement is almost a given, and that he played on a horrid team whose likely improved chemistry will translate to fewer J-Wall turnovers.

Big Picture: Wall is hardworking, team-oriented, and uber-athletic. This translated to excellent numbers in minutes, assists, and defense. He also must improve his shot and his decision making, which will translate to improved shooting percentages and fewer turnovers. Wall is young and gifted with young and gifted teammates and Wizards owner Ted Leonsis is committed to rebuilding the franchise responsibly. Don’t be surprised if Wall’s rate of improvement surpasses that of the other point guards mentioned in this post. In fact, don’t be surprised if he becomes a monster-mixture of LeBron James and Chris Paul. Soon enough, he’ll have more and more reason to do this:

How do you think Wall stacks up? How good is his dougie-game and at what rate do you expect it to improve? Comment on the article or e-mail us at AGRbasketball (at) gmail (dot) com. Don’t forget to follow @AGRbasketball on Twitter and to like us on Facebook.

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2 Responses to John Wall’s Rookie Season in Context and Recent Point Guard Comparisons

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