John Wall casually dropped the line in the postgame media scrum at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night, minutes after torching the New York Knicks with 28 points, 17 assists and five rebounds in the Washington Wizards’ 111-108 win.
“If I’m making jump shots,” he said, “I’m a different player.”
The book on Wall since he entered the league as the top pick in the 2010 draft is that perimeter shooting is by far his biggest offensive weakness. Wall knows it. Defenses sag off him, weary of letting the speedy point guard blow right by hapless defenders to finish at the basket or create for others. The scouting report has always been let him shoot and absorb the occasional make.
The question, therefore, has always been: How good could Wall be if he could become a reliable, not even great, shooter? The Knicks caught a glimpse of Wall’s potential in the fourth quarter Tuesday. With the Wizards staggering to the final buzzer, Wall scored seven straight points — a pair of fadeaway mid-range jumpers and his third three-pointer of the night – to extend Washington’s lead to 10 points. The Knicks let him shoot and he capitalized.
“He’s playing with good confidence,” Wizards Coach Randy Wittman said. “He’s getting his legs into his shot consistently and that’s the main thing for him. When he gets lazy for his legs that’s where I think he kind of comes short. So he’s staying strong into his shot and that’s been big.”
Wall’s shooting has improved drastically since his the beginning of his career, particularly from three-point range. He shot an atrocious 7.1 percent from three-point range his second season. After shooting 30 percent from beyond the arc last season, he is shooting a career-best 35.5 percent, including 38.2 percent since Dec. 1, as Washington has shot more three-pointers than ever before this season in its pace-and-space offense.
He’s shooting 38.1 percent on catch-and-shoot three-pointers and 35.5 percent on open three-pointers, meaning when a defender isn’t within four feet. Last season, he shot 33.6 percent on catch-and-shoot tries and 32.3 percent when left open.
The better three-point shooting has offset his dip in mid-range efficiency from last season, when he shot a career-high 40.2 percent from outside the paint to the three-point line. This season, he’s shooting 35.9 percent from the area.
“Just focusing a lot on trying to change my form and make sure I work on it,” Wall said. “I know that’s what teams are going to give me: spot-up shots. And being able to shoot off the dribble … I’m getting ones into a rhythm where I want the ball and I’m able to make shots.”