On November 8th, the Wizards found themselves 2-8 on the season, and it has felt like the team’s record is even worse than it is. How did they get here? Most of the fingers are pointing to both John Wall and Scott Brooks. Brooks has been accused of mishandling the lineups and failing on defensive scheme, and Wall has just not looked himself this year. Surely some will find a way to blame Dwight Howard.
Last Sunday against the Knicks, even in a Wizards win, the signs of the failure of this year were present for Wall and the Wizards. Often times when star players are accused of bad defensive play it is in the form of a play or two from many different games where the player falls asleep on a cutter or their man in some other way, a la James Harden. Picking and choosing one play from one game can be unfair to these players sometimes and may not tell the whole story. Wall’s performance on the whole vs. the Knicks, though, was very troubling for the Wizards.
So far this year, Wall’s defensive rebounding rate is down to his all time worst at 7%, a drop from 13% just a couple of years ago. In the modern NBA, many guards, instead of going after the rebound hard, look to find the ball and start the break, but in Wall’s case that’s not whats happening.
When the shot goes up here, Wall simply watches the shot and stands almost still, while his man Damyean Dotson jogs past him and is able to pick up the rebound.
Wall is guarding Dotson again here, and again starts ball watching and doesn’t react at all when the shot goes up. Dotson crashes the boards and is in perfect position to snatch a potential rebound.
Here Wall is guarding Emmanuel Mudiay, who has never been known as much of a three point shooter, deep past the three point arc, starts ball watching as Allonzo Trier goes in for the layup, then stands and watches as Mudiay runs in to crash the boards.
Here Wall gets back slowly and performs a lazy switch with his man wide open in the corner, before picking up Lance Thomas at the top of the key. When the shot goes up again, Wall watches and stands still while Thomas crashes in for the rebound.
John Wall’s failing at this level on the defensive boards is really a doubly problematic for the Wizards, because not only are these extra possessions that the Wizards are losing out on, but also it means that Wall isn’t able to grab the defensive rebound and go to start the transition, an aspect of the game where he is elite.
The smart teams know that the guard getting the board to start the break is very valuable, as Mark Cuban’s angry reaction in the top left of the screen below shows when DeAndre Jordan steals a rebound from Luka Doncic.
Whether it’s poor leadership, his new contract extension, or something else entirely, the effort simply hasn’t been there from the former number 1 pick. For the Wizards to start to turn this around, the team needs more from Wall on the defensive end, and getting more active on the boards is a good place to start.
by Robert Garcia, Northwestern University