All NBA players aren't created equal, and what is expected of them differs depending on their teams’ needs.
That definitely holds true for point guard John Wall, who has been in a slump even though the Wizards have prospered. While he averages 14 points and 7.5 assists for the season, in his first seven games this month Wall was a sub-par in 42-for-100 shooting from the field (42%). His accuracy has declined even more in his last four games, shooting 13-for-45 (28.8%).
The Wizards enter Wednesday’s game vs. the Detroit Pistons on a three-game winning streak and winners of seven of their last 10. They are 13-9 since Wall’s Jan. 12 return from a stress injury to his left knee cap.
Wall only played 24 minutes in a 90-84 win at the Toronto Raptors to start the week, finishing with the stat line of a reserve: 10 points, seven assists, five rebounds and one steal. With the Raptors trying to mount a late comeback, Wall converted a layup with 45.9 seconds left to help seal the outcome. His backup, A.J. Price, was more of an offensive threat with 12 points.
“I’m going to play guys that are doing things well for us. A.J. Price was a big key,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “I’m not on a ‘this guy gets 35 minutes no matter what’ (coach). You go out and you perform. You do the things that you’re supposed to do for this team and it’s being successful, I’m going to ride you.”
What Wittman expects from Wall isn't the same as All-Stars Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers) and Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder) give to their teams from the same position. Both are capable of 40-point explosions. Irving averages 23.2 points and 5.6 assists and Westbrook produces 22.9 points, 8.0 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game.
The systems they play in require them to score more. Westbrook starts next to a shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha who averages less than 8 points but is primarily there for his ability to defend the wing. Wall has to be careful not to pay too much attention to the box score and worry about comparisons.
“He can do other things. John doesn't need to get caught up in the numbers of scoring to be effective. He’s the type of player that can put a stamp on the game without points,” said Wittman. “I got to get him to understand the player he is he can affect the game in such a positive way has nothing to do with points. (It’s) pace of the game, assists, getting guys in the flow defensively.
That puts Wall in the category of Ricky Rubio of the Minnesota Timberwolves. In his second NBA season, Rubio is noted for his court vision, defense and ability to orchestrate. Like Wall, Rubio's ability to stretch the floor with his shot lags far behind the rest of his game.
At the top of his form, veteran Jason Kidd of the New York Knicks is closer to the vision that Wittman has for Wall. A nine-time All-Star, Kidd never averaged more than 18.7 points in a season but he did everything well, especially clutch three-point shooting and defense, as he quarterbacked the Dallas Mavericks to an NBA championship in 2011.
“There are some players who can just affect the game with their scoring. He’s not one of those,” Wittman said of Wall. "I've got to continually stress that with him.”