Inside Wall’s Three-Game Binge

It’s hard to overstate how much fun it’s been watching John Wall erupt these past three games. Wall, whose shooting woes have been well documented, abruptly became a gunner — knocking down an array of shots from everywhere on the floor. The shooting display, paired with skilled passing and overwhelming athleticism left opponents flummoxed, teammates impressed, and fans buzzing with what might be…if he can keep it up.

How abrupt was the change in Wall’s performance level? Regular readers are familiar with my overall rating stat, Player Production Average (PPA). It’s a summary measure I developed that credits players for things they do that help a team win and debits them for things that don’t — each in proper proportion, of course. PPA is pace-adjusted, accounts for defense, and includes a degree of difficulty factor. In PPA, average = 100, higher is better, and replacement level is 45.

Through the first 11 games this season, Wall’s PPA was a pedestrian 106. His non-scoring numbers were good, but his shooting was terrible. Here are his PPA scores for each of the past three games:

  • at Toronto — 280
  • New York — 178
  • LA Lakers — 293

Over the past three games combined, his PPA was 249. To put this in perspective, last season Lebron James was the league’s most productive player with a PPA of 284. Second place was Chris Paul with a 244. In other words, if Wall maintains this level of play, he’ll be producing like an MVP.

His onslaught this past week earned him the league’s Player of the Week honor, and evoked his sensational March from last season. For that month, Wall had a PPA of 201 — a score that would rank him in the top five players in the league most seasons.

The most important question is whether he can maintain this level of performance, and it’s at this point that enthusiasm should be tempered. A little. Wall’s numbers are up across the board, but the surge in his overall impact is because of his stellar shooting.

Consider his shot selection (data courtesy nbawowy.com):

SPLIT At-Rim Mid-Range Long 2pt 3pt
1st 11 gms 28% 16% 32% 24%
Last 3 32% 16% 42% 11%
March 28% 28% 36% 8%

This table shows where Wall’s field goal attempts have been coming from. He’s been getting to the rim a little more often the past three games than he did early in the season (and last March), but the bulk of his shots are still jumpers. For my taste, he’s still shooting too many low-yield shots from mid-range and long two-point range. Indeed, 58% of his FGA are from what stat goobers not-so-affectionately call “sh*t” shots.

SPLIT TOTAL FGA At-RIM FGM AT-RIM FGA AT-RIM FG% MID-RANGE FGM MID-RANGE FGA MID-RANGE FG% LONG 2pt FGM LONG 2pt FGA LONG 2pt% 3FGM 3FGA 3pt%
1st 11 gms 170 27 47 0.574 6 28 0.214 16 55 0.291 12 40 0.300
Last 3 57 16 18 0.889 5 9 0.556 11 24 0.458 3 6 0.500
March 275 45 78 0.577 34 76 0.447 44 99 0.444 10 22 0.455

A few things jump out at me. First, his incredible percentage (.889) on at-rim attempts. Wall’s been finishing well at the hoop, and he’s been drawing a ton of fouls. He’s obviously not going to keep shooting near 90% on at-rim attempts, but they’re still his most efficient shot (when he can get it), and his forays to the basket have other excellent results such as drawing fouls (Wall’s a superb free throw shooter) and opening up teammates for shots.

The mid-range shooting percentage isn’t sustainable, but he doesn’t shoot much from there so it doesn’t matter much. His long two-point attempts are a bigger issue because he’s shot from that range frequently throughout his career. His percentage from that range the past week has been acceptable (.458), although it’s still not a very productive shot for him.

Pts Per Shot At-Rim Mid-Range Long 2pt 3pt
1st 11 gms 1.15 0.43 0.58 0.90
Last 3 1.78 1.11 0.92 1.50
March 1.15 0.89 0.89 1.36

Like the rest of the league, Wall is most productive when he gets to the rim or he shoot three-pointers. Obviously it’s not realistic to expect all of his shots to come from those two areas — sometimes he has to take what’s available. But, the principle doesn’t change.

In some ways, the numbers should be downright scary to the rest of the league. Even with 42% of his shots being low-efficiency long twos over the past three games, Wall scored 99 points on just 57 field goal attempts. If opponents start overreacting to Wall’s decent shooting on jumpers, it should pave the way for attacking the hoop. Which will make Wall even more efficient and even more dangerous.

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