It's been a minute since we've seen John Wall play consistent
He's logged just 72 regular-season game appearances — nearly
2,400 minutes — across the past four seasons. Injuries have
derailed an electrifying career, one that's seen Wall shine as one
of the most explosive point guards in basketball history.
Roster context — the Houston Rockets were young
and bad last season — played the largest role in
Wall's absence last season. Complicating matters was his lucrative
deal, too large for contenders to take on in realistic trade
packages, but also too much for Wall to agree to a contract
Until now, at least.
Yahoo's Chris Haynes dropped the bomb on Monday night, reporting
that Wall and the Rockets were nearing agreement on a buyout. He
eventually got it, giving back a little over $6 million back in
exchange for his free agent status. That status will likely be
short-lived, as ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Wall is bound for the Los Angeles
It's important to note that Wall isn't the early-2010s-Wizards
version of himself. He'll be turning 32 before the 2022-23 season
begins, and has injury mileage on his legs. Even the most recent
version of Wall saw him put up solid counting stats — 20.6 points,
6.9 assists in 32.2 minutes — but with awful efficiency. A 44.9%
clip from two, paired with a 31.7% clip from deep — on a
career-high 6.2 attempts, no less — is not what you want from your
The good news for the Clippers is that they don't need Wall to
do as much as he was tasked with during his last season in Houston.
Remember, Wall joined the team under the assumption that he'd be
James Harden's running mate. Harden was on the team for all of
eight games before being shipped to the Brooklyn Nets.
WHAT HE BRINGS
This a pretty fun fit on the surface.
With the understanding that he's going to be dropping in the
hierarchy, it's easy to envision Wall bouncing back from an
efficiency perspective. The jury's out on if Wall will start or
come off the bench (more on that later), but this is arguably the
best shooting talent he's been surrounded by in his career.
It's hard to overstate how bad Wall's context was the last time
we saw him.
Houston's most used lineup with Wall featured Kevin Porter Jr.
(31.1% from three), Jae'Sean Tate (30.8%), Christian Wood (37.4%),
and Kelly Olynyk (39.2%). And of that frontcourt pairing, only
Olynyk was actually treated like a legitimate threat when spaced
off the ball.
And yet, the Rockets generated nearly 1.13 points per possession
(PPP) on trips featuring a Wall pick-and-roll with that lineup on
the floor, per Second Spectrum. That's a darn good number.
That isn't close to perfect spacing; Wall-Wood or Wall-Olynyk
ball-screens seem good on their own, but think about defenses
cheating off of Porter or Tate at the same time.
Still, Wall was able to make it work.
Now, envision Wall running ball-screens with Ivica Zubac, an
underwhelming leaper, but a brutal screener with solid touch around
the basket. Zoom out, and think about the spacing those two will
have. Instead of dealing with help defenders sagging off of
non-shooters like Tate at the nail, Kawhi Leonard may be in his
place. Or Paul George. Or Luke Kennard. Norm Powell, Marcus Morris,
Robert Covington. Nicolas Batum if he's brought back. Hits a little
In relation to the star wings, think of the Boston Celtics for a
moment. As referenced many times on The Dunker Spot, Marcus Smart's
ability to generate paint touches is wildly important. Not only
does it help him scramble defenses, but Jayson Tatum and Jaylen
Brown also have the benefit of attacking scrambling defenses
instead of being the ones to bend it.
Wall could serve as a better version of that, no longer tasked
with being the offense; rather, being a drink-stirrer of sorts. He
remains a very good passer, and should be able to jump-start some
fast breaks for a Clippers team that didn't run a ton last season.
As long as he's able to generate paint touches, good things should
happen when he's on the floor.
Though the spacing should make life easier for Wall, he still
comes with his own limitations. He's simply fast now, instead of
the blinding blur he was during his prime. The spacing in Houston
was suboptimal, but it's worth noting that teams became
increasingly comfortable switching screens against him and daring
him to shoot.
A large portion of that is Wall's shaky jumper, particularly off
the bounce. But quietly, he didn't blow past bigs with the same
verve. Second Spectrum tracks blow-bys on drives, as well as the
percentage of drives that end in a blow-by. Wall's 18.8% blow-by
percentage during the 2020-21 season ranked 54th out of 69 players
to log at least 500 drives. For reference, that number was at 23.6%
during Wall's last All-Star campaign in 2017-18.
The jumper point still looms large though. He drained just 32.4%
of his pull-up twos during the 2020-21 season, per Second Spectrum.
He was worse on threes (29.1%). Off the ball, Wall is a "fine"
catch-and-shoot threat. Dating back to the 2017-18 season, he's
knocked down roughly 37% of his catch-and-shoot triples.
Considering the volume and his actual jumper — a bit of a slow
load up and low release — he's still below the threshold of teams
treating him like a real threat off the ball. He'll have to prove
he can knock down shots at a higher clip, as well as showcase some
juice as a cutter or occasional screener.
There's also the start-or-bench question. I'm at least a little
curious to see if he or Reggie Jackson has a problem with coming
off the bench. We've seen that pop up with the younger version of
Jackson elsewhere, and Wall was originally hesitant to accept a
bench role in Houston last season.
Ultimately, it may not matter. These are both veterans. Jackson
has spoken to the mutual lovefest he and the Clippers have, so that
may be an easier conversation to have. Wall is coming off a season
he didn't play, and is now joining a contender on mid-level
Wall may not be what he used to, but he doesn't have to be. As
an additive to an already-deep Clippers team, he should help juice