John Wall Needs to Eat, Too

The Wizards are a respectable 11-6 without their all-star point guard, but their "everybody eats" rallying cry is running out of time in the District.

“Everybody eats” is an appropriate and entertaining mantra for a Wizards team in search of an identity without all-star point guard John Wall, but time is slowly expiring on its novelty in the District.

After impressive wins against some of the NBA’s upper class (Oklahoma City, Toronto, and Cleveland), fans, pundits, and even teammates began to wonder whether the Wizards were indeed better without their primary playmaker. This initial burst of success without Wall (the Wizards won the first five games) made the “everybody eats” rallying cry a credible theory for why Washington was so effective without their starting point guard. The Wizards were moving the ball better, making extra passes, and playing with an urgency unseen prior to Wall’s injury.

When comparing the Wizards’ current starting lineup (Tomas Satoransky, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, and Marcin Gortat) with their original starting five (Wall, Beal, Porter, Morris, and Gortat), the discrepancy in net production per 100 possessions is glaring:

Regular Season: 5-Man Combinations Table
    Net Net Net Net Net Net Net Net Net Net Net Net Net Net Net Net Net Net Net Net Net Net
B. Beal | M. Gortat | M. Morris | O. Porter | J. Wall 446:38 +6.5 +2.7 -2.8 +.043 +0.7 -3.5 +.072 +.049 +0.5 +0.4 +.006 -3.0 -4.2 +1.6 -4.2 -0.8 -1.7 +2.8 +0.5 -0.3 -0.6 -0.6
B. Beal | M. Gortat | M. Morris | O. Porter | T. Satoransky 318:06 +13.0 +7.3 +0.7 +.077 -0.2 -8.3 +.103 +.076 -1.3 -2.6 +.051 +0.5 +5.1 +7.8 +5.1 +4.1 +9.5 +10.9 -0.3 +1.0 +0.9 +1.7
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 3/7/2018.

The Wizards are simply scoring better (+13.0 without Wall versus +6.5 with Wall) and assisting better (+10.9 without Wall versus +2.8 with Wall). These two metrics help define the “everybody eats” attitude: share the scoring load and make the extra pass.

Wall’s absence has certainly accelerated the development of Satoransky (127 ORtg) and forced Beal (career-high 4.6 assists per game) and Porter (career-high 18.7 PER) to step into even bigger playmaking roles. All three of these players have excelled in Wall’s absence. This development will undoubtedly make the Wizards stronger once Wall returns, which, surprisingly, cannot come soon enough.

After a beatdown in Philadelphia, a meltdown against Boston, a blowout versus Charlotte, and three consecutive losses to Golden State, Toronto, and Indiana, the Wizards are demonstrating that it’s okay if “everybody eats,” but they also need Wall to do some feeding and eating in order to be the best version of themselves.

While the before and after starting lineup production discrepancies are stark, providing fodder for the anti-Wall contingent, micro performance statistics indicate that the Wizards are missing Wall’s unrelentingly aggressive, determined style of play  -- the edge, or chip, or swag, or personality that can take over games and alter outcomes through singular plays. Wall’s importance is best viewed by comparing some advanced statistics with his “everybody eats” crew:

Advanced Table
Player PER FTr AST% BLK%
John Wall 19.1 .366 43.0 2.9
Tomas Satoransky 16.0 .272 24.7 0.7
Otto Porter 18.7 .154 10.1 1.3
Markieff Morris 13.1 .181 10.0 1.6
Marcin Gortat 14.7 .289 10.3 2.4
Bradley Beal 19.2 .254 21.2 1.1
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 3/7/2018.

PER: Doing More Good...Than Most

A five-time all-star, Wall has a higher PER (19.1) than every Wizard except fellow all-star Beal (and it's essentially the same), indicating that Wall is fully capable of doing more good than harm when he returns. Even in a down year by his own standards, Wall’s capable of contributing positively to the team--arguably more than anyone else.

Free Throw Attempt Rate: Getting to the Rim and Getting to the Line

Wall also has a higher free throw attempt rate (.366) than everybody currently playing on the Wizards. Wall’s brilliance getting to the rim and getting to the line (8.6 FTA per 100 possessions) is exactly what the Wizards need in closeout situations. Beal, who is missing long, contested jumpers (he is shooting 1 for 16 in the final 10 seconds of close games), and Porter, who is disappearing in clutch time (0 field goal attempts in the final 10 seconds of close games), haven’t been getting it done. Wall’s ability, and willingness, to drive to the basket should provide better late-game playmaking opportunities than what’s currently available.

Assist Percentage: Feeding Teammates

The idea that the Wizards are passing better because Wall is missing might be true, but it’s not because Wall wasn’t passing before he was injured. Wall overwhelmingly has the team’s highest assist percentage (.430), indicating he assists nearly half of his teammates’ field goals while on the court. Bringing Wall’s passing acumen back into the lineup will only amplify the “everybody eats” culture -- Wall does it better than anyone.

Block Percentage: Defensive Weapon

The Wizards haven't had many showstopping, game-altering blocks since Wall’s been sidelined because, well, Wall is one of the best in the league at disrupting and blocking shots. Wall’s block percentage (2.9) is better than Beal's (1.1) and Porter’s (1.3) combined. Wall tends to intensify his defensive awareness and playmaking when games get tight. He would have been a great choice to check Kyrie Irving during the last seconds of regulation in the Wizards loss to Boston a month ago. Instead, an overmatched Morris fouled Irving during a 3-point attempt, sending him to the line for three free throws. After sinking all three, Irving and the Celtics won easily in overtime.  

With a respectable 11-6 record without Wall, there is no reason to panic and rush the recovering all-star back. “Everybody eats” can continue to motivate the Wizards’ current rotation and keep them afloat in a tight, competitive Eastern Conference. It’s becoming increasingly evident, though, that the Wizards need Wall at the table.

Everyone can keep eating. Wall just needs to eat some, too.

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