Feb 1, 2020; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall stands on the court during the second half against the Brooklyn Nets at Capital One Arena. Could the San Antonio Spurs try to trade for John Wall? Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
What would it cost the San Antonio Spurs to acquire John Wall?
Amidst all of the free agency signing announcements that came out yesterday, there slipped in one bombshell of a report that should have the attention of every NBA fan – John Wall wants out of Washington. Should the San Antonio Spurs look into trading for him?
The Athletic’s Shams Charania was the first to report the news of the former All-NBA guards’ desire to change locations. Unlike the reports of James Harden and Russell Westbrook being unhappy with their situations in Houston, this one comes as a bit of a surprise.
Wall is coming off of two injury-riddled seasons and missed the entire ’19-20 season recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon. The injuries are a huge risk for any team that does trade for him but the upside is equally evident.
When he was at his peak, Wall was firmly in the conversation for the title of “Best point guard in the NBA.” But that was three years and several debilitating injuries ago, can he ever return to that form?
Any deal for Wall wouldn’t be without risk but if the Spurs were to trade for him he would instantly be one of the best point guards they’ve had in franchise history.
I’m not saying that the San Antonio Spurs should trade for Wall, only that it is something that they should at least consider. Any time a player of this caliber puts up their hand and asks for a trade other teams around the league should weigh the possibilities. After all, it’s not every day that you can add a franchise-altering talent to your team.
Here’s a look at what kind of impact Wall could have on the Spurs on both ends of the floor and what it would likely cost the Spurs to trade for him.
Next: Wall's impact on offense
Dec 16, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) celebrates after scoring his fortieth point against the Los Angeles Lakers in the fourth quarter at Capital One Arena. The Wizards won 128-110. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
John Wall would give the San Antonio Spurs a proven floor general
At his best, Wall was a blur. He flew up and down the court, getting to the rim seemingly on demand and feeding his teammates a steady helping of pocket passes and precise kick out’s for open three’s. The injury to his Achilles has no doubt sapped some of his speed but he can still be an effective scorer and facilitator.
When we last saw him, Wall was still a dangerous option as a ball-handler in pick and roll situations. He was running through these actions on nearly 33 percent of his plays and averaged 0.87 points per possession, placing him close to the 61st percentile in the league.
One of the bigger critiques around Wall’s game was that, outside of being an electric slasher and passer, he didn’t give you much help as a perimeter shooter. It’s a bit of a nit-picky criticism, he was still able to make several All-Star teams and had an All-NBA selection to his name even with a shaky jumper. But it was something that he was improving on.
During his most recent All-Star campaign in the ’17-18 season, Wall was shooting roughly 4 3-point shots per game and was connecting on 37 percent of them. Not an elite percentage, but enough of a threat that it kept defenses honest and demanded that defenders not completely ignore him behind the arc.
It was enough to necessitate close-outs, which inevitably led to Wall attacking said closeouts and doing what he does best – finding ways to get to the rim or the free-throw line for easy points.
Another aspect that Wall would bring to the Spurs’ offense is that he’s got the confidence and shot-making ability to fill the role as their closer. Other than DeMar DeRozan, the Spurs didn’t have anyone that they looked comfortable looking to with the game on the line. It seems like a role that White could grow into with time but for now, it’s DeRozan’s alone.
If he’s able to return to form, trading for Wall could do wonders for the Spurs’ offense. He’d give them their most dynamic point guard since peak Tony Parker and, with DeRozan, could give them the backcourt they need to return to the playoffs.
Next: Wall's impact on defense
Nov 26, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) celebrates on the court against the Houston Rockets in overtime at Capital One Arena. The Wizards won 135-131 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
John Wall gives the San Antonio Spurs defense another elite perimeter defender
There’s no sugarcoating it, the San Antonio Spurs are coming off of the worst defensive season in franchise history. They gave up 113.5 points per 100 possessions this year, their worst mark since 1988 and bad enough to be 25th in the league.
The good news is that the team has already made key moves to address the issue. Their draft selections of Devin Vassell and Tre Jones should help them shore up their defense and if they move on from Bryn Forbes and Marco Belinelli they’ll have taken two more steps in the right direction. Adding Wall could be the third.
Wall was one of the best two-way guards in the league for a while there. He’s got an All-Defensive Second Team selection to his name and was one of the best in the league at creating fast break opportunities off of steals.
He was 12th in the league in steals per 36 minutes during the ’16-17 season with 2 steals per 36. That’s below where Murray was this year and it remains unclear if Wall will return to that level but he’s proven throughout his career that he’s an able and willing defender.
Many of Wall’s steals came as a result of his ability to read his man and use his speed to jump into passing lanes. That might not be there to the same degree after all the injuries but even if it’s not Wall is still going to be a plus defender.
It’s not hard to envision a future where Wall makes his peace with the loss of some of his athleticism and commits to bulking up. He’s always been one of the stronger guards in the league but if he leans fully into adding muscle to his frame over the next couple of years he could become an immovable rock of a defender.
A bulked-up albeit slower Wall, combined with the Spurs’ already solid young defenders could form one of the more versatile perimeter defenses in the league. And with Jakob Poeltl committed to San Antonio for the next few years it’s not hard to see the outlines of a pretty impressive defensive unit starting to take shape.
Next: What would it cost the Spurs?
Dec 19, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) dribbles the ball during the third quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
What would it cost San Antonio to acquire John Wall from Washington?
Trading for John Wall could be a tricky venture. On one hand, he’s an All-Star level talent. On the other, he’s a highly athletic ability dependant guard coming off of an Achilles tendon injury and he’s owed almost $133 million over the next three years.
Matching salaries wouldn’t be the issue for the Spurs. The question is could they come to an agreement that doesn’t totally blow up their team, gets them Wall, and possibly nab a draft pick down the line for taking his contract off the Wizards books?
It would be hard to part with Dejounte Murray but it’s hard to envision any deal happening that doesn’t include one or more of the Spurs’ young players. And as tough of a pill as it would be to swallow, giving up DJ is probably the better option than trading Derrick White to the Wizards, especially given the improvements that White had shown as a 3-point shooter towards the end of the season.
Including LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay would give the Wizards additional frontcourt depth and could help them contend for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. A starting lineup of Murray, Bradley Beal, Deni Avdija, Rui Hachimura, and Aldridge would be nothing to sneeze at.
For San Antonio, this trade lands them Wall and brings in Troy Brown in lieu of a future draft pick. Brown is a versatile wing who showed solid 3 and D potential. He’s a strong 6’6 wing with an impressive 6’10 wingspan who averaged 10.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.2 steals per game last year.
Those dimensions are nearly identical to Vassell’s. In just a few weeks the Spurs could add two strong wing defenders and totally shore up what had been a major area of weakness just weeks ago.
It really all comes down to what the Spurs want to do this year. If they’re planning to focus on developing young players and are planning to sell off their veterans then this absolutely isn’t the move. But if they want to make a push to return to the playoffs this wouldn’t be the worst way to go about it.
A team built around a duo of Wall and DeRozan, with a rotation of White, Lonnie Walker, Keldon Johnson, Luka Samanic, and Vassell complementing them on the perimeter with Jakob Poeltl holding down the paint could be a playoff contender.
I’m not saying the San Antonio Spurs should trade for John Wall but I’m not totally opposed to tit. At the very least it deserves some discussion.