Should the Pelicans Trade for John Wall?

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Published: December 26, 2018

(Enjoy this guest post from Ben Alterman)

Why trade for a point guard?

  • In an interview with Rachel Nichols of ESPN, AD said that winning is the most important thing to him and adding another star next to him and Jrue is the best way to make the team better this year to help convince him to sign the supermax in the summer. Also, with Jrue and Wall both signed to long-term deals, it would give AD more security about the future of the franchise.
  • Since Elfrid Payton went down to injury, the Pels are 11-19 and have had to rely on stop gaps and backups in his place. Jrue has also said that he wants to be off ball. After a practice in late November, Jrue told reporters in a scrum, “Get me off the ball. Put Anthony at the point guard.”
  • The next day AD liked a John Wall photo on Instagram. This was the first photo AD had liked of Wall since July 12th.

Playoffs?

  • As inconsistently as the Pels have played up to this point in the season and ending up in the 14 seed and 3.5 games out of the playoffs, 538 still has the Pels as a top 10 team in the NBA and as the projected 8th seed in the West.
  • The Pels are a terrible team in the clutch which the NBA defines as the last 5 minutes of game with score +- 5 points. They are dead last in net rating and offensive rating. The defense is bad but only slightly worse than the team’s normal performance. Meanwhile the offense is 28.7 points per 100 possessions worse in the clutch. A point guard that can create for others and also attack the basket would be an enormous help for the Pels’ (in my opinion) biggest weakness.

John Wall Profile

  • For his career John Wall has averaged a 19.0, 9.2, 4.3, 1.7, 0.7 on a 46.2 eFG%, 78.1 FT%, 42.5 Assist%, and 17.3% TO rate.
  • In 2018 Wall is putting up a 20.7, 8.7, 3.5, 1.6, 0.9 on a 48.9 eFG%, 69.6 FT%, 40.4 Assist%, and 15.9 TO%.
  • Wall has also tended to elevate his game for the playoffs. He has averaged 26.8 points, 10.7 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 2.1 steals, 1.2 blocks in his last 2 postseasons (19 games).
  • Wall played at Kentucky like AD and the Pels lost 2 Kentucky players last year to free agency in Boogie and Rondo. Julius Randle and Darius Miller are not enough. (Only partially a joke)
  • Wall is also represented by Rich Paul of Klutch Sports (AD and Lebron’s agent)
  • Wall is stylistically a Gentry Ball player in that he likes to attack early in the shot clock. Unfortunately, he pairs that aggressiveness with a low shooting efficiency. The Gentry Ball numbers also point out that other Wizards players have lower frequencies of early attack but higher shooting percentages than Wall. This might be due to Wall creating assists for them in the open court. Big thanks to Shamit Dua for doing this research in the summer.

  • John Wall is also a name. John Wall is a player that would draw in casual fans much the same way Boogie did. Wall has made 5 All-Star games (2014, 2015, 2016, 2-17, 2018) and 1 All-NBA team (2017 3rd team). NBA stars like playing with other stars and the best teams tend to have multiple stars. Since Lebron went to South Beach, the 2014 Spurs are the only team to win a title with less than 2 or 3 All-Stars and that team still had Kawhi Leonard, 3 future hall of famers, and maybe the best coach in NBA history. I love Otto Porter (I have wanted him since the 2013 draft and would still love to have that elite 3 and D wing on the Pelicans), but he is not A NAME and the other star on the Wizards, Bradley Beal, will likely cost more in assets than the Pels are either capable of or willing to send out to acquire.
  • John Wall is a surprisingly similar player to Jrue Holiday in terms of quality. Both players are projected to be All-Star caliber over the next 5 seasons based of data from 538 (which is important given Wall’s very large contract). Wall is a higher usage player than Jrue. With that higher usage Wall scores slightly less efficiently than Jrue but with a much higher assist rate and similar turnover rate. Jrue is one of the elite defensive players in the league and while Wall hasn’t been great for the last 2 years, Wall used to have a reputation as one of the better two-way players in the league and actually was named to the second team All Defense in 2015 and 538 sees his defense as right around league average. Neither player is a very good shooter but are both are good athletes capable of attacking the rim and guarding either guard position. (Link to projections)

 

The Money Problem

  • Wall signed a 4-year $170 million designated player veteran extension in July 2017 that goes into effect next season. He is currently in the last year of a 5-year $85 million contract and makes $19.2 million this year.
  • Most NBA teams are reportedly very wary of trading for Wall due to the historic size of his upcoming contract. His recent play is not that of a top 10ish player that the DPVE is designed to reward. Anthony Davis will be eligible for a 5-year version of the DPVE in July.
  • Because of the enormous downside risk attached with paying any player $40+ million in his 30s (born September 6, 1990) and a desire to get out of the luxury tax going forward, the Wizards are reportedly listening to offers for all of the team’s 3 stars (Wall, Beal, Porter).
  • Woj has said that Wall is the least desirable of the three among NBA teams primarily due to his contract. This could lead to a trade for Wall requiring fewer assets than a trade for Beal or Porter.
  • Wall’s contract also has a 15% trade kicker that adds complexity to any trade.

What Happens if the trade is not enough?

If AD decides that he doesn’t want to sign the supermax next summer, Dell should move to trade him to the team that makes the best offer. It is that simple.

The Celtics and Lakers obviously would be natural partners with both teams having multiple young potential stars (Tatum, Brown, Ingram, Ball, etc.) and the constant “rumors” (I am not a Danny Ainge fan, Klutch and AD’s new mansion outside of LA + Lebron openly asking for AD). My favorite trade idea however would involve calling the 76ers and asking for Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz. The 76ers would have a truly unstoppable front court and Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler are not an ideal fit with neither player being a threat from the perimeter. A core of Wall, Jrue, Simmons, Niko, Randle, and Fultz is possibly even better than this current iteration of the Pelicans. It would also give the Pels multiple very good players locked into long term contracts which is extremely important for franchise stability purposes.

So, should the Pelicans trade for John Wall?

This season is likely Dell Demps final opportunity to convince Anthony Davis to sign with the team long term. As such, he should be as aggressive as possible to acquire another star to pair with his core of AD and Jrue. I don’t personally worry about the long-term concerns associated with Wall’s contract. Yes of course he will likely be greatly overpaid and if AD still chooses to leave, the Pels will still be burdened with his large contract. But Dell and this franchise has never shown any desire to do a 76ers style tear down. When Chris Paul asked to be traded, Dell’s first instinct was to find a “young veteran” in Goran Dragic as well as other real NBA players in Kevin Martin and Lamar Odom. When that trade with Lakers was vetoed by the “owner” of the team, he moved to the Clippers to find other “young vets” in Eric Gordon and Al Farouq Aminu. If Dell were to remain as GM he would likely attempt to do a similar trade. And a team with Jrue and Wall + insert traded player here will likely still be a good team.

I think John Wall is a good enough of a player that he is worth taking that risk on. He is in his prime at 28 and is actually a few months younger than the Pels current star guard in Jrue. One year ago, Wall was considered to be one of the elite players in the NBA and there was not much backlash against the contract at the time. I think in Gentry’s point guard friendly system and playing with a true superstar in AD, Wall can return to his star caliber play and help elevate this Pelicans team. If AD decides that he wants to play for a different franchise next summer, the Pelicans can transition to a new era that should still see the playoffs as an expected goal.

*All data in this article is accurate as of Wednesday, December 26, 2018

4 Comments

  1. Dylan

    December 26, 2018 at 5:47 pm

    I AGREE WITH EVERYTHING IN THIS POST! Great writing and Dell said at the beginning of the year that they would go into the Tax if it’s a player that makes them better. John Wall helps on the court as well as attendance. You have to make this move and deal with the repercussions later. GREAT WRITING!

  2. Anonymous

    December 26, 2018 at 6:06 pm

    Great article. I hope Dell listens.

  3. Farid

    December 26, 2018 at 6:41 pm

    Jason – thank you for a thorough and a well-researched post. The problem isn’t necessarily in Wall’s efficiency or contract, but it’s a lack of 3pt shooting on floor. Already now one can see serious spacing issues when Randle, Davis and Jrue are in at the same time, so opposing teams just pack it in. It was clearly better at the beginning of the year when Mirotic, Payton and E’twaun was playing 30+. Trading any of those guys away will make spacing a lot more persistent issue.

  4. RP

    December 28, 2018 at 11:17 am

    I’m actually a LA transplant to DC from before the Pels arrived, so while the Saints are my first love the Wiz are my second.

    I’ve probably watched 2/3 of the games Wall has played, and I am reasonably certain that he would lay waste to the league if he were traded to the Pels to play with AD & Jrue.

    Wall was drafted into an unquenchable tire fire of a franchise. Gungate had just happened, Arenas, Andray Blatche and others were still here, and yet ownership left the front office in place. Ernie Grunfeld is honestly the worst GM in any major sport, and one of his primary flaws is that he never, ever, ever holds players (or anyone else) accountable.

    Wall has in his ninth season playing for a dysfunctional team that never had any legit hope of contending, forever paying the price for Grunfeld’s win-now moves that kneecapped the team’s future.

    Wall also has a little bit of Rasheed Wallace in him, in that he’s not going to just be a “good soldier” and kill himself for a team that has no hope. He was able to delude himself for a long time, but the last two seasons he has just run out of self-delusion.

    You still see the real John Wall in the playoffs, when he’s a lock-down defender and averages 27-4-11 with 2 steals & 1.2 blocks. If he can somehow escape this Hindenburg franchise to a legit team, he’ll put out that kind of effort on a night-to-night basis, like he did through 2015.

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