Our final roundtable review of the Clippers’ 2022 offseason is their signing of former star point guard John Wall to a 2 year, $13.2M deal at the tax-payer mid-level exception.
Ralston Dacanay: B
Another low-risk, high reward in my eyes, I do think taking a swing on John Wall — especially in the capacity in which they did — was a good call. Although losing Isaiah Hartenstein does sting, I think the Clippers’ front office ultimately did well to get Wall to agree to that two-year, $13.2 million contract, which includes a team option for the 2023-24 season. If it doesn’t work out with Wall, LAC is well-equipped to move on. If it does work out, well there are probably going to be some fun highlights to watch. Of course, expectations for Wall should be kept modest until proven otherwise. Everyone knows about how little he’s played in the past three years. Everyone knows about his injury history. However, with what appears to be a strong rapport already established between him and the 213 duo, his ability to still play with pace, pass and defend at a positive level, and Tyronn Lue leading the ship, I’m onboard with seeing what he has left. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s basically said everything you want to hear in interviews since joining the team, as well as appears to be locked in this summer. Bring on the starting point guard training camp duel.
Adam Auslund: B+
This signing will be the biggest test for the Clippers reputation as a revitalization station. With this front office, they’ve had a proclivity for bringing the best out of players who were given up on, or players whose best days appeared to be behind them. Then, after being dipped in Clippers culture, guys like Reggie, Batum, and RoCo emerged re-energized and custom wrapped into roles that fit their strengths. Wall’s best attributes may be more of a want than a need, and while his passing might be unnecessary with how much the ball will be in Kawhi and PG’s hands, this gives them an opportunity to play a style that could unlock more elements and options with a versatile roster. Of course much of his potential as a Clipper could be tied to his accuracy on catch and shoot threes (something he’s aware of) but Reggie went from never shooting better than 38% from three, to 43% next to Kawhi and PG a season ago. Wall’s best year was 37% from distance, but I wouldn’t be surprised if, like Reggie, Wall shoots a career high percentage from the outside.
As for his athleticism, I’ve posted a video of his most explosive plays (@followadama on twitter) in his 40 games as a Rocket, and as you can see he’ll still put pressure on the rim and get the Clippers playing faster. I don’t expect him to be a defensive liability either, and with the lack of energy he’ll have to use up on offense, he could be closer to the all-defensive 2nd team he made in 2015. For every concern I see with the signing, the most recent Clippers history and state of the franchise has me confident Coach Lue and the crew will make this work. “BUT RONDO?!” Sure. But while that didn’t workout, it didn’t hold them back from making their first WCF either.
Erik Olsgaard: B
I love the idea of John Wall on the Clippers. While I’ve never agreed with this idea that the one thing the Clips have been missing is a point guard, given the way Paul George and Kawhi Leonard play, it’s undeniable that having someone playmaking downhill like John Wall will add another dimension to the offense. But important questions remain: Is he still that John Wall? Can he still play defense at a high level? Will he buy into the culture that the organization has so expertly crafted? Thus far, he appears to be in great shape and has said all of the right things in interviews. The Clippers have a history of reinvigorating the careers of players the league’s written off, so I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if they did it again with Wall. And ultimately, for only the TPMLE with a team option in year 2, the team has a ton to gain and very little to lose. Truly the only reason I rated this a B was because the point guard position wasn’t really in dire need of improvement, and using the TPMLE on Wall might’ve cost us a better backup center option. But if this pans out, it could potentially make the Clippers title favorites this year.
Lucas Hann: B
I think this is a good, calculated risk for the Clippers that could easily wind up looking like an A or an F about six months from now. We all know about John Wall’s talent at his peak, we all know about how little he has played in the last few years and his injury history. In a half-season’s worth of games with the Rockets two years ago, which is the most recent data we have, Wall showed he was still capable of a lot of production (20 points and 7 assists per game), but overall struggled so severely with efficiency that it’s hard to determine with certainty if he’s capable of contributing to a good team. That said, there are plenty of arguments to be made for optimism that he’ll be even better now than he was in those 40 games–he’s further removed from major injury, he’ll be on a team that is fielding competitive lineups (the Rockets were tanking), and he won’t need to shoulder such a high offensive workload on a team with two superstars and multiple other role players who can create offense.
Zooming out, the addition of Wall using the taxpayer mid-level exception is an interesting wrinkle in the Clippers’ decision to play small more extensively next year, as that’s the money that we expected to go towards the backup center position (Isaiah Hartenstein or a replacement). Adding another guard to compete for minutes with Reggie Jackson, Norman Powell, Terance Mann, Luke Kennard, and Amir Coffey creates a minutes crunch on the second unit. We’ll never know if Hartenstein could have been kept for the tpMLE (it’s less than he took to go to New York) or if the Clippers would have prioritized him or Wall, but if the difference in center replacements at those price points is JaVale McGee (who took the full 3-year tpMLE to go to Dallas) and Hassan Whiteside/Dwight Howard (who are both still unsigned and likely going for the minimum), the gamble on Wall makes a lot of sense.
Robert Flom: B-
The upside is definitely there with John Wall. He remains a highly talented passer, and is almost certainly the quickest Clipper with the ball in his hands. He’s also a better off-ball shooter than you might think, as his three-point shooting numbers were deflated by the amount of off-the-dribble threes he took. However, his defense has been bad for years and he settles too much for long jumpers. Really, the main reason I’m not a huge fan of this signing is that I don’t think it was really needed. The Clippers didn’t have a true second point guard behind Reggie Jackson, but have plenty of guard depth, and I think I’d rather they have gotten a better second seven footer to throw at Jokic (or Giannis or Embiid) in a playoff series with a second string PG on the minimum. That said, the contract itself is a good one, and Wall will probably be worth it, so I think its final overall.
Cole Huff: A-
There’s valid skepticism over whether John Wall can transition into the background as easily as he is claiming he will. There’s also the rightful questioning of if his off-ball skill set can raise to a high enough level to make him a fit alongside the Clippers’ main guys. But there’s no denying that he is worth the mid-level exception on a prove it deal. The last time he logged NBA minutes was against the Clippers in an April 2021 game that he recorded 27 points and 13 assists. Those numbers surely aren’t to be expected going forward, but the point is that it really hasn’t been that long since Wall has shown he can play. The Clippers have a thing with getting vets who essentially weren’t wanted by their former teams, and having them perform much better in their system (Batum, Reggie, RoCo). I think there’s a solid chance John could resurge in a similar way and reduced role that helps the team.
Shapan Debnath: B
The John Wall deal is a little trickier for me from what has been a stellar off-season. At minimum, he might be a better version of an idealized Bledsoe: effortlessly run the second unit and touch the paint, generate great looks, and be reinvigorated on defense. At best, he’s a playoff rotation player, someone that makes life easier for Kawhi/PG, and is able to knock down his open looks from distance making the defense pay. Which version are we getting? Will we regret giving him the tMLE and not giving it to another option with less variance? I tend to think this is a fine low cost swing for the most part, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t come with some concerns.