Our 2023 Clippers season exit interview series continues with a look at the Clippers’ biggest offseason acquisition, John Wall.
Weight: 210 pounds
Position: Point Guard
Years in NBA: 13
Key Stats: 11.4 points, 5.2 assists, 2.7 rebounds, 0.8 steals, and 2.4 turnovers in 22.2 minutes per game across 34 games played (3 starts) on 40.8/30.3/68.1 shooting splits (49.8 True Shooting)
John Wall was the biggest mystery on the Clippers’ roster heading into the season. He hadn’t played at all in 2022, and really hadn’t played meaningful minutes on a decent team for years before that. One could have thought he’d be rested, healthy, and ready to give a slow Clippers team a shot in the arm. It would also have been perfectly reasonable to think that Wall was washed, or at the very least would need a long runway to contribute positive minutes for a contending team.
A split down the middle would have Wall as being a reasonably effective backup point guard. He would have real flaws, what with his lack of shooting, sometimes poor defense, and questionable decision-making. But he would also ignite the crowd on the fastbreak, get downhill into the teeth of the defense for shots at the rim or free throws, and help make everyone else’s job easier as a playmaker. There was certainly a large chance for Wall to be well below or above this median, but the hope was at the least he’d get there.
It’s hard to remember now, but Wall had some very fun games to start the season. Sure, there were plenty of worrying signs, especially regarding his lack of shooting and how that impacted the Clippers’ stars when they were on the court. But he was fun to watch, racing up and down the court, making beautiful passes in transition, and finishing around the rim. In five games in October, Wall averaged 13.8 points and 4.6 assists on a respectable 55.4% True Shooting. In 13 games in November, those numbers slipped a bit, to 12.5 points on 51.2% True Shooting, but his assists went up to 5.9.
At this point, the wheels came off. Oddly, Wall shot very well from three in December (38.9%), but somehow, incredibly, made just 24 of his 67 two-pointers (35.8%). He was misfiring on all of his pullup twos, which he kept taking, and he couldn’t make a shot around the rim to save his life. Worse, the free throws and assists dried up as well (just over 2 and 4.8 per game respectively) while the turnover remained high. The Clippers’ season began to get untracked at this time, and while Wall certainly wasn’t the only culprit, he wasn’t the solution either.
January started even worse, and Ty Lue responded by shaking up his rotation, moving Reggie Jackson out of the rotation entirely but keeping Wall as the backup. However, this lasted for only two games before Wall pulled his groin on a dunk against the Nuggets in garbage time on January 13. Wall would never suit up for the Clippers again. He was kept on the injury list as out with the groin, but it’s quite possible he could have played and the Clippers just didn’t want him too. Finally, mercifully, he was traded to the Rockets as part of the Eric Gordon deal, and was waived by them shortly thereafter.
In short, Wall’s tenure with the Clippers went nearly as badly as possible. He had some good games and wasn’t a locker room issue, but was a bad fit and negative contributor – by far the worst player by impact among any of the Clippers’ actual rotation players this season. To be fair, Wall was put in a tough situation, as the Clippers’ three- and four-guard units he frequently played in off the bench exposed his weaknesses as a defender and lack of one-on-one scoring. However, it was clear he was part of the problem, not the solution, and the best way the Clippers could have cut down on guards was taking him out of the rotation. It’s too bad.
Future with Clippers
Nobody signed Wall after the Rockets waived him, a glaring signal of his value around the NBA. Despite being mostly healthy and possessing a lot of his old speed and athleticism, there just wasn’t a market for Wall. It’s quite possible he will get signed to another NBA deal, as he isn’t that old and at the very least has a lot of respect from players and coaches. But there’s also a real chance he’s played his last game in the NBA. Between his on-court weaknesses and his seeming desire to still possess a significant role with lots of ballhandling that teams won’t want to give him, he doesn’t seem like a player who would possess a ton of value to teams. That said, I do think that in the right situation, with the right teammates around him, and a bit of an attitude adjustment, there’ still a place for Wall.
With all that out of the way, will Wall ever play for the Clippers again, specifically? Given how his 2023 campaign went, and the presence of Bones Hyland, Terance Mann, and likely Russell Westbrook, I doubt he ever suits up for the Clips again.