How explosive is John Wall?

Posted on May 4, 2018

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(Last Updated On: May 4, 2018)

If you follow the NBA, the last four years or so it’s hard to go long stretches without hearing something about John Wall’s athleticism. He’s gotten some awfully large praise, aimed primarily at his speed.

Wall himself says he’s the fastest player in the NBA; his head coach wonders if he’s the fastest ever!

 

How fast is he?

Each year at the NBA combine the guys do a drill called the 3/4 sprint.

For context, it’s about a 20 meter run.

In 2010, John Wall ran this sprint in 3.14 seconds. Just that year, two other guys ran as fast as him, and one other guy ran faster.

The average NBA career is about five seasons, so a lot people in that draft with Wall aren’t even in the NBA anymore. However, let’s just look at the NBA combine results for the three quarter sprint in each year since Wall did it. We’ll only examine people who ran Wall’s time, 3.14 seconds, or better. From fastest to slowest:

A few ways to look at this,

  • Wall is only 26th on the list (or 33rd)
    • That’s an average of one guy per team who is as fast or faster than him
  • There are some years at the combine nobody is faster than Wall. That’s pretty impressive.
  • There are very few noteworthy names on that list.

I think the last point is the most relevant. When it comes to prominent players, Wall is very fast. Thus, it SEEMS Wall is clearly one of the fastest people in the NBA, if not the fastest. But really, his skill is a huge part of that.

For instance, a guy who is now in Europe, or a guy primarily coming off the bench, can definitely be faster than Wall, but you don’t see them playing. Clearly, not because they aren’t fast enough to play in the NBA, but because they aren’t skilled enough.

Thus, Wall has a rare combination of speed and skill. There are a decent amount of guys with his speed. There are a decent amount of guys with his specific basketball skillset (passing, shooting, dribbling). There are not many guys with his blend.

This is why the “eye test” can be right and wrong simultaneously.

“Wall is one of the fastest guys in the NBA!”

Yes, that’s true, but it’s more because he’s skilled enough to be on the court and show that speed. You can be significantly skilled and slow, yet still be on a NBA court, but you can’t be super fast with no skill. What the eye test is really saying with Wall is,

“Wall is one of the fastest guys in the NBA who plays a lot.”

 

But Wall isn’t actually that explosive

At the NBA combine, they also assess vertical jump ability. It is critical to realize the NBA combine does this two different ways. They assess the ability to stand and jump,

And they also assess your ability to jump as high as you can, where you get a run up,

A looooooooot of basketball players love to quote their running max vertical leap. It’s where you hear about all these dudes jumping 40 inches. Thing is, very few basketball guys can get a pure vert of 40+. A true standing vertical can easily be 5-10 inches lower. At Wall’s NBA combine, the highest vertical was a paltry 32 inches.

Even Lebron can’t come near a true 40 inch vertical

Wall jumped 30 inches.

 

Ok, now let’s transition to the best athletes in the world: American football players. We’ve been going over vertical leap because it’s the only test NFL guys do the same as NBA guys. Plus, vertical jump ability has a very strong relationship with short sprinting ability. It’s not perfect, but a lot of the top sprinters at these combines will also be the top jumpers. The shorter the sprinting distance, the more true this is.

Let’s look at the same time period, 2010 to 2017, and examine the top NFL jumpers. Remembering Wall could jump 30 inches,

We’re 200 rows in, Pro-Football-Reference won’t even show any more, and we’re only at 38 inches!

In just 2010, there are over two hundred guys at the NBA combine who jumped above 30 inches. Barely more than 300 guys are even invited!

At over two hundred per year, we’re well over a thousand guys who have jumped higher than John Wall.

From 2010 to 2017, there are 123 ***Quarterbacks, Kickers, Punters, and Offensive Lineman*** who have jumped as high or higher than Wall. A decent amount of these guys outweigh Wall by one hundred pounds!

  • Andrew Luck
  • Paxton Lynch
  • Derek Carr
  • Christian Ponder
  • Blaine Gabbert
  • Greg McElroy
  • Connor Cook
  • Case Keenum
  • Blake Bortles
  • Christian Hackenberg
  • C.J. Beathard
  • Jimmy Garoppolo
  • Nick Foles

Those are all quarterbacks who jumped higher than Wall. Many of whom are notorious for getting sacked a lot. (They’re slow.) To be even more clear: they all reflect sunlight so much they hurt the eyes of those around them. (Lot of white dudes can out jump Wall.)

 

From a pure athletic standpoint, John Wall, and basically every guy in the NBA, is a joke compared to NFL players. Whenever someone says or even hints a NBA guy could do well athletically in the NFL, they genuinely have no concept of what NFL athletes truly are. NBA guys only look impressive because of who they’re going up against. Athletically, they are some big fish playing in small ponds. Put them in the ocean with the NFL players and almost every single one of them would get destroyed.

NBA players are great athletes in the sense they’re great at a sport. But there is a difference between being an athlete and being athletic. Tom Brady is a great athlete. He is not very athletic.

Where basketball players truly shine relative to football is their skill. Besides QB, football doesn’t necessitate anywhere close to the level of skill basketball does. Every year in the NFL you’ll hear about guys who get hurt, more or less don’t practice the entire year, yet play well on game day. You can’t play basketball once a week and be great at it.

John Wall is fast for the NBA, he’s not all-time fast when looking solely at speed but he might be when looking at noteworthy players, yet he’s nothing compared to the best athletes in the world.

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Posted in: Sports