John Wall Is Learning the Ways of the Road
For any professional athlete, playing at home is an advantage. Usually, the players call their fanbase's city home and can commute to the park, stadium or arena in time for pregame meetings and warmups. It's naturally more convenient and undoubtedly feels more comfortable for various reasons.
After all, home-field advantage is a thing in professional sports. Yes, not everything, but it is highly valued for football, baseball and basketball franchises alike. Teams we often associate with great home-field advantages include the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco Giants and Golden State Warriors.
At the same time, there are teams like the Colorado Rockies, who, despite numerous losing seasons, benefit from playing at home because of the atmosphere in Denver. That's the kind of team the Washington Wizards have been in recent years.
No W in Road
Over the last six-plus seasons -- since drafting John Wall in the 2010 NBA Draft -- the Wizards have been exceptional at home and ghastly on the road.
Over that span, the difference in the splits is quite sizable. While their home win percentage suggests they haven't won a large number of games beyond what they've lost, it also would land them in the playoffs more years than not. As for their road record, it would consistently place them at the bottom of the NBA barrel.
Even during the Wizards' recent hot streak -- having won 15 of their last 18 games -- they haven't exactly been lights out on the road. Two of their three losses came outside the friendly confines of the Verizon Center and, as a result, they still look out of place among the Eastern Conference's top five teams.
The other four teams, including the Atlanta Hawks, are all over .500 at home and on the road. It's a key part to their consistency, which has helped each team rise to the top of the conference. As we alluded to, it's historically been a problem for the Wizards, but since their point guard is the team's unquestioned leader, it's also a problem for Wall.
And for the four-time All-Star, this is an even bigger issue.
Hitting the Wall
In his seven seasons, Wall's home-road splits are completely opposite of one another.
Utilizing Basketball Reference's splits page, Wall's been a minimal plus at home during his career, but he's been a substantial negative when the Wiz take to the road.
At home, he possesses a three-point percentage of 34.4% and a true shooting of 53.0%, but he shoots just 29.3% from three for a true shooting of 50.1% as a visitor. That explains the drop-off in offensive rating despite very similar per-game averages across the board.
It's all about shooting and the efficiency or inefficiency it yields for Wall. Through 29 home games this season, he's an 8.4 in terms of net rating (according to NBA.com), converting at a rate of 47.4% from the field and 40% from three, the makings of a 51.3% effective field goal percentage. Inversely, he's a 1.3 in 21 road contests, connecting on just 42.6% of attempts from the field and 17.6% from three-point land. His effective field goal percentage falls to 44.2% in that situation.
On the bright side, he's taken a step forward this season. The disparity between his home and road net ratings has been much larger in years past compared to the 2016-17 campaign.
There's only been two seasons in which the difference has been less drastic than in Wall's current splits. Only his 2013-14 campaign resulted in a positive net rating on the road, and this is the first time he's had a home rating of at least 5.0 and a positive road rating.
So, in truth, if you wanted to blame the team's road woes on Wall alone, that'd be wrong. He has definitely played a part, but he's picked up his road game -- not to mention his overall play -- this year. He's a big reason the Wizards are pushing further into the territory of Eastern Conference contenders.
Like Wall has, we're just waiting for the team to turn that last corner along with him.