We conclude our player previews here on Wiz Of Awes with the face of the franchise — last year’s first overall pick, John Wall.
The future of the Washington Wizards’ franchise was made clear on May 18, 2010 when the Wizards won the NBA Draft lottery and were awarded the 1st overall pick and just over one month later, Ernie Grunfeld and the Washington Wizards made the obvious selection of Kentucky point guard John Wall.
John Wall was the consensus first overall pick and as a rookie he didn’t disappoint. A season ago he played an average of nearly 38 minutes a game and had averages of 16.4 points, 8.3 assists, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game. Remarkable numbers for any point guard, let alone a rookie, and he would have been the clear cut Rookie of the Year if not for Blake Griffin qualifying as a rookie last season. On the negative side, Wall did turn the ball over nearly four times per game and only shot a shade under 41 percent from the floor. Those shouldn’t worry the organization or fans though. As a 20 year old rookie you’re going to expect growing pains regardless of talent, on top of the fact that John missed time and dealt with nagging injuries all season. We’re almost certain to see a reduction in turnovers and a higher field goal percentage in his second season. We heard all throughout the summer that John’s jump shot was improving and he was working tirelessly on it throughout the lockout, and as far as turnovers are concerned, that number will go down as he gains more experience. In the first preseason game at the Verizon Center vs. the Philadelphia 76ers, Wall did turn the ball over six times in only twenty six minutes. Clearly, that isn’t good enough, and head coach Flip Saunders said as much after the game. “Terrible,” he said. “He didn’t play with the same aggressiveness, passion.”
This season we all expect improvement off of a terrific rookie campaign, but what about going forward? What should we expect to see from our young budding star point guard?
There’s no question that in a league full of young talented point guards, John Wall is one of the best. Many have compared him to another former 1st overall pick and another former John Calipari pupil in Chicago Bulls point guard, Derrick Rose. Others have compared him to another former Kentucky Wildcat, and current Boston Celtic, Rajon Rondo. I think both of those are correct and incorrect at the same time, and that John’s perfect comparison is a combination of the two All-Star point guards. John is just as fast and athletic as Derrick Rose but isn’t the scorer that Derrick Rose has turned into in the NBA, and he is very similar to Rajon Rondo in the sense that he’s a pass-first point guard and struggles with his jump shot — albeit not as much as Rondo has struggled shooting the basketball. Regardless of comparison, to be connected to two names like Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo as a second year pro is something to hang your hat on if you’re John Wall.
Looking ahead, there’s no doubt that in the coming years John Wall will be the foundation for which this team builds its roster. We already saw it in this year’s draft when Ernie Grunfeld selected Jan Vesley, an athletic player that loves to run in transition just like Wall, with the sixth pick. Going forward we’ll continue to see more of the same.
In this day and age of the NBA every small market and losing team is worried about keeping their star player beyond their first contract, and I certainly understand the worry from some Wizards fans that we could lose John Wall in the summer of 2015 as an unrestricted free agent or be forced to trade him prior to that. Is that a possibility three and a half years from now? Absolutely, but who is to say that Ernie Grunfeld doesn’t produce a winning team by that point? I have my doubts about Grunfeld and the Wizards front office, but it is far too early and premature to worry about losing our centerpiece and star young player. John Wall’s talent is immense, his competitive edge and passion are impressive, and we’re fortunate to have such a talented player to build around.
All-Star Games are in his future and individual accolades are sure to be as well, just hopefully we can bring title contention to Washington, DC with John Wall leading that charge.
Twitter: @Kevin_Hine and @WizOfAwesKevin