*Today's post is by featured guest blogger Average Bro. The mic is yours, homie.*
Let's get one thing out of the way immediately. Blake Griffin is one heckuva player. He's fun to watch. He dunks a lot. He's a perpetual Play Of The Day nominee, and a Youtube waiting to happen everytime he steps on the court. He's kind of a d*ck. He’s a seat-filler in any arena he steps into, and has singlehandedly helped reel in a new generation of casual NBA fan. He is the undisputed 2011 Rookie Of The Year.
And five years from now, he won't even be half the player John Wall is. Not even in the same stratosphere.
I've had the pleasure of watching Mr. Wall play a few dozen times in person from my usual perch in Section 120 of the Verizon Center all season, and while his has been the typical up-and-down rookie point guard campaign, it's clear that the kid's something special. Maybe I'm biased because he hails from my hometown (Raleigh, NC, stand up!) and plays in my adopted hometown, but then again, you could say the same thing about Ed and Ken and their unconscionable Stannery of Griffin.
As eye-popping as Griffin's numbers are, Wall's are perhaps even more impressive if you look beyond the box score and watch the guy play. Consider the fact that Wall lacks a reliable jumpshot and often hesitates to shoot even when (repeatedly!) left wide open. He doesn't attempt many threes either, and shoots a lousy 29% when he does. Even his free throw shooting (74%) is substandard for a guard who gets to the line frequently. He sometimes makes bad decisions in the half-court, attempting to split the defense and toss up all sorts of ill-advised left handed layups that often get pinned to the glass. Defensively he doesn't close out on shooters or go under screens quickly enough and often gets outplayed by even middling opposing point guards like Jose Calderon and DJ Augustin. His indecisiveness sometimes results in high turnover nights.
So why exactly am I trumpeting this flawed player as the second coming of D. Rose? Simple, have you actually watched him play?
Wall plays on a team with no discernible low post threat (Andray Blatche really doesn't count). He's seen the team's personnel turn over repeatedly (the Arenas for Lewis trade). There's only one reliable three-point shooter (the currently injured Nick Young) on the roster. He has no on-court mentor to speak of (Kirk Hinrich, meh). He plays on a last place squad and doesn't get the benefit of any of the "superstar" calls many #1 overall picks (ie: Griffin) get just by top draft position default. The team doesn't play at a particularly fast pace offensively. The squad has no veteran presence to speak of. Injuries have decimated the lineup to the point that Wall shares the court with six other rookies, four of whom were in the D League at some point this season.
And despite all of this, the guy still averages nearly nine assists a game! For a sh*tty, inexperienced, slow-paced, low scoring, last place Eastern Conference team. And despite his numerous offensive flaws, he's chipping in 16 points, to go along with a few steals and the occasional "holy crap flying-in from behind on the break” rejection.
Wall's speed enables him to go from end-to-end in a blur and finish with either hand. Even without the customary star calls with lane clogging defenses daring him to shoot, he still gets to the line six times a night. His shooting, while still abysmal (41%) has improved each month. Had a rash of injuries not forced Wall to become more scoring focused, he could have been the first rookie since Mark Jackson to average nine assists a game. Wall's humble, team-first nature and willingness to call out teammates shows the he has what it takes to become the squad's on and off-court leader. And given how aware (and vocal) he is about his own flaws, there's little reason to believe he won't be in the gym everyday this summer working on the faulty mechanics on his jumper and free throws. And trust me, once that happens, this guy will be officially unguardable.
The team's now won four of five (albeit against some terrible teams, but still) and can end the season on a good note. With complimentary players like the shot-happy Jordan Crawford, human pogo stick JaVale McGee, Young, Blatche, and "grown-ass man" Trevor Booker, the Wizards are on the way up. Mix in two high first-rounders, a load of cap room, and possibly a new coach (bye, Flip!) and you can clearly see the light at the end of the tunnel. All this in just the first year of a rebuild, and mostly thanks to #2.
As for Griffin, yes, he's great (we get it already, David Stern. Damn). But I simply don't see the ceiling being nearly as high for him. That's not a knock on Griffin as much as it's props to Wall. Sorta like Emeka Okafor winning RoY over Dwight Howard, I think one guy's skillset and drive suggest he's got lots of room (and drive) to improve, while the other's game suggests he might plateau a lot sooner.
I may be wrong, but I doubt it. I'm sure Ed and Kenny will tell me just how wrong I am in the comments section.
P.S. As a reminder, checkout the livest sports talk show around, "The Unsportsmanlike Conduct Show" as we are live Wednesday's at 9pm Eastern at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/edthesportsfan! Download our podcasts if you missed the live show as well!