Has John Wall hit his Ceiling?
One of the most intriguing young players in the league returned to action last week. John Wall and his blazing, high-wire act are back from a knee injury and, finally, there's a spark of life in the Washington Wizards' franchise.
Wall, a third-year point guard, is unquestionably one of the most exciting players in the world. Liable to dunk on an entire team at any time, Wall is must-see TV.
But that's about all we know about the 6-foot-4 lightning bolt. Two up-and-down, at-times-dazzling, at-times-exasperating seasons have left us without answers as to how good Wall will eventually be.
Sometimes that's how it is; no one would've predicted greatness for John Stockton, Gary Payton, Steve Nash or Chauncey Billups after their first two seasons, so Wall's inconsistent play so far is not necessarily a definitive statement about what his future holds.
But other point guards, particularly recently, have defined themselves as future perennial All-Stars much quicker than Wall. I'm talking about guys like Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving and Derrick Rose.
Wall's numbers are fairly strong. He's averaged 16.3 points and 8.1 assists over his first two seasons, but he's also committed 3.8 turnovers a game while shooting about 41 percent from the floor. So what does it all mean? How good does Wall project to be?
To find out, we asked several NBA experts who are paid to assess talent, potential and productivity for their thoughts on Wall. Here's what two NBA team executives and two scouts think of the No. 1 pick of the 2010 draft.
The Eastern Conference executive:
"His stock never should've been as high as it was. His whole game is based on straight-line speed. He doesn't have good lateral moves in the half court. He's not a shooter, he's not leader, he's not a guy you can build a team around. What he is is a better version of Tyreke Evans.
He's not a shooter, he's not leader, he's not a guy you can build a team around. What he is is a better version of Tyreke Evans.
-- An Eastern Conference executive
"If you build your team around Wall, you're not building a strong playoff team. He doesn't have any pace to his game. He just has blinding speed. When Jason Kidd was young, he didn't have pace either. All he had was blinding speed. The difference, though, was that Kidd had native playmaking ability. He used his blinding speed to get other guys shots. Wall uses his speed to get to the rim every time and he doesn't make anybody better.
"I like him as a kid, and I hope for his sake that he watched enough tape while he was injured to appreciate pace. I also hope he likes Bradley Beal and realizes that he's a guy he can throw the ball to. You can certainly argue that over his first two seasons, he didn't have anyone to throw the ball to.''
The Western Conference executive:
"When you talk about the perception of him coming out of college, he got the benefit of being from Kentucky. … That probably led to him being a bit overrated. He definitely has not yet established himself as a great player, but you have to factor in the situation in Washington. How is that impacting him? It's easy to pounce on him, but a lot of people around the league are blaming the situation in Washington more than they're blaming him.''
The Eastern Conference scout:
"When he entered the league, I thought he could improve and one day get to that elite status. But judging by the way he's played so far, I'd say, 'No, he's not going to be an elite point guard.' He's so limited. He's not a great decision-maker and he's not a great scorer, so those two things right there keep him from entering the class of Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook and those guys. He's not in that class. He's a tremendous athlete going north and south. I see a guy who thinks 'shoot first, pass second.' Maybe that's because he's on a bad team, but I think those are his instincts -- shoot first, pass second. And I think his jumper, or his lack of a jumper, is an Achilles' heel for him.
"I think of Wall as a poor man's Westbrook. Both are great athletes playing point guard and both are really, really fast. They both finish strong at the rim. I think that's one of the best things about Wall's game -- that he can get to the hole and finish. But I think he's a tier below Westbrook and those other elite guys. Yeah, Westbrook isn't a great decision-maker and his game is based largely on his athleticism, but he is also a good shooter. I hate to say Wall can't be like Westbrook because he's such a young kid, but I really don't think he can. I don't think he's in the class of Westbrook. When the ball comes off Westbrook's hand, it looks good. When it comes off Wall's hand, it's, 'Man, that thing ain't going in.' Can Wall get to that elite status? I have my doubts. Wall needed to stay in college longer. But he was going to be picked so high that you can't blame him for leaving.''
Another Eastern Conference scout:
"My general feeling is that Wall isn't a guy you build a team around. He's not a franchise guy. He's a very good player, but I'm getting that Steve Francis feeling. He's a very similar player to Francis. They're damn near identical. Now some people may immediately say, 'Wait a minute, he's better than Steve Francis.' But they're just remembering the end of Francis' career. Remember, that guy made some All-Star teams. Both are athletic guys playing point guard who really aren't necessarily point guards. They don't shoot it well, they're not the best decision-makers. They're very exciting, very explosive guys who can make plays. One minute they're exciting, the next minute they're boneheaded. They do so many things well that you can't help but appreciate their talent. They're nice players to have, but they can't be your franchise guy. They're more like a number 3 guy if you're going to be a really good team. To be fair, Wall will pass the ball. He's a little more of a point guard than Francis was. Francis was a little more of a scorer, more shoot first than Wall.
"Russell Westbrook is another great comparison. He's another tremendous athlete who's playing point guard and who often does some boneheaded stuff. But his talent is so great that you say, 'That's OK.' But Westbrook kind of underscores the point I'm making about Wall. You have to have a Kevin Durant and a couple of other guys with him. Oklahoma had Durant and Harden with Westbrook, so he's one of two or three guys; he's not your main guy. If you put Wall in Oklahoma and Westbrook in Washington, the Wizards would still suck and Oklahoma would still be good.''