John Wall and Kyrie Irving: Comparing the Two Point Guards' Present and Future
When two people's pasts are so eerily similar, their present, for better or for worse, will forever be intertwined.
Such is the case with John Wall and Kyrie Irving. Both extremely sought after point guards in high school, mainly for their speed and ability to hone an incredible scoring mentality and game while also being a pass-first player.
More than practically any high school players in the last decade, save a few (see James, Lebron), their high-school mix tapes tore through youtube. It was more than just a flashy crossover or dunk—it was their ability to look like an NBA player trapped in a high-school arena.
During their senior seasons in high school, both Wall and Irving committed to top-notch basketball programs, Kentucky and Duke respectively, where they only played one season before leaving for the NBA draft.
Though Kyrie only played nine games while John Wall had an all first-round starting line-up and failed to even make the championship game, both players were chosen first in their respective drafts.
Both players went to rebuilding teams trying to get themselves together after the end of an era: Washington was moving beyond their trio of Arenas, Butler, and Jamison, and decided to build their team with young players, with Wall being the glue to keep them together.
On a much more publicized and honestly gigantic scale, the Cavaliers had lost Lebron James to free agency the year before, and, after suffering the expected miserable season, found themselves with the first pick in the draft and decided to build around Irving.
Thus, it becomes evident how similar their respective basketball lives were heading into their first ever NBA game.
What they've done after that, though, is what we're here to explore. To answer who has had a better career so far, and who has a brighter future in the L.
When Wall stepped onto the court for his first ever professional league regular season game, he not only came in with one of the better dances of any rookie in recent history, but also with perhaps the highest expectations for a first-year player since Lebron James.
He was meant to be the anchor, even at the age of 20, for a young, frankly immature, Wizards team beginning their rebuilding stage.
He was surrounded by players with the likes of Javale McGee, Andray Blatche, Nick Young, and Gilbert Arenas. With John Wall, this was Washington's starting lineup heading into their first game.
Now, one of those alongside Wall, Blatche, is not only the only still in the starting line up, but the only one still on the Wizards' roster.
What does this mean? The Wizards' rebuilding process was looking so horrific, they decided to rebuild their rebuilding team.
I know I used the word 'rebuild' three times in that sentence, but it pales drastically in comparison to how often Wizards staff, players, management have had to use that term to explain their porous record.
What it means for John Wall though, is that he couldn't make that team work; he couldn't make the players gel together and become more than merely five players on a court sporting the same jersey.
He couldn't make them a team. And that's a point guard's first duty, and a duty that, scouting reports said, came naturally for Wall.
Yes, he's just a rookie. And rookies rarely pop into their team and become that leader, that centrepiece on the team. But John Wall was meant to be the exception to that rarity; and more than midway through his second season, his team will once again be going to the lottery.
And I guess that should be a good thing because, well, it means Wall will have the opportunity to get this franchise back on the right track with a good crop of young players, right?
Wait...isn't that what people were saying two seasons ago; that Wall and the other young players on the Wizards roster, all talented, would grow and mature together and eventually become legitimate contenders (does a certain team featuring a certain Kevin Durant ring any bells?).
I should be fair though, Washington has still seen many positives, albeit less than expected. Wall is one of the four quickest players in the league (the top three: Lawson, Rose, Westbrook, and maaaaybe Parker), and, on his good days, could be said to be the second most controlled of those four behind the reigning MVP, which is evidently nothing to be embarrassed about.
Moreover, John Wall is the best one-man fast break in the league. No exceptions. He's strong as a bull so big men can't bully him if that fast break translates into a one-on-one situation with someone a foot taller than him.
This happens so scarcely though, because Wall is so fast that generally only someone who was already back or another quick guard can actually catch up to him enough to make a difference.
This is where he scores a large portion of his points (god forbid we know it's not on his jump-shots, which we'll talk about momentarily), and it's also the reason he finds himself with the seventh most attempted free throws in the L right now—the only point guard in the top ten.
Finally, John Wall has something that does come naturally (even though naturally is a word tossed around far too often in this league).
Up there with the Nash's of the league, the Kidd's, Paul's, Williams', Wall has court vision. He sees things perhaps a step before they happen, like a great chess player would.
He can easily predict where one of his teammates should go and toss the ball there a half second before almost any other player in the league would—and in the NBA, this makes a tremendous difference.
Of course, a lot of this is wasted on the rest of the Wizards' roster, because so little of them actually know where they should be going, in turn making Walls could-be extraordinary passes rather foolish looking.
What Wall should have though, that would put him on a threshold over Nash, Paul and the others, is his ability, seen a lot more in college than now, to have that court vision while still going full speed. And, as you know, full speed for Wall is a whole lot different than full speed for Nash, and, truthfully—at this point—even than Paul.
If Wall could consistently keep that speed and vision together, he could be the best passer in the league. Instead, he varies from good to very good on occasion, with inconsistent flashes of brilliance.
But, quickly, let's go back to the point of John Wall's jump shot. I could make my point with just one number: 8. When your assists per game is as high as your three point shooting jump shot, you have a problem.
And yes, 8 is both of those for Wall. Eight goes beyond just bad for a guard; it's humiliating and truly a liability to the team.
But, wait, hold on, many guards have terrible three point shots, but that doesn't necessarily translate to their jump shot as a whole. Take Chauncey Billups, who, though now a great three-point shooter, started off a dismal one, but always had a very, very good jump shot.
Perhaps Wall is like Billups. All we have to do to check this is to identify John Wall's jump shot shooting % as a whole from inside three-point range. And we get...32%. Nope, the Billups comparison didn't work.
Only two players who have shot over 230 shots have lower field goal percentages this season: Shannon Brown and Tyreke Evans.
As made obvious in the last couple of paragraphs, very little players are as frustrating as Wall. A man who, in my opinion could genuinely be that man for the league, let alone his team.
But, for the time being, he is caught being an extremely inconsistent player, who surfaces near being a liability to his own team on his off nights.
People recognized that Kyrie was good, as illustrated in his No. 1 draft choice after only playing nine games in college, but no one thought he was near Wall's level.
Sure, again, he was the No. 1 pick, but for a supposedly extremely weak draft. Had he been picked the year before, he most likely wouldn't even have found himself in the top five.
But, nonetheless, he still found himself with immensely large shoes to fill. Stepping in for Lebron James is no small feat, and owner Dan Gilbert didn't make it any easier for Irving when he claimed that the Cavaliers would win a championship before James did.
James was a No. 1 pick who exceeded all expectations on the court—he brought them to the NBA finals, managed to make Cleveland a legitimate contender in almost all of his seasons there, and, what mattered most to the fans, gave a hopeless city hope.
He put them back on the map and was everything Cleveland could have hoped for.
That is, before he left.
After he left, they waited a whole long season to see who they could pick up with their pick; luckily, that pick became the No. 1 spot in the draft, and they settled, rather smartly, on Irving.
What has Irving done since then?
Though he hasn't quite made the Cavs relevant yet, he has certainly shown promise. Already a lock for rookie of the year in a draft class much stronger than projected, Kyrie is posting up averages of 18 and 5, on 46% shooting. Sure, his average of 3.2 turnovers a game is worrisome, but it's acceptable for a rookie.
Those stats have surely gone above and beyond what was hoped for in his first run with the Cavaliers, especially considering the rest of his roster might be the most porous in the L.
We said earlier that John had the most immature roster in the NBA, yet the talent level on the Wiz far exceeds that which Kyrie plays with every night. He's the undisputed best scorer and play maker on the ball club, and will almost surely have the best career of anyone on that team.
The only other player whose career is even solid on that roster is Antawn Jamison, and he's past his "past his prime" days, which is never a good sign.
What Kyrie does have, though, unlike Wall, is veterans, and hopefully mentors, on that ball club that can shape him to be the best player he can be.
And therein lies the problem: the best player Irving can be is not nearly as good as the best player Wall can be.
John Wall has better court vision, is a better driver, dribbler, defender and, in college, had practically the same jump-shot ability as Kyrie had.
But, I'm almost convinced Irving will have a better career. He goes in every game with a higher sense of confidence than Wall, and has embraced his leadership role more naturally. His college game has translated perfectly into the NBA, whereas it seems as if Wall left a lot of skill somewhere in his dorm room.
In Conclusion, John Wall is doing more for his team now, and is better statistically, but only because he's played a year more than Irving. Though Wall's ceiling is higher and his potential completely overpowers that of Kyrie, Irving will finish his career a better player.
Natural basketball skills are important. Hell, even unnatural basketball skills are important. And Wall has more of both of these than Irving.
But maturity, confidence, and leadership overpower talent in this league almost every time.
Stephon Marbury is far more talented than Jason Kidd—but this doesn't always indicate who will finish with a better career.
Blame it on their different settings settings—the coaching staff, the players, the management surrounding the two—or blame it on the Wall himself—but, either way, Irving, in a past and present so similar to Wall's, will have a much more successful future.
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