Even though the college basketball season is enjoying the heart of its schedule, it’s never too early to look ahead.
In this case, I am looking forward to the 2010 NBA Draft. The NCAA tournament is a great time to get a closer look at possible prospects who one day may be playing for your favorite NBA team—especially because you get to watch some players more often than you probably do during the regular season.
And although many projected NBA lottery picks have participated in this year’s edition of March Madness, there are two players who are above the rest in terms of talent: Kentucky’s John Wall and Ohio State’s Evan Turner.
Wall, the freshman point guard who took America by storm before he even took his first steps in Rupp Arena, has a resume that may put him over the edge in terms of Player of the Year honors.
He has been called the most talented freshman guard in years, which is saying a lot when you consider players who have had success in their first seasons in the NBA after only one year in college—like the Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose or the Sacramento Kings’ Tyreke Evans. (Both are, coincidentally, former players of current Kentucky coach John Calipari.)
As many wondered whether Wall and Co. would continue their initial success going into the tournament, the questions have been all but answered. Kentucky is set to face Cornell in its next game, but a Final Four berth is definitely on the minds of everybody in Lexington. Wall can deliver on everyone’s aspirations.
On the other side of the argument is the versatile Evan Turner, who can play point guard, small forward, or even power forward when called upon. Possessing a skill set similar to that of the Blazers' Brandon Roy—someone to whom he has been heavily compared—Turner can do everything on the basketball court.
And he can do it well.
He also has a lot of upside to get better. Unlike the freshman Wall, Turner has spent a few seasons in Columbus honing his craft—and it has worked out for the better. Now his team is only two victories away from reaching its first Final Four since the days of Greg Oden and Mike Conley. A competitor like Turner will do everything in his power to deliver.
But as most sports debates go, there has been plenty of discussion about who will make the better NBA player.
Wall is young, super-talented, and has plenty of upside. He has a scorer’s mentality and wants the ball in his hands when it matters most—but he also gets his teammates involved. He is also a beneficiary of the Calipari School of Grooming Point Guards into Stud Players.
Yet Wall has benefited quite a bit from the fruits of his teammates’ labor—especially that of DeMarcus Cousins, another top-five lottery pick in the draft. The Wildcats are extremely talented, and Wall is a big piece of that—but not the whole thing.
Looking at Turner’s ability, he is the straw that stirs Thad Matta’s Buckeyes. He makes shots that seem almost improbable—like when he crushed the Michigan Wolverines in the Big Ten tournament—and he can pull off a triple-double on any given night.
He is not a player who comes around every season.
His great talent was never more obvious than at the beginning of the season. He went up for a dunk, fell awkwardly, and broke his back, but he returned before the regular season even concluded.
His team was average without him, but with him, the Buckeyes are a more confident bunch, and the players use him as the catalyst for their success. But maybe the same would happen if Wall experienced the same unfortunate circumstances.
I guess there really is no palpable conclusion as to who will be the better professional. I don’t believe it is a case of trying to “pick the best player available”—as is often seen in other NBA or NFL drafts—but a lot of it will have to do with the team picking first overall and what that team’s needs are.
Looking down the line—10, 15 years from now—both players should be pretty good in their own right. It is the only fair way to judge at this point, but watching either player should be entertainment at its finest.