The Washington Wizards were the talk of the NBA before LeBron James held the public hostage with The Decision. The biggest story for the Wizards is rookie point guard John Wall and his role in bringing Washington out of the NBA's basement and back to respectability. Before he has even taken the floor for his first game, he is already drawing plenty of nods for Rookie of the Year honors.
The list of reasons why Wall is a lock for Rookie of the Year is long, but only a handful matter in this discussion.
Wall was the prospect in this year's draft with the least questions about his talent. Yes, he came from a loaded Kentucky team, but he also stood out from his talented teammates. He is a known scorer and showed in the preseason his ability to adjust to being a distributor. He may have some turnover issues to work on, but such is the life of a rookie. He is a responsible player who can let the game come to him, or take it as he pleases.
Historically speaking, guards are in the best position to win Rookie of the Year honors. Point guards are in an especially advantageous position because they handle the ball on most if not all offensive possessions. They dictate how the offense runs and who gets the ball on any particular play. Wall would be in line with winners like Derrick Rose, Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, and Earl Monroe.
The Wizards have a lot of young talent in place, waiting for Wall to lead them into the regular season. Center JaVale McGee has put on some muscle and worked on his positioning on the floor. The numerous alley-oops he has received from Wall is a sign of chemistry developing already. Late-season surprise Andray Blatche has looked much stronger around the basket, and looks to pick up where he left off scoring 20 points with 10 rebounds most nights. The recently melancholic Gilbert Arenas has resigned himself to playing second fiddle to Wall. He knows he isn't the guy anymore, but has adjusted well to his catch-and-shoot role that the Wizards could really use if he shines there.
In short, if Wall can't score he has plenty of outlets to help him out.
Between his year at college, the pre-draft hype, draft night, summer league and now preseason, Wall has been the talk of the NBA in terms of rookies. Blake Griffin got a lot of talk coming out of Oklahoma, but it seems subdued compared to Wall. Evan Turner won Naismith College Player of the Year, but when he became the second pick in the draft, he officially became second in importance to Wall in the eyes and minds of the media.
Aside from Griffin, there aren't many players who are in the right situation to give Wall a run for the award. Many of the other first-picks from this season are merely pieces in their respective teams' puzzles. Wall is the centerpiece for a new era in Wizards basketball. Griffin is at a disadvantage because he plays for the 'other' Los Angeles franchise and is rookie by virtue of missing his first season with a left knee fracture. Second overall pick Evan Turner is just a cog in the 76ers machine, and didn't look too great in summer league play, and is slated to start the season in a back-up point guard role.
Most award committees shy away from rewarding foolhardy or arrogant nominees. Wall has shown in numerous interviews prior to and since being drafted that he hasn't let it go to his head. He is the polar opposite of former Kentucky teammate DeMarcus Cousins who was noticeably frustrated and allowed his apparent immaturity get the best of him in summer league play. Cousins may make an impact in Sacramento, but there is more than a chance it will be overshadowed by an untimely benching or two for bad behavior.
Style of Play
Wall will be running the offense in Washington, and thus has more opportunities to show his abilities that are already well documented. He is a natural scorer who has a Derrick Rose-like ability around the basket. He is adept at getting to the basket, and is developing consistency in his mid-range game. His underrated ability to find open teammates will make him more of a threat to score since teams will have to respect the other four players on the floor and possibly lose Wall in defensive shuffles. And in case it hasn't been clear thus far, Wall is really fast. NBA elite fast. And he is just 20 years old.
The last two winners were one-and-done in college and played under John Calipari just like Wall. Rose and Tyreke Evans set the stage for a Calipari-coached guard three-peat. Say what you want about his ethics in terms of recruiting at the college level, but Calipari has taken talented players to another level between his time at Memphis and now Kentucky. He attracts talent and sends them to the NBA well prepared.
Everyone expects Wall to run away with the Rookie of the Year award. He is the biggest name coming out of the draft, he has all the tools, and the right attitude approaching the game. In a preseason forecast Wall was predicted to finish with 48 votes, head and shoulders above the second place Griffin's 23 votes. There are always unforeseen circumstances that can derail a rookie campaign, but short of injury, there is no reason to think anyone but Wall will be Rookie of the Year for the 2010-2011 NBA season.
While the press predicts Wall to run away with Rookie of the Year honors, the preseason poll of NBA GMs has rendered similar results. 67.9 percent agreed Wall would win the award and be the best rookie in five years, while 64.3 percent agreed he is the most athletic rookie. The first-overall pick is never a lock to win the award, only two have won it since 2000, but Wall is on the right track to win it with relative ease.
The Washington Wizards lucked into the most talented and dynamic player in this year's draft. They have a chance to make the selection of Kwame Brown in 2001 a distant memory with Wall. He'll be winning Rookie of the Year not just for himself, but for the organization as a whole. If one thing is certain, Wall will be fun to watch for years to come and it starts October 28th against the Orlando Magic.