The formula for NBA success is a rather simple one—land one of the game's top 10 players and put competent role-players around him.
The second part of that equation is actually the easier part—general managers from Houston to Utah to Portland have demonstrated that it is possible to regularly fill a roster with solid role-players.
The tricky part is signing a top 10 player because, as the number suggests, only 10 actually exist.
When the Wizards drafted John Wall with the first overall pick of the 2010 draft, analysts believed Washington had finally filled the superstar void left by the oft-injured and consequently over-the-hill Gilbert Arenas.
I remain unconvinced that Wall can/will morph into a true top 10 player.
Wall has all the physical gifts needed for NBA success. He's tall for his position, fast in the open court and has very long arms (an important physical characteristic that often goes overlooked).
But Wall's game remains horrendously unpolished. All of the NBA's current top 10 players—Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose—are highly skilled basketball players in addition to being great athletes.*
They possess the fundamental skills youth league coaches preach about to the thousands of young players who one day hope to see their names on an NBA lineup card.
Wall does not possess these skills. His jump shot is slow and inconsistent, his passes are soft and sometimes imprecise and, most importantly, his ball-handling skills are far behind those of his peers.
Watch highlights of Chris Paul, Derrick Rose and Steve Nash, and then watch these Wall videos, and you'll better understand the disparity.
When any of those aforementioned point guards attack a defense, the ball seems like a natural extension of their bodies, and it integrates perfectly with their movements. They cross over, juke and then attack the basket amid a flurry of controlled dribbles.
Wall cannot do this. He dribbles high and away from his body.
When he looks to penetrate, it always seems like his mind knows where he wants to go and that his legs have the ability to take him there, but it often takes him a quarter of a second longer than it should because he can't dribble as quickly and as competently as he needs to.
I am well aware that at times Wall will execute a fantastic crossover dribble and that in the open court his sheer speed allows him to blow by defenders.
But more often than not, his subpar ball-handling hinders him.
Last season—especially in fourth quarters—Wall would often bring the ball across half-court and immediately pass it to Nick Young or Jordan Crawford so that they could run the offense.
I distinctly remember one game in December against the Miami Heat in which Wall essentially became a spectator—he stood behind the three-point line off to one side while his teammates executed Flip Saunders' game plan.
His inability to penetrate the stingy Miami defense made him a liability in half-court sets.
That scenario would never happen to teams led by Paul, Rose or Nash, and I doubt such a shortcoming will plague Kyrie Irving during his rookie campaign.
If Wall can improve his ball-handling and shooting, he will become much more of an offensive threat and could easily morph into a true top 10 player. But to do that, he'll have to spend his offseasons doing more than just talking trash to collegiate players who are below his talent level.
*Dwight Howard is the one exception. His game remains unpolished, but he is such a freak of nature that it doesn't matter.