Now that Derrick Rose is an MVP and a clear choice as one of the top basketball talents in the world, it’s easy to say we all saw this coming. We forget though that it wasn’t long ago a good percentage of fans thought O.J. Mayo was better. Even at this time last year, no one would’ve bet money that Pooh would become an MVP almost overnight. You can complain all you want – as many in the basketball community did all year – that he wasn’t a worthy MVP winner. But he won it because he was by far the best player on the best team in the league (going by regular season records), and a good story on top of that. You can’t take that away from him.
For the last few years, I had always thought John Wall would one day become the best point guard in the world, even better than Chris Paul, better than Deron Williams and all of the rest. Now that Rose has taken the jump, and with CP looking like he might be back to his old self, that opinion is constantly shot down. But the future is too hard to predict.
It helps to have perhaps the greatest high school highlight tape ever on YouTube as your hook. But while that may draw someone in at first, it still takes game rather than hype to hold you there. And John Wall has a lot of that.
“He’s only averaging more assists than Chris Paul did as a rookie (8.6 to 7.8). He’s only averaging more steals than Rose did as a rookie (1.6 to 0.8). He’s only averaging more minutes than Westbrook did as a rookie (38.2 to 32.5). He’s only averaging more of everything than Rajon Rondo and Deron Williams did as rookies (a lot to a little).”
I wrote that earlier this year and it’s true. Statistically, Wall had a great rookie season. But it was overshadowed by Blake Griffin, and more importantly, injuries. Knee and foot problems slowed Wall for most of the season.
I spent the day with him out at Reebok Headquarters in Canton, Mass. last week and he promises he’s 100 percent. Looks like it too. The spring is all the way back. And at 21 years old (today), he can play all day long. At Reebok, he must’ve played six full-court games, just as many three-on-three half-court games, a few hours of drills and even one or two one-on-one games. His motor never slows and he never shuts up. He loves the game too much, and actually plays more like the energetic high schoolers than the experienced pros who were in attendance.
Great players have something about them that sticks out. For Wall, it’s his change of direction. It’s Jason Kidd on fast forward. When he’s healthy, and has the stutter side going, the violent spin moves flowing and the Euro-step working, it’s a wrap. He’s coming down full speed at you, looking you in the eye and you know you can’t stop him.
Maybe he will make me a prophet in a few years. If we’re going just off percentages, then it’s very likely that I’ll be wrong. There’s Chris Paul. Deron Williams. Russell Westbrook. Rajon Rondo. And Rose. Can Wall be better than all of them? Not likely. Being great is one thing. Being the best is another level.
But who’s to say he can’t be?
What would you get Wall for his birthday?
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