John Wall: Don’t pencil him in as the next Derrick Rose
John Wall has a lot in common with Derrick Rose. Aside from getting picked #1 and being deemed a future superstar, both have a combination of size and incredible explosiveness from the PG position. Now, in his 3rd year Derrick Rose is the frontrunner for MVP averaging 24.9 points and 7.9 assists on the #1 team in the East. Wall is averaging 16 points, 9 assists and 1.7 steals on 40% shooting – a roughly expected rookie season with a few more bricks. The Wizards are on pace to fall below 20 wins.
On the surface it’s easy to think Wall is going to follow Rose’s footsteps and become a superstar. He has the talent to. I’m not convinced. Making the leap from all-star to MVP candidate is about what you have upstairs. For all of Rose’s physical gifts, it’s only half of what makes him a special player. Rose is the consumate leader and team player. He works as hard as anyone in the league as shown by rapid improvements in all areas of the game. He understands winning is the only goal and he should balance his scoring and passing by what will get his team there. When Rose plays, he controls the game. He slows the game down and has mastered pounding teams in the halfcourt pick and roll. Rose can be a champion because of what he has in mind as much as body.
What worries me about John Wall‘s rookie season is he’s not showing these intangibles or much sign of them. His game and the Wizards in general are chaotic. He averages a high assist number by penetrating and passing, but isn’t making his teammates better. He isn’t helping his team play in control. If anything he’s adding to the mess. He needs to learn how to slow the game down and read and react as he punishes defenses. He needs to become methodical, not chaotic. As a rookie his game is all burst and explosiveness and no control. Wall has a long, long way to go in the decision making department. Being a star PG is about controlling the floor and the game. Wall’s head for the game is very raw and it’s one of the reasons the Wizards are so awful. Furthermore he needs to grow as a leader and reel in players like Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee when they make selfish plays. To me Wall’s impact on the Wizards poor culture has been non-apparant.
To get to anywhere near Rose’s level and turn around the Wizards, Wall needs to show the seriousness and commitment to the game players like Rose and Kevin Durant. He needs to master the basketball IQ aspect of being a PG and learn to beat teams with control and not just burst. When I watch Blake Griffin I see a player who is constantly getting better at reading the game. I see a player with the seriousness and commitment that will rub off on that franchise and turn it around. The Clippers are finally playing together on both ends. The Wizards aren’t. I will not be surprised if the Clippers win over 45 games next year. I’ll be surprised if the Wizards win more than 25.
The truth is if you take Derrick Rose and you eliminate his tremendous intangibles and just leave his size and athleticism, you get a player closer to Stephen Marbury. Marbury easily put up 20 points and 8 assists a game but never really had a great head for the game or making his team better. He his game predicated on explosiveness, not methodical control and basketball IQ. This is a dangerous comparison for John Wall. He can be great, but it’s not a given. I’m impressed by the talent he’s shown his rookie season, but I’m not impressed by the way he’s played. The history of the league is full of immensely talented players who didn’t have the head or control to be superstars, or guys who’s game permitted them to lead bad teams. Wall still has to prove whether he’ll be a great talent or a great basketball player. Without commitment he’ll only be a Rose in body, not mind.