The non-college hoops fan typically picks his or her battles. He doesn't follow the entire college hoops season, one game after another, because he doesn't care. He needs big picture. He wants to see who the best college hoops players are, and why, and what chance one of these players will end up on his favorite NBA team. Being an NBA fan as well as a college hoops guy, I understand this impulse, and I have nothing wrong with it (even if you couldn't convince the most stubborn NBA fan that the college hoops game is worth watching for plenty of other reasons, too -- but that's for another argument).
Which brings us, naturally, to John Wall.
Is it any wonder scouts, fans and NBA bloggers are all freaking out about Wall's imminent arrival in the NBA? After all, we college hoops folks only get him for four more months; after that, he becomes the exclusive province of NBA fans for the next, oh, 15 years. And good for them. The big jerks. Let's hope they enjoy him. Because he is really, really good.
But how good? Is Wall the next Derrick Rose? The next Tyreke Evans -- who college fans will be surprised to learn is quite possibly the NBA's best rookie in 2009-10? (Evans was uber-talented in college, but he always looked a little lost in a way that Rose didn't. And he took too many bad outside shots.) Or is Wall -- gasp -- better than both?
That's the consensus that's quickly forming, and it makes sense. After all, Rose is probably more athletic, but was not nearly as far along (and maybe still isn't) in his vision and knowledge of how to run a team from the point guard spot. Under John Calipari, Rose took dribble-drive to a new level, but it required him to be a slasher and attacker more than an NBA-style pick and roll point guard. Evans did much the same, but with a bigger body; he dominated smaller players on drives to the hoop, which appeared to be his main talent in college.
Wall is different. Wall does different things. He can get to the hoop at will, sure, but he is equally capable of running an offense from any position on the floor. He can slow the game down and control it and take it over. Rose is just now starting to do that in the NBA. In college, he was all frenetic motion. Wall seems more ... calm.
And then, of course, he explodes, and no player in the country is better at getting to the rim on the fast break than Wall. He can do everything. That's the point. Rose and Evans are still learning the ropes, still figuring out what it means to be a point guard in the NBA. Wall already seems to know. There isn't a single NBA team in existence that wouldn't be improved from that knowledge.
This is much what Hardwood Paroxsysm's Matt Moore wrote yesterday. An NBA guy to the bone, Moore has taken a hard look at the careers of Wall and his point guard predecessors -- which, by the way, all played for Calipari; how crazy is that? -- and sees the most in Kentucky's current All-American:
Are the turnover numbers worrisome? Sure, but if you’re looking at a prospect, aren’t turnovers the one thing you accept because you know you can coach those out? You can’t coach them to shoot that much better, or to attack consistently, or how to create for your teammates. You can’t coach him to outrun two men on a fastbreak or know when to nail an open jumper or reset the offense. The things you can’t teach? Wall knows.
Some of these things were said about both Rose and Evans. Rose’s blinding speed was stunning when he went in for a layup. Evans ability to attack with his size was downright terrifying. Rose had confidence, Evans had ferocity. But Wall is somehow the model in-between the two, the hybrid.
There’s a million ways this could go badly from here on out. He could struggle against tougher competition (though finding much tougher than Louisville, UConn, Indiana, and UNC is going to be tough). He could wind up with personal or legal trouble (busted last summer for breaking and entering in what could be a harmless prank or a sign of badness and we’ll never know which). There are all the usual draft-related nightmares (injury, bad coaching, being drafted by the Clippers). But even with all those things a constant in my mind, I still find myself thinking that this kid is going to do things in the league that we haven’t seen in a long damn while. And if you don’t take my word for it, read around. Heck, check the most rigorous analysts around.
But having seen what I’ve seen, I have no choice, even as someone so prone to overhype as I am. I have to stand by my conviction.
I believe in John Wall.
At this point, why wouldn't you?