Will Irving be better than Wall?

Kyrie's game is this awesome, duh

Kyrie Irving and John Wall invite comparison, but so rarely is the offer accepted. In a universe where the public frames dissimilar basketball strangers like LeBron and Kobe as heated rivals–in the way a child narrates a fight between toys that have no real-world beef–I expected more “Irving vs. Wall” talk. But, the 10’ and 11’ number ones aren’t thought of as sharing cultural airspace despite sharing a draft position, playing position, NBA conference.

If you look for Irving vs. Wall comps, most of that stuff is from over a year ago. It was easier to think of Kyrie as the “next John Wall,” before the Jersey kid got on the national stage. When Irving started playing at Duke, two things happened: 1. He produced with greater efficiency than John Wall did at Kentucky 2. People were not so enthralled by his athletic promise, like they were with John Wall’s.

Then Kyrie got injured, retained his number one status, a status this is currently cited as an indictment of the 2011 draft. “The next John Wall” is now “the reason this draft sucks,” mostly on account of his smallish 11 game sample size. Also, Irving is not thought of as a franchise-morphing superstar in the John Wall mode. Unlike his number-one pick predecessor, Kyrie is a hype orphan. The stat-lovers who should be touting Irving’s metrics are scared by the sample-size. The scouts who should love his athletic, slashing play, prefer Wall’s combine-tangible physical prowess.

Kyrie Irving looked to be the much better college basketball player in his brief stint. As Beckley so often says, he played “a perfect 11 games.” I watched most of these, and was struck by the athleticism that many draftniks find lacking. Irving burned opponents on coast-to-coast drives with a control that looked effortless. He attacked with a methodical violence, often shifting pace like a pitcher changing speeds. In stylistic contrast, John Wall attacked with a predictable straight-line velocity that blurred my HD feed, but compromised Wall’s ability to keep possession. To continue the cross-sport analogy, Wall was a flame-thrower who struggled at taming his 103 MPH heaters into the strike zone.

Scouts prefer the latter skillset and they could be right. I recall not being impressed by Derrick Rose, the college player, and look at what young Derrick has already become in the NBA. Rose produced lukewarm NCAA stats, but did so with an athletic flair that draftniks correctly recognized as valuable.

Wall is thought to be the next Rose and he did little to dispel such notions as a rookie. Injuries nagged an otherwise solid year and I have high expectations for his future. But I don’t think Wall will be better than Irving, a player Chad Ford compares to Mo Williams.

My bet is on Kyrie’s small-sample productivity, his handling dexterity and his shooting. I’m predicting a superior career for the most under-hyped first pick since Andrew Bogut. Fast point guards tend to overperform in the NBA, especially if they shoot well in college. Irving’s 50-40-90 was whatever a red flag isn’t. And though it is awkward to cite stats when the sample seems insufficient, my eyes tell me to trust the numbers.

Follow Ethan @SherwoodStrauss

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  2. He’s not your child

Trackbacks

  1. [...] other day, friend/cohort Ethan Sherwood Strauss explored the idea that Kyrie Irving in all of his efficient splendor would end up being a better point guard than [...]

  2. [...] other day, friend/cohort Ethan Sherwood Strauss explored the idea that Kyrie Irving in all of his efficient splendor would end up being a better point guard than [...]

  3. [...] Scouts prefer the latter skillset and they could be right. I recall not being impressed by Derrick Rose, the college player, and look at what young Derrick has already become in the NBA. Rose produced lukewarm NCAA stats, but did so with an athletic flair that draftniks correctly recognized as valuable. Wall is thought to be the next Rose and he did little to dispel such notions as a rookie. Injuries nagged an otherwise solid year and I have high expectations for his future. But I don’t think Wall will be better than Irving, a player Chad Ford compares to Mo Williams.” [Strauss/Hoopspeak.com] [...]

  4. [...] widespread assertions to the contrary, I believe that Kyrie Irving has superstar potential. Tristan Thompson looks like he could become a valuable defensive force at the 4 spot, no small [...]

  5. [...] came the John Wall comparisons. If merely rooted in draft position and one-and-done collegiate careers, this juxtaposition [...]

  6. [...] resisted the urge to write about Kyrie Irving because I’ve resisted the urge to do a “He’s awesome, I told ya so, I am great by proxy” victory dance. But the jig is up, or on in this case. When Irving submits a performance like [...]

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