The 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 John Wall.
The arguments that Ethan made are compelling and hard to argue with. Kyrie Irving is a lot more athletic than anybody wants to give him credit for. Greg Anthony on NBATV put it brilliantly when he said that Irving doesn’t play like an athletic point guard, but it doesn’t mean he’s not athletic. It’s sort of how Chris Paul and Deron Williams play the game. I’m not saying Irving will be nearly as good as those guys, but they just don’t rely on their athleticism to dominate.
Also, Irving’s production in his short time at Duke was more efficient than John Wall’s one year at Kentucky. It’s easy to say that the sample size for Kyrie is just too small to know if he’s legitimately efficient, but it’s not like one college season is that much more telling. Both of these guys had extremely short college careers and I doubt we’d see a whole lot of change in the efficiency numbers if Irving played the full 30+ games this past year.
But there is one thing Ethan failed to mention about Wall when comparing Kyrie Irving to him…
JOHN WALL IS A SHOTGUN-TOTING GYPSY WITH ROCKET SHOES THAT WILL SELL YOUR OWN SOUL TO YOU BEFORE PICKING IT FROM YOUR POCKET!
I really like Kyrie Irving and I think he’s going to be a fine pro in the NBA. He’s probably going to be a Top 10 point guard and it was ridiculous that people ever considered Derrick Williams being a better player than him.
But John Wall is a transcendent talent that is already pretty damn close to being one of the best point guards in the NBA. Again, I agree that Kyrie Irving is a better athlete than people assume, but John Wall might be THE athlete at a position filled with Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook. Wall is the fastest thing I’ve ever seen on a basketball court. Sometimes it doesn’t look human. And for anybody who has ever had the skill to attempt a crossover in the open court, you marvel when you see him refusing to break stride as he switches his dribble from one hand to the other.
It’s not just that Wall is fast. It’s that he makes open court defenders impossibly disadvantaged. Really, the only time he ever messes up in the open court when he’s shoving the ball down the transition defense’s gullet is when he’s going too fast for his own good. Some people might look at that as a problem, but it’s really just something young, elite athletes have to deal with.
For example, Gerald Wallace was a reckless demolition derby car on the fast break for years. Occasionally he’d baptize guys like Bostjan Nachbar in the Puritan waters of Galilee on the fastbreak by shattering their foreheads with a Spalding orb. But often he’d be too out of control and couldn’t slow himself down as he approached the basket. Now? He’s deadly on the break and knows the exact moment to slow his body to finish at the rim.
Guys like Wallace also don’t have the handle that John Wall does. Combining his insane speed, his explosive movements toward the basket and the control he has over the ball will be an impossible bomb to disarm when he learns how to slow the game down for himself while never breaking stride.
I know what you’re thinking though. Doesn’t he turn the ball over way too much?
Here’s the thing about young guards who turn the ball over as much as he did: it’s not a bad thing at all. There seems to be a prevailing though amongst the statistical basketball community that turning the ball over at a young age can actually be a sign of good things to come. It shows they are willing to take risks and play aggressively. It’s not the Ricky Davis-type of being aggressive either. It’s the “I’m figuring out how to make plays out of my ass that lesser mortals would never even dream of attempting” type of aggressive.
Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Anfernee Hardaway, Steve Francis, Ralph Sampson, Bernard King, Phil Ford, Dikembe Mutombo, Damon Stoudamire, Ron Harper, Allen Iverson, Glenn Robinson, Reggie Theus, and Jerry Stackhouse.
You know who else is on that list? John Wall.
The thing that differentiates John Wall from the majority of guys on that list is Wall doesn’t rely on his scoring ability to be effective or to dominate a game. He takes all of that elite athleticism he shares with guys like Rose and Westbrook and he turns it into a full-fledged assault of point guarding duties. He’s looking to set his teammates up. He can score if he needs to, but for the most part, he’s out there being a prototypical point guard with extraterrestrial athleticism.
Defensively, John Wall could end up being one of the best defensive point guards we’ve ever seen. His hands are quicker than any of those athletic point guards mentioned before. He struggled as a rookie defensively, mainly because he was a rookie playing defense in the NBA. He may end up figuring out how to use his side-to-side quickness in the same way that Jason Kidd did in the early 2000s. His off-the-ball help is superb and he’s pretty elite already in the way he defends the pick-and-roll.
Kyrie may be more efficient at the college level than Wall, but it’s easier to bottle up an athletic freak like Wall by throwing a zone defense in front of him while he’s trying to make sure future first round picks get enough touches to satisfy their contracts with John Calipari egos to keep them trying hard.
Kyrie Irving is going to be a fantastic player in the NBA.
However, John Wall already has your soul and is selling it on the Black Market. You just don’t know it yet.