Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Head Fake! John Wall Throws His Hat Into The ROY Ring

It's fitting that John Wall's home debut came on Election Night. In his first official performance in the nation's capital, Wall did an outstanding job of swaying at least a few voters.

Wall had already made quite a name for himself before ever taking the floor in a meaningful NBA game- SEC Player of the Year; NCAA Freshman of the Year; single-season freshman record at Kentucky for points (616); marks for assists for a season (241) and a single game (16) at Kentucky; Most Outstanding Player at Las Vegas Summer League, with averages of 23.5 ppg and 7.8 apg- but Tuesday night was a serious show of intent.

Whatever flaws exist in Wall’s game (perimeter shooting and turnovers top the list) can be addressed through experience and practice, but the his greatest strengths- awe-inspiring speed, quickness and maneuverability- he's as fast as Allen Iverson, but "plays bigger" thanks to his long stride- cannot be taught or practiced. These, combined with an innate ability to hit the open man (JaVale McGee will back me up on this already) and the ability and willingness (this part cannot be underestimated) to take over a game offensively without forcing the action are the foundations of Wall's forthcoming superstardom.

Five days after putting up 14 points and 9 assists (on just 6-for-19 from the field) in his NBA debut- a 28-point loss at Orlando that wasn't even really that close- and at the end of a week in which Blake Griffin, Clippers rookie and #1 overall pick in the 2009 draft, all but etched his name on the 2010-11 Rookie of the Year trophy (yeah, I was a part of that chorus!), John Wall officially declared his ROY candidacy.

On Tuesday night, Wall scored 29 points (9-16 FG, 11-14 FT), dished out 13 assists and swiped an incredible nine stealsin 45 minutes as he led the Washington Wizards to a 116-115 overtime win over the Philadelphia 76ers. It's only fair to note that Wall did have eight turnovers in the game, but this is more than offset by seven points and an assist (on Cartier Martin's game-tying buzzer-beater) to lead the Wiz back from a six-point deficit in the last minute of the fourth quarter.

In addition to notching his first win as a pro, Wall entered his name on multiple pages of the NBA record book. He's now got 31 assists after his first three regular season games, tying him with Damon Stoudamire and Jamaal Tinsley (one of the rare times a player wants to appear in a sentence with that guy). His nine steals tied a rookie mark set by Ron Harper in 1986 and are two shy of the NBA record held by the Spurs' Larry Kenon and he Nets' Kendall Gill. Finally, and most impressively, Wall became just the second player ever to record more than 60 points and 20 assists (he's got 71 and 31) in his first three NBA games. The other? Oscar Robertson (72- 30) and Connie Hawkins (61- 21).

Now, I've got to be careful not to prematurely anoint Wall as the 2010-11 Rookie of the Year, just days after jumping on the Blake Griffin bandwagon. However, one thing I can say at this early stage in the race is that not will Griffin not be running unopposed. At this moment, in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, Wall may have the inside track for the ROY. It's fair to assume that this subject will have be revisited more than once before the third week of April, but one thing we have learned thus far is that the top selections in both the 2009 and 2010 drafts are both worthy of the honor.

No comments: