John Wall and Evan Turner are considered the two gems of the 2010 NBA Draft. It's Wall's talent against Turner's versatility. The Kentucky freshman's "superstar" potential versus the nation's best collegiate player's experience and maturity. NBA-Draft.com takes a deeper look at this draft's battle for the top spot.
This past season, John Wall took the nation by storm, earning consensus First Team All-America honors as a freshman. This 6'4" guard is electrifying in almost every aspect of his game- from his athleticism to his quickness to his play-making abilities in both the half-court and in transition. In his first year with UK, he led a team that started two other freshmen and did not feature one senior in the rotation. Critics said he couldn't do it. He had the talent, but he did not have the mental make-up and maturity to lead such a young team. In some ways Wall failed, as his Wildcat team fell to West Virginia in the Elite 8. But he led such a young and inexperienced team from the very first game; against Miami (Ohio), with the game tied and the clock ticking down from six seconds left, Wall raced down the court, hitting a 15-foot buzzer beater for the win. That was just a small taste of the freshman phenom who went on to average 16.5 points, 4 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game for a Kentucky team that never dropped out of the top five in the AP or in the Coaches Poll.
Wall ran his well-oiled team, taking over in times of need with his speed, quickness and athleticism. He has the ability to lead a one-man fast-break or penetrate and kick in the half-court to find an open teammate down low or on the perimeter. He helped big man DeMarcus Cousins dominate down low, while he assisted in the transition of Patrick Patterson becoming an outside threat.
He finished the season ranked fourth in the nation in assists per game, threading needles to his big men Cousins, Patterson and Daniel Orton, or finding his shooters like Eric Bledsoe, Darius Miller and Darnell Dodson on the outside. On a fast-break is where Wall is most dangerous because of his speed, quickness and court vision, but also his ability to finish the break by himself with a punishing dunk.
Less flashy, but perhaps more effect is the 2010 NCAA Player of the Year, Evan Turner, formerly of Ohio State University. Standing at 6'7" is the lanky guard-forward who not only led the Big Ten in scoring (20.5), but also was tied for first in rebounding (9.2) and finished second in assists per game (6.0). It's this versatility that has Turner talked about as one of the greatest all-around collegiate players in the last decade. He can play three positions on the floor- displaying excellent ball handling abilities and court vision to play some point guard, good size and slashing abilities to play the 2/3 and also using his length and experience to play the role of an aggressive defender. He can score, crash the boards, run the point and defend. What more can you ask for?
Without Turner, the Buckeyes sported a very average 3-3 record, but with him, OSU was 26-5 and en route to a Big Ten regular season and tournament title. In the 31 games that Turner participated in, he played 37+ minutes in 22 of them, showing just how important he was to their success. As a three-year collegiate player, he should be able to come in and contribute immediately next season.
Wall and Turner share their two biggest weaknesses- 1) being a bit too turnover prone and 2) needing to improve their outside shots. In both situations, these players were, in part, asked to do too much with their teams. They bring the ball up, set up the offense, and are the primary scorers for their teams, although Ohio State was much more dependent on Turner than Kentucky was on Wall. But regardless, both players sported an assist-to-turnover ratio under 2:1 (Wall 1.6:1, Turner 1.4:1), averaging 4+ turnovers per game. At the next level, both players will likely be asked to do less at the next level. In terms of their perimeter game, neither player had to shoot much from the outside to be effective; both Wall and Turner got into the lane at will against most opponents. Despite a broken back earlier in the season, Turner actually shot the ball better from down town when he returned from injury (18-for-46, 39%), than before (2-for-9, 22%).
While scouts GMs are in love in Turner's do-it-all game and his ability to play three positions on the court, Wall's athleticism, size and potential may just be too much to pass up with the number one overall pick. Turner has shown the intangibles, like his leadership and knack for taking the game over in crunch time, but so has the Wildcat guard. While Turner is taller and has a longer standing reach, Wall possesses excellent size for a point guard at 6'4 and bests the former Buckeye in wingspan.
In most other years, Turner would get the nod from us for the first overall pick, especially because Washington needs help across the board, but Wall is the selection here. He is ready to be a superstar at the next level. He wants to pass. He wants to score. He wants to win. In Washington, Wall will be the player they will build around.