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20 Days, 20 Questions: John Wall's Rookie Performance

The key to the Wizards season is NOT Gilbert Arenas. The team's playoff chances are indeed riding on our best player's ability to stay healthy and return to form. We all know, however, that the this year should not be strictly defined by wins and losses, but rather how it sets the young team up for the future. A playoff (re?)birth would be amazing, but John Wall is unquestionably our most important player this season.

The longer-term fate of this team rests squarely on The Great Wall. This is a league dominated by superstars, teams without them are simply have-nots and can't win a title (recent exception being the 2004 Pistons). Make no mistake, Wall will be good, but the more important question is how good? This leads to the question for this year of:

How good will John Wall be right away?

There is a thin line between being good enough to lead a championship contender, and 'merely' being an All-star caliber player who can play a significant role on a championship team. Andre Iguodala, for instance, is a great player but will never lead a team to a title. The Wizards need Wall to be great, not just good. Wall does not have to be great this season (although he can still keep the Great Wall nickname), but his immediate performance and development in year 1 has major implications for this franchise.

 We can make subjective comparisons galore, but I want to actually try to find what Wall's stats will look like this year. The first step is to go back and get some comparable players by looking at pace-adjusted stats per 40 minutes of one-and-done PGs. Using say, Chris Paul, as a comparable to estimate Wall's rookie stats will not work, as CP3 came to the NBA with more experience from college. Then, I will take the closest comparables and try to piece together some kind of prediction. Bare in mind that this is a very small sample, but here is the list of recent one-and-done PGs:

John Wall:       18.2 ppg,     46.1 fg%,     32.5 3p%,     4.7 rpg,     7.1 apg,     2.0 spg,     4.4 TOs
Derrick Rose:   19.5 ppg,     47.7 fg%,     33.7 3p%,     5.9 rpg,     6.2 apg,     1.6 spg,     3.5 TOs
Tyreke Evans:  23.6 ppg,     45.5 fg%,     27.4 3p%,     7.4 rpg,     5.3 apg,     2.9 spg,     5.0 TOs
Jrue Holiday:    13.0 ppg,    45.0 fg%,     30.7 3p%,     5.8 rpg,     5.7 apg,     2.4 spg,     3.3 TOs
Mike Conley:    14.7 ppg,     51.8 fg%,     30.4 3p%,     4.5 rpg,     7.9 apg,     2.9 spg,     2.9 TOs

So what do we have here? Evans is the pure scorer, Conley the passer, and Holiday was raw in his 1 collegiate season, but Wall lines up pretty well with Derrick Rose, although Rose had the better collegiate season. Rose is the guy who also seems most comparable to my hawk eyes due his athleticism and style. I'd be lying if I didn't say I was hoping for Wall's numbers to obliterate all the others, and my personal take before seeing the data is that Wall is Derrick Rose with more upside and defense. The bright side is that Rose is on the cusp of superstardom. 

Now let's look at at the pace adjusted per 40 rookie stats for these players to check the trends in their numbers making the jump to the NBA:

Derrick Rose:    17.6 ppg,      47.5 fg%,     22.2 3p%,     4.1 rpg,     6.6 apg,     0.9 spg,     2.6 TOs
Tyreke Evans:   21.1 ppg,     45.8 fg%,     25.5 3p%,     5.5 rpg,     6.0 apg,     1.6 spg,     3.2 TOs
Jrue Holiday:    13.3 ppg,     44.3 fg%,     39.0 3p%,     4.3 rpg,     6.4 apg,     1.8 spg,     3.5 TOs
Mike Conley:    13.9 ppg,     42.8 fg%,     33.0 3p%,     3.9 rpg,     6.2 apg,     1.2 spg,     2.5 TOs


A small sample size, but the trend in the numbers is pretty consistent for all players, so it seems pretty safe to compare the Great Wall to Derrick Rose. It is unclear exactly how many mpg Wall will earn and what the Wizards pace will be with so much roster overturn, so let's use Rose's raw rookie performance as a jumping off point:

37 mpg, 16.8 ppg, 47.5 fg%, 3.9 rpg, 6.3 apg, 0.8 spg, 2.5 TOs

Using 37 mpg and average pace, Wall's line should then look something like (just estimating from the above numbers):

37 mpg, 16.2 ppg, 46.0 fg%, 2.9rpg, 7.6 apg, 1.2 spg, 3.4 TOs

Now these numbers do not take into account the unique situation Wall is entering as a highly touted player joining a lineup of high usage players that will likely depress his scoring figure. Either way, I'm pretty excited about that line! 7.6 apg would have placed Wall at #9 in the league last year, but what excites me the most is the cut in TO rate. Wall's aggressive style lends itself to TOs, but the fact that Rose cut his TO rate from college to the pros is incredible and something we can only hope the Great Wall can emulate.

In the bigger picture, it looks like we have a more passing-oriented and better defensive version of Derrick Rose on our hands (but not necessarily the better prospect/player based on this tiny sample). Is that the superstar we need? Rose is great and took a big step towards becoming a superstar in his 2nd season, which bodes extremely well for our #1 pick. John Wall's performance in year 1 will tell us more clearly whether he is on a similar track.