No Fit? No Problem

By Grant Paulsen
|  Thursday, Jun 24, 2010  |  Updated 5:46 PM EDT
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Probable No. 1 pick <a title=John Wall works out for the Wizards." />

Probable No. 1 pick John Wall works out for the Wizards.

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By day’s end, John Wall will be a Washington Wizard.

We know this because the Wizards have kept their first-pick plans a secret about as well as a high school girl stays hush about the boy she likes around prom time.

Wall’s one of the most exciting draft prospects in years. His open-floor speed and first-step explosiveness will make him a tough assignment for even the NBA’s best defenders. That quickness, along with his gifted passing ability, assures that he’s going to be a starting point next season.

But with Wall a lock to share the backcourt with Gilbert Arenas, who will play Batman and who will play Robin? Or are they both so similar that they’re both Batman? And can they even co-exist?

“Probably not,” said ESPN draft expert and college basketball analyst Jay Bilas with a chuckle. “Gilbert is a guy that wants the ball in his hands and is probably better with the ball in his hands.”

“If they can’t co-exist, that’s a problem,” said Bilas, at Madison Square Garden on Thursday afternoon. “But I don’t think you take somebody that blends with Gilbert and avoid taking who you think is a better player. The primary example of that is in 1984 when Stu Inman, the GM of the Portland Trail Blazers, took Sam Bowie because they needed a center.”

That year, Portland passed on a prospect it thought was going to be a superstar. His name was Michael Jordan.

Arenas, fully healthy and out of trouble for the moment, isn’t Jordan. But he is D.C.’s biggest NBA star since MJ. When healthy, he’s spent the past seven seasons running the Wizards’ offense. He’s dominated possession of the basketball, and every play has run through him. That won’t be the case anymore.

Arenas will move off the ball to shooting guard, where he should still lead the Wizards in shot attempts. 

The 28-year-old sharpshooter possesses one of the NBA’s most lethal long-range jumpers and he’ll be able to get plenty of quality looks from behind the arc with Wall penetrating and dishing.

The problem is that the less Arenas has the ball, the less he’ll drive to the rim, perhaps the best strength of his game. Much like Wall, he’s a scorer who relies on quickness and strength to slice through defenses en route to the low post.

And that’s where Washington could have a schematic problem. When Arenas is hovering around the perimeter taking set shots, something Wall won’t be doing much of, he’ll get his points and help the Wizard offense.

But if Arenas is driving than Wall isn’t and that’s the slam dunk No. 1 overall pick’s single most enticing attribute.

Defensively, the pairing is an even bigger question mark.

Wall’s got long arms and has received strong grades for anticipating passes and jumping passing lanes. But Arenas struggles against scorers, and he’s never had to consistently follow lengthy shooters around the floor.

Whether the paring will work is clearly very debatable.

But whether or not Wall’s name should be called first, isn’t. As Bilas pointed out, just ask the Blazers.

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