It's not often that a 20-year-old point guard dives headfirst into the NBA and makes a big impact right away — but then again, it's not often that a once-in-a-generation athlete comes along ready to grab the Association by the horns and throttle it. He's the real deal, there's no doubt — so will John Wall be a star right away?
On first thought, how could he not be? If you watched the kid at Kentucky, you know that his natural-born talent is out of this world. He can dribble a basketball faster than most people can run without one. He can make any pass known to man, and then some. He attacks the basket with no mercy. He has everything he needs to be a superstar for the Washington Wizards.
But even with Wall, asking for that superstardom to manifest itself in his first season may be asking a little much.
Wall might well be the best point guard prospect we've seen come along in a very, very long time in the NBA. But as is often the case, it may take a year for him to put it all together. Consider past history for a moment:
Steve Nash: Took a full five years to establish himself as a legit star point guard in the NBA. Was utterly forgettable in his rookie season of 1996-97, coming off the bench to spell Suns starter Kevin Johnson for about 10 minutes a game. Didn't truly master his craft until around age 27.
Deron Williams: Split time as the Jazz's starter in 2005-06 with Milt Palacio. Didn't learn to take over the Utah offense for a couple of years; was tentative early on until he figured things out. Only recently has he blossomed into a full-blown star.
Rajon Rondo: Split time with Delonte West in the Celtics' starting five as a rookie. Before Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen came along, he was just another piece of a miserable Celtics team that wasn't going anywhere. Oh my, how times have changed.
Chris Paul: Became the first pure point guard in a decade to win Rookie of the Year. But if I may nitpick — he took too many shots, he turned the ball over just a tad too much and he hadn't learned to be a leader on a good team. His Hornets won only 38 games and missed the playoffs in 2006.
There's a good chance that when all's said and done, we'll look at Wall as better than all of the above guys. But he's not there yet, and we can't anoint him until he proves himself on the NBA level.
Wall has some learning to do. Breaking down defenses and making plays was a lot easier in the SEC than it will be in the NBA. He's got to learn to outplay savvy veterans, and that takes more than just athletic gifts.
He's got to develop as a shooter. He's got to learn to defend all different kinds of opposing point guards — big guys, little guys, quick guys, distributors, shooters, slashers. He's got to be ready to beat anyone. He's got to learn to step up and lead.
He's not exactly in the right environment for finding success overnight in the NBA. He's on a Wizards team that's going nowhere fast, and he's going to have to compete with Gilbert Arenas for control of the ball on every possession.
The going will be tough for John Wall in the nation's capital. But one of these days, he'll figure out. Give him time, and he can accomplish anything.
NESN.com will analyze 25 key NBA questions this September.
Sept. 8: Has any NBA GM ever had a better offseason than Pat Riley?
Sept. 10: How long will Chris Paul be a Hornet?
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