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Is John Wall the Obvious First Pick for the Wizards?

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Ted Leonsis – the new owner of the Washington Wizards – has endorsed Stumbling on Wins and said he reads this blog.  And now he has the number one pick in the 2010 draft.

If Leonsis listens to the general consensus his choice is easy.  He simply has to pick John Wall.  The numbers, though, say this choice is not quite that easy.

Here are the top five players in the draft according to Chad Ford of (insider access required).

  1. John Wall, PG
  2. Evan Turner, SG
  3. Derrick Favors, PF
  4. DeMarcus Cousins, C
  5. Wesley Johnson, SF

This list is hardly unique to Ford.  One suspects that the top five for most draft analysts would be fairly similar.  But is the order of these picks “correct”?

We should emphasize that college numbers do not forecast future NBA performance perfectly (in other words, the numbers won’t guarantee that a decision-maker will be “correct”).  There is, though, a link between what we see in college and what we will see in the future.  And that link – which we will illustrate with PAWS40 [Position Adjusted Win Score per 40 minutes] – suggests the following order:

  1. DeMarcus Cousins: 15.61
  2. Evan Turner: 14.37
  3. Wesley Johnson: 13.40
  4. Derrick Favors: 11.20
  5. John Wall: 9.97

Average PAWS40 is 10.17.  So of these five players, Wall was the only below average performer last year.  Yes, he was a just a freshman.  Then again, so was Cousins.  And yes, there have been below average point guards – like Deron Williams and Steve Nash – who became great NBA players.  Bu then again, there have been many, many below average point guards in college who did not become great NBA players.

So what I am I saying?  This really is not an easy decision. The Wizards need to ask themselves: Why did Wall play relatively poorly last year?  Can these weaknesses be corrected?  And would it be a better idea to take a player – like DeMarcus Cousins or Evan Turner – who already projects to be a more productive NBA performer?

The good news is that the Wizards have several weeks to think about this.  This process should involve more than just collecting information.  As we note in the book, the information needs to be sorted in terms of what matters (i.e. some college numbers) and what doesn’t matter (i.e. Final Four appearances, relative height).  And no decision should be made until the process in completing.

One last observation before this process begins:  Derrick Rose was considered the consensus number one choice in 2008.  Rose posted better college numbers (11.28 PAW40) but after two seasons he has yet to develop into one of the top point guards in the game.  Maybe that will happen for Rose in the future.  Maybe, though, it won’t.  The Rose story, though, should be considered as Washington evaluates the merits of Wall.  Remember – and I repeat – people were just as certain about Rose in 2008. 

- DJ

P.S. There will be more analysis posted here as we get closer to the NBA Draft.

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