My family moved to Ohio a couple of months after the Miami Heat won their first championship. That was a time when the Big Three consisted of Gilbert Arenas, Larry Hughes, and Antawn Jamison, Kobe still wore number 8, and Nash was coming off of his second MVP season. It was particularly hard for me to believe we were moving to Ohio, the state that had knocked off the Wizards in the playoffs three years in a row. After the move happened, I was surprised to find that people from Ohio, at least in the Central Ohio area, took their sports very seriously. Cavaliers fans were everywhere. To this day, some of the smartest basketball minds that I have ever talked with are Cavalier fans. Cavalier fans have loyalty to their team much like any other team in the NBA (1).
The Cavaliers aren’t that different from the Wizards. They have both had very high points in their team history: Wizards in the 70s, Cavaliers in the 00s. Both have had superstars (in recent memory) disappoint them by making bad decisions (2). Both have coaches that were drafted in 1983 by picks from the two current LA teams. Both are in a rebuilding process, and both started that process by drafting a point guard as their number one overall pick when each team won the lottery. One question pops up a lot in conversations between my friends, on Twitter, on Youtube, or anyplace where basketball is discussed:
If you had to start a team with either Kyrie Irving or John Wall, who would you pick?
The overwhelming answer is Kyrie. From Cavalier and Wizard fans alike. This is completely staggering to me. Most people think Kyrie is without-a-doubt the right answer. This was later confirmed by the latest NBA Rank listings, which place John at 55 and Kyrie at 22 (3).
Before I give you my answer, let me define what I think a point guard should be. A point guard should be the quarterback of the basketball team. Nobody cares about how many touchdowns a quarterback runs into the endzone. They care about how many touchdowns the running back (who the quarterback hands off to) gets, or how many a wide receiver (who the quarterback throws to) gets. Why should it be any different in basketball? The last/only high scoring point guard to win an NBA championship was Isiah Thomas. Even Iverson couldn’t do it. It just doesn’t happen.
With that being said, people today place too much emphasis on scoring point guards. It’s why Derrick Rose was an MVP. It’s why Russell Westbrook is ranked 9 on NBA Rank. It’s why Rondo is so underrated as a point guard. There’s nothing wrong with loving a point guard who gets buckets (4). Just understand they are not going to win the big one.
So back to the question. Kyrie is a scoring point, while John is a passing point. John is a whole lot more athletic, taller, quicker, faster, and better defensively. Kyrie has struggled with injuries, when John played all 66 games in a shortened season last year. As for stats, only three point guards averaged 16 points and 8 assists a game, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and John Wall. And that’s with Nick Young and Jordan Crawford as his leading scorers (5). People can point to the jump shot, but a jump shot can be learned, not athleticism. Kyrie may score more gamewinners than John (see Boston layup), but John has set up more gamewinners than Kyrie (see Nene layup in Miami).
Overall it has to be John. People are enthralled with Kyrie’s scoring ability, and overlook John’s playmaking ability (6). Regardless, John and Kyrie will be duking it out for the next 10 years or so, and hopefully they will still be wearing the same jerseys as they are today.
(1) Perhaps even more than most after the whole LBJ thing.
(2) Pun intended.
(3) People who Kyrie was ahead of: Andre Iguodala, Tim Duncan, Amare Stoudemire
(4) Heck, I was a Gilbert Arenas fan and loved when he scored 60 on Kobe’s Lakers.
(5) In an article on BulletsForever.com, they calculated that John Wall had 9.81 missed assists a game (meaning he set up his teammates and they missed the shot), which, added to what he was getting, could have been 17.81 assists a game. He could be the next Stockton or Magic.
(6) Interesting fact: Kyrie scored 2 more points per game than John last year.