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NBA Lottery: Let the debate begin, Wall or Turner for Wizards?

May 18, 2010, 8:43 PM EDT

Thumbnail image for eturner.jpgThis one won’t be a no-brainer.

John Wall is a near consensus #1 overall player. His vision, athleticism, natural skill and length have drawn lofty phrases as strong as “best draft prospect since Carmelo Anthony.” And now the Wizards have the opportunity to select him with the first overall pick. Only problem? They already have a former All-Star point guard and star power that they’ve kind of committed to, even with his rampant off-the-court (in-the-locker-room) issues.

The Wizards made a public show of support of Arenas, saying they planned on him returning to the team following his suspension for the whole guns in the locker room thing. If they plan on standing by that pledge, they’ve got an interesting set of scenarios to debate as they head towards June.

The formula essentially breaks down into four options. 1. Choose Wall and jettison Arenas. 2. Choose Arenas, draft Evan Turner, a stud prospect in his own right. Or 3. Keep Arenas and trade the top overall pick. Or 4. Choose Wall, keep Arenas and move him to shooting guard. The fourth option is the easiest selection, obviously. It allows you to draft the best player available, keep the best talent involved, not have to clearance sale all those Arenas jerseys, and focus on rebuilding your frontcourt. But what’s the best option? Let’s start with the easy option and go backwards.

The issue with drafting Wall and keeping Arenas is the fact that both players will need the ball in their hands. Arenas had a usage (estimated percentage of possessions used) of 32.00 last year, good for tops on the Wizards and eighth highest in the league. You’re now asking Arenas who likes to shoot and have the ball in his hands before he shoots, to move off the ball and give control of the offense up to a rookie. That could be problematic. Similarly, you’ve got the concern that Arenas has never revealed himself to be a great leader and you don’t want Wall to enter a poisonous situation. The upside is that if Arenas does adapt, Wall and he would provide killer scoring potential and it takes the pressure off Arenas to create which feeds into his bad habits.

Keeping Arenas and trading the pick is the riskiest of all options. It’s simply a nightmare scenario trying to garner enough of a package to pull the value of a top pick, even in a weak draft, much less one with Wall and Turner. The only good alternative might be to try and use the pick in a sign and trade for a major free agent. But then, why not just use the overall pick as a draw for one of the free agents to sign without the sign and trade? You can’t trade this pick, unless you get an offer for a top player in this league you can’t sign in free agency. And there are maybe five of those players.

Now, keeping Arenas and drafting Evan Turner out of Ohio State is certainly an option. There are people who believe that Turner will end up being the better prospect. Turner is a scintillating prospect and would give Arenas a scoring option to share the offensive load. Versus Caron Butler, who acts as a versatile Swiss Army Knife, Turner can act as a machete. And he brings an athleticism upgrade over Arenas following his knee surgeries. Turner would also be more comfortable as a number two option and wouldn’t challenge Arenas’ ego. If you really still believe Arenas can be part of a championship contender, this might be the way to go.

Drafting Wall and putting Arenas on the block is bold, but would send a message. It means a clean break from not only the shenanigans of last year, but a revitalization of the team under a banner of youth. Wall isn’t just a potential star, he’s a potential brand in and of himself. He’s a draw for free agents. After the last three years of Arenas’ career, you cannot say the same. You can rebuild a chemistry-centric team around Wall without questioning his alpha status. Trading Arenas may not garner much, but if he does, wouldn’t that be a great way to move up quickly? You can build a young core by moving for more picks, use your cap space carefully and really build from the ground up, as opposed to trying to force something awkward. Gilbert Arenas can still be a good player. But building around Wall could mean the start of a team like Arenas’ were supposed to be.

Tough decisions will have to be made, but the good news is, there’s not really a bad option. As dark as the times were five months ago, light has come to the Wizards, and not a moment too soon.

  1. Walt - May 18, 2010 at 10:31 PM

    Who the hell would trade for Arenas for anything? Other than cap space when he is in the final year of his contract, which is still several years away, what the hell can you get from him? You take the best player available, regardless of what that means for Arenas.

  2. Esh - May 19, 2010 at 2:58 AM

    I’ll start by saying that this is a really good article. Second, Arenas is a pretty worthless commodity. No young clubs would risk an injury prone, former superstar who could potentially harm the club’s culture. So that rules out places like New Jersey and Minnesota. I would have liked to see Wall go to the Nets, it could open up interesting trade scenarios for Devin Harris and entice big name free agents. That and with the new owner and likely move to Brooklyn it makes for a fresh start.

  3. James - May 19, 2010 at 5:45 AM

    this is a no-brainer. you take wall. arenas is a crappy point guard. he turns the ball over too much and doesn’t play defense. if you want to keep arenas you tell him to move to shooting guard and get with the team concept.

  4. Truth About It - May 19, 2010 at 5:53 AM

    Your use of Usage-Percentage from this past season for Arenas is a little skewed (even though it has also been high in the past) … toward the end of the season, Flip Saunders switched to more of a 2-guard offense to take pressure off most of the ball-handling duties being on one guy and to open up Andray Blatche’s post game. Flip said he did this partially with Arenas in mind. He can certainly do something similar with both Arenas and Wall in mind.

  5. joe - May 19, 2010 at 7:37 AM

    This decision should be a no brainer. The Wizards are in the position to take the best player in the draft who’s a true point guard that won’t be a defensive liability. The media tends to overhype Arenas’ ego. A too guard offense with Wall at the point, Arenas at the off guard, LeBron James (Shhhhhhhh!)on the wing, Blatch at power forward and McGee at center. The Wizards, with the new owner, will make the right decision.

  6. terry - May 19, 2010 at 8:12 AM

    Arenas is history

  7. Stan - May 19, 2010 at 10:21 AM

    The Wizards shouldn’t be worried about upsetting Arenas. Who the heck is he to be complaining? He’s lucky to not be in jail for the next three years. Being moved to shooting guard should be the least of his complaints. Wall to the Wizards and Turner to the Sixers.

  8. kevin - May 19, 2010 at 11:45 AM

    their best bet would be to draft turner, keep gil at the point and then let Philly mess up their backcourt by drafting Wall and making Jrue holiday a bench player. Now that would be crazy! I think that if Turner goes 1st Philly is stuck trading out of 2 and won’t get the value for wall in return. Interesting article. I do believe that the Wizards will take Wall and move Gil to SG, even if I don’t think it is their best option. No real story, Wall is their pick

  9. Randall - May 19, 2010 at 12:31 PM

    Yeah, Wall’s a no-brainer. It may take a while, maybe a whole season, but the Wiz can/should dump Arenas for a decent return.

  10. Tony - May 22, 2010 at 8:30 PM

    all i know is that im getting irritated with this “it’s about who’s compatible with Arenas” talk. Maybe I’m wrong but im sure our goal is rebuilding. Drafting because of compatibility is a mistake because its just going to start us off the same way that put us in this situation, building around arenas. Arenas has to share the role now. His time has expired.

  11. Scott - May 23, 2010 at 6:48 PM

    The Wizards have to worry about character issues with Wall though. Do they really want to deal with that after this year? If the sixers do get Wall, they’re best bet would be to start Wall at the 2, and keep Holiday at the point. Sixers still need to try to sign and trade for Brand if they plan on turning that thing around though.

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