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NBA Draft: John Wall seems sold on the Wizards, but he'll have to sell the team to free agents

May 19, 2010, 1:00 PM EDT

The 2009-2010 season was a dream campaign for the Washington Wizards. Just, y’know, one of those dreams where you keep falling and falling without salvation or even resolution. The problems just kept on coming, and while things didn’t necessarily get progressively worse over the course of the season, the sustained funk that surrounded the Wiz as a franchise throughout the year was unmistakable.

All of that ended last night, when Irene Pollin’s shocked expression said everything. The franchise with miserable luck in the lottery suddenly had its fortunes reversed, and if everything goes according to plan, John Wall, the man, the myth, the legend, will be suiting up for the Wizards next season. 

Wall is the future, and while he’s not going to say anything about the team’s controversy last season or even anything about his potential teammates, he did indicate the mildest excitement at the possibility of having the Commander-in-Chief in attendance for his games. From ESPN.com’s Andy Katz:

“President Obama can be at your games,” said Wall, as he stood outside
on Fegan’s patio. “I’ll keep working hard and hopefully they’ll pick
me.”

Wall is a hell of a selling point himself, but he may need to reiterate that same point to some of the free agents the Wizards are targeting this off-season. Thanks to Ernie Grunfeld’s cap-clearing trades involving Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, and Brendan Haywood, Washington will have the cap space necessary to make a splash this off-season. They just, aside from Wall and Obama, don’t really have a compelling brochure.

The roster is filled with question marks. Andray Blatche finished the season in style, but he still needs to prove that he can keep up that level of play consistently in a less prominent role. Gilbert Arenas will be back, but will he be able to complement Wall? And where do Al Thornton, Nick Young, and JaVale McGee fit into the picture? I’m not saying the Wizards roster won’t work because honestly I think it could. Rather, that if I’m a free agent to be looking at possible destinations, I may not see Washington as an ideal situation.

Then again, John Wall.  Being his running mate could be tempting enough for a number of free agents, and certainly more so than just being Gilbert Arenas’ sidekick. There’s no doubt that Wall is the big prize of the draft lottery, but don’t underestimate the power of his mere presence as a free agent draw. Without Wall, the Wizards were just another team with cap room, even if Obama did stop by to catch a game. But with him, free agents will have the opportunity to build a team from the ground up with one of the best young point guards in the game.

  1. Derek - May 19, 2010 at 2:15 PM

    1. Draft Wall, to create a new superstar focal point and to build excitement
    2. Refine the current roster, add a few complimentary pieces, but focus next year should be on rebuilding the team’s culture and reputation
    3. 2012 – Secure the baddest dude at the 4 position–Carmelo Anthony.
    4. 2013 – Championship

  2. Jim - May 19, 2010 at 2:22 PM

    With all due respect to Wall, who I think will be a very good to great player, we actually do not know how good he will end up being. Why would a marquee free agent make a decision where to play based on the potential of a rookie?
    Such a theory was never around even a few years ago when a guy like Lebron was coming into the league with even more hype than Wall. You never heard that “Free Agent A” would probably want to sign with Cleveland because Lebron is there.
    Potential is a funny mistress. It’s where fans become enamored with a player and ignore the glaring flaws (think Blatche, or JJ Hickson). I find it hard to believe that the best NBA players are similarly enamored with potential enough to either (1) turn down more money or (2) turn down better current situations to play with a guy who has alot of potential.

  3. myhans - May 19, 2010 at 3:20 PM

    The wizards have had bad luck drafting young players. Anybody remember John Williams out of LSU (Bullets ’86 Freshman I think gained like 200 lbs after coming into the league…)? Kwame (nuff said). I went to Wikepedia and looked up the franchise draft hx. Phew! Not good…I am not a huge NBA fan, but I grew up in DC and watched enough games in my life, and don’t remember most of these players…
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_Wizards_draft_history
    I hope the rumors of this kid Wall are substantiated. Good work ethic and talent…This franchise is due for a turnaround. I don’t know why any free agent would not want to play here. Solid fan base, large African American community, and Obama. What more can you ask for

  4. eugene - May 19, 2010 at 4:30 PM

    Speaking as a KY fan who watched the guy play all year, and started out as skeptic – he is the real deal and he is made for the pros. Wall is the enhanced version of Rondo – head on straight, work ethic, faster, as good at running the offense now as Rondo has developed into, and more explosive. Rondo was the diamoned that needed polished and needed the right setting, Wall is already shining, and will work in about any setting.

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