This 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.