SI.com’s NBA writers debate the biggest playoff question of the day. Today, we examine …
Would you rather have the Blazers' Damian Lillard or the Wizards' John Wall for the next 10 years?
Lee Jenkins: John Wall. Wall is actually younger than Lillard, which is odd, considering he was drafted two years before him. Because Lillard spent four seasons at Weber State, he is a relatively polished product, an accurate shooter and clutch performer already adept at running the pick-and-roll. Wall, after only one year at Kentucky and three with the semi-dysfunctional Wizards, remains a work in progress. He has improved dramatically the past two seasons, so I'd take him, gambling that he has further to go. He will never match Lillard from three-point range, though he is better than he used to be, and he remains a superior playmaker. Wall is arguably the fastest point guard in the league, though his career got off to a slow start. Here's betting he makes up a lot of ground in a hurry.
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Phil Taylor: John Wall. By a hair. He and Lillard are equally dynamic offensively, with Wall a touch faster and more dangerous in transition and Lillard a significantly better shooter. The difference is on defense, where at this early stage of their careers, Wall is the superior player. Lillard has mental lapses and isn't particularly good at navigating screens, which means he sometimes gets exposed as a defender. Spurs point guard Tony Parker proved that by getting to the basket with ease on his way to 33 points in Game 1 of their series on Tuesday (although, to be fair, Parker does that to a lot of people.) Wall has improved his jump shot, a clear weakness when he came into the league, and it's a little easier to envision him becoming a reliable shooter than it is to see Lillard transforming himself into a solid defender. So the pick is Wall, but it's close. So close.
Ben Golliver: John Wall. This is about as close as it gets. I'll take Wall, barely, and I do so empathizing with the USA Basketball decision-makers who will grapple with choices like this as they trim a ridiculously deep point guard field for the upcoming FIBA World Cup. This is a stylistic decision: I prefer Wall's relentless attacking approach, in transition and to set up shooters in drive-and-kick situations, over Lillard's deadly shooting and playmaking combination. I also prefer Wall's size, length and athleticism on the defensive end. That said, Lillard's rapid progress in addressing his weaknesses over the course of his first two seasons makes this decision even more difficult. Who knows how fast and far his star will rise in 3-5 years?
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Rob Mahoney: John Wall. As much as I like what Lillard offers as a quick-fire shooter in the pick-and-roll (stylistically, he's Stephen Curry lite), his defense is so disastrous as to shake my confidence within this comparison. Wall has his flaws on that end, certainly, but we can trace a steady upward trend in his defensive recognition and awareness over the past several seasons. With that, I trust Wall -- who's still growing into his offensive game as well -- to progress to the point where he'll ultimately have the better career. It's a tough call, still. Wall might never be the kind of player whom the Wizards can rely on to hit big, momentum-swinging shots in the way the Blazers lean on Lillard, who seems to ace most every test when it comes to his poise as a scorer. In the final balance, though, I'd sleep well at night betting on Wall's dribble penetration, potential for improvement and ability to pick out open shooters.
Matt Dollinger: Damian Lillard. Wall possesses the higher ceiling, but Lillard is already realizing his potential in his second year while John Wall is still struggling to reach his in his fourth. The Blazers' guard has continued a steady but steep ascension up the NBA ladder, going from Rookie of the Year to All-Star to playoff hero, becoming the first player since 1997 to end a series on a buzzer-beater. He's one of four players averaging at least 20-5-5 this postseason and he's become one of the league's most dangerous three-point shooters, averaging three triples per game in the playoffs and shooting 44.4 percent. Lillard can't compete with Wall's athleticism and end-to-end speed, but he makes up for it with a much better jumper (Wall is shooting 32.7 percent this postseason) and a much better understanding of the pick-and-roll.
Chris Johnson: John Wall.
In a parallel universe where the SI.com NBA roundtable posed real-life questions, general managers and coaches would be licking their lips at the prospect of having one of the best young point guards in the game for the next decade. Alas, neither Wall nor Lillard will hit the free-agent market this summer, nor are their respective teams likely to trade them anytime soon. Required as I am to make a choice, I’ll side with Wall. Mind you, this was not an easy decision. Both Lillard and Wall have bright futures. The Wizards’ star gets the nod because of the growth he’s exhibited this season as a scorer and distributor, upping his points and assists numbers. Wall is also the superior athlete and defender, and an intro-dance savant
, which should count for something. Critics have knocked Wall for his poor three-point shooting, but he’s made major strides this season, boosting his accuracy eight percentage points, to 35.1. And if we’re going to pick nits, Wall’s double-pump jam over G-Man
at the Dunk Contest was way
better than any of Lillard’s dunks.