Skip to main content

Wall is best player in draft, but Turner is better fit for Wizards


Although the comparison is not apples to apples, many in the NBA are comparing the first two picks of this year's draft to 2007 when the choice was between Kevin Durant and Greg Oden.

Just as Oden was a tantalizing pick at the top of that draft, so too is Kentucky's John Wall this year. Only, just as Oden was not a natural fit in Portland, Wall, a point guard, is not exactly a perfect match in Washington, which still has Gilbert Arenas on its roster.

In truth, Evan Turner, college basketball's national Player of the Year from Ohio State, would be the perfect fit alongside Arenas, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard with a wide array of skills. That would leave Wall to go to Philadelphia, where he would fit in seamlessly next to shooting guard Andre Iguodala, giving new Sixers coach Doug Collins both incredible size and speed in his backcourt.

But just as Oden was taken by the Trail Blazers despite no immediate need at the time for a center, it is highly probable Wall will be selected No. 1 by Washington, his potential and upside far too vast for Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld to bypass him in favor of Turner.

Assuming that happens, Wall and Arenas will have to find a way to coexist, while Iguodala becomes immediately expendable. Were this any other time, the dynamic between Wall and Arenas might be combustible. But Arenas is coming off the locker room gun-brandishing episode that has led to a jail sentence and season-long suspension and has made him untradeable, particularly with $80 million remaining on his contract.

The last thing Arenas can afford to do is generate animosity with the top pick in the draft while trying desperately to rehabilitate his reputation. Wall understands this and the situation he is stepping into as a rookie.

"It is basically like trying to bond together," Wall said. "The best thing you can do is try to work things out, like me and Eric (Bledsoe) did this year. He was used to being the point guard and he had to move over to the (shooting guard) position.

"Sometimes in this life, in this business we are in, you have to make sacrifices. If we are both there together and he has to change positions, the best thing is who is going to make a sacrifice to help the team? That is all it basically is, trying to help the organization and not help yourself."

Wall said he has not yet spoken to Arenas but will once he knows for sure that the Wizards will draft him.

"If I feel like that is where I am definitely going to be, you would want to start a relationship early," Wall said.

Turner is in a slightly different position because there is a good chance Iguodala won't be with the Sixers next season. He was shopped heavily at the trade deadline, but general manager Ed Stefanski was unable to unload his hefty $12.2 million salary.

However, there will be a significant number of teams under the salary cap this summer and only a few top-notch free agents. A team that needs a high-quality player may be more likely to pursue Iguodala in the next few months than it was in February.

If Iguodala is not traded, Turner said he will do whatever it is the team needs him to do to be successful, including playing point guard since he had the ball in his hands so often with the Buckeyes.

"It's all about making the best out of whatever situation you are in," Turner said.

Wall and Turner have plenty of life experience in handling difficult situations. Wall was effectively raised without his father, also named John, who was imprisoned when Wall was young. When he did get out of jail, he was diagnosed with liver cancer. He was given six months to live. He lasted only six weeks, was hospitalized on the final day of a family vacation and died the next morning.

Only 9, the younger Wall was unable to grasp exactly what happened to his father and why. Predictably, he acted out. "Invariably I wouldn't trust my coach," Wall said. "I wouldn't listen to him because I never had a father figure. I'd say, 'He's not telling the truth.'"

When he was 13, Wall's mother told him he had to release the pent-up anger and frustration about his father. "My mom sat me down one day and said, 'If you want to play basketball, if you want to do something special and change your life around, you've got to change your attitude,'" Wall said. "Once I figured that out, I realized basketball was my gateway."

During Turner's freshman season at Ohio State, he was shooting free throws with walk-on teammate Mark Titus, who was ribbing him, when he fired the ball at Titus' face. Turner realized his reaction to Titus had more to do with his own emotions than with Titus himself.

"I just think I dwelled on different situations. Sometimes I just felt like bad things were always going on instead of good things," Turner said. "It is kind of like a lot of kids think until they realize how fortunate they are. I needed to change my outlook on life. In certain situations, not dwelling on bad things but accepting things that already happened and figuring out how I can get through this."

Turner said he accepted Ohio State coach Thad Matta's guidance, then read the book Lone Survivor about Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell's escape from Afghanistan.

"Sometimes when I think things are tough on the basketball court, I think of this guy trapped in a foreign country and he made it out," Turner said. "All I have to do is score some points and I can be successful."