Don’t count John Wall out of the NBA Rookie of the Year race

By: 01.21.11  •  23 Comments

In the NBA’s Year of the Point Guard, the main characters have assumed roles almost like an ensemble cast in Ocean’s Eleven or Reservoir Dogs.

Derrick Rose is The MVP. Chris Paul is The Prototype. Deron Williams is The Underdog. Russell Westbrook is The Freak. Rajon Rondo is The Extraterrestrial. Steve Nash is The Philanthropist. Tony Parker is The Champ. Derek Fisher is The Ring Bearer.

The supporting cast? Chauncey Billups is The Hit Man. Jason Kidd is The Old Man. Tracy McGrady is The Bionic Man. Stephen Curry is The Legacy. Darren Collison is The Road Runner. Andre Miller is The Coyote. Mo Williams is The Depressed.

John Wall? Just call him The Rookie. And with half of this NBA season yet to be played, don’t count him out for being labeled “Rookie of the Year” by the time he’s done.

But isn’t Blake Griffin‘s name already carved on the R.O.Y. trophy? Isn’t the official press release written and ready to go, with only the final stats waiting to be filled in and the word “unanimous” in the holster?

Not quite.

Blake has owned the highlight reels and headlines, and is even getting some MVP talk. (During his 18-point, 15-rebound effort in a win over the Lakers on Monday, one of the Clippers’ announcers said it’s “not all that far-fetched” that Blake could win MVP.) But we’re not even to All-Star break yet. Wall still has time to make this a two-man race instead of a victory lap.

While Griffin is one of only four players in the NBA averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game — joining Kevin Love, Dwight Howard and Zach Randolph — Wall is just a few dimes away from being just the third player in the League to notch 10 points and 10 assists per night. Wall is averaging 15.3 points and ranks 5th in the League in both assists (9.3 apg) and steals (1.8 spg). He’s had 13 double-doubles in 28 games, or 46 percent of the time he’s suited up. His 10-point, 13-dime line against Milwaukee on Wednesday was his ninth straight game with at least nine assists, an NBA rookie record. His 259 total assists through his first 28 career games ranks second all-time behind Mark Jackson.

The Rookie has been running the show for a Washington Wizards team that has gone through roster upheaval via the Gilbert Arenas/Rashard Lewis trade and internal drama via the Andray Blatche/JaVale McGee bar fight, in the toughest division in the NBA (Miami, Orlando, Atlanta), all while fighting off a tough veteran backup (Kirk Hinrich) who wants his job and while trying to satisfy a lineup full of score-first guys who need the ball to stay relatively happy; namely Lewis, Blatche, Nick Young and Al Thornton.

The Wizards are 12-28 overall, and in the games Wall has missed due to injuries, 3-9. He makes them a better team. And as the Wizards get more comfortable with their new-look lineup featuring Young (20.9 ppg as a starter) and Lewis (13.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg with Washington) more prominently, they could at least pass Charlotte and make a move out of the Southeast Division basement. Not that Rookie of the Year puts as much stock on team success as MVP, but more wins helps any candidate’s case.

If the vote were held today, obviously Griffin wins. (And, to be frank, a lot of voters have already made up their minds no matter what happens between now and April.) But there are still three months left in the season, and all signs indicate the Wizards — and their franchise point guard — will be better in the second half of the season than they were in the first. There is plenty of time for Wall to make a late-season charge, similar to how Tyreke Evans overtook Brandon Jennings in last year’s R.O.Y. competition.

And as amazing as Blake has been, I’m sure we’d all rather see a competition than a drawn-out coronation.

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