Over the length of their careers, John Wall will probably surpass Jameer Nelson. It might not even be close by the time each are retired. But in Wall’s first game he was outclassed by Nelson, the small-statured point guard from St. Joseph’s.
Wall was pretty middle of the road in the opener, struggling from the floor (6-of-19), and at times looking uncomfortable and erratic. Don’t get us wrong, we aren’t saying that Wall was terrible. He did have a few flashes like an inside out crossover dribble that he quickly pulled back to free himself for a nice fadeaway at the end of the third quarter. And when he took it the length of the court, showing off his speed, for an and-one in the middle of the fourth quarter. But overall he was largely a mixed bag. He certainly didn’t didn’t have us buzzing like Blake Griffin did in his opener.
After watching Wall’s first NBA game, he could learn a lot from Nelson. When Jameer had the ball in his hands his goal was to get to the paint and create. When he didn’t have the ball in his hands he was set up in a position to knock down the open jumper. Wall’s jumper has a long way to go—much like Derrick Rose, one of the players he is most frequently compared to.
Similarly, he has to be a facilitator first. He isn’t yet ready to carry the offensive load for the Wizards, just as Nelson isn’t the primary scorer for the Magic. Yes, the Magic have a better cast, but Wall’s mindset early in his career will go a long way to establishing his career path. Starting as a facilitator, and growing into a scorer is easier than starting as a scorer and learning to facilitate.
Wall will still probably average around 15 points and seven or more assists during the season. That’s solid for any point guard, in fact, it’s very similar to the numbers Nelson averaged in 2008-09—a year in which he was an All-Star. If Wall could learn how Nelson manages the game he may see himself playing in Los Angeles in February. However, on this night, Nelson showed Wall the difference between an All-Star and a rookie.