Since 1950, only ten NBA caliber point guards have been selected first overall out of sixty-four possible NBA Drafts. Of those ten, only five played point guard primarily during their rookie season. The Washington Wizards added their name to the history books in 2010, when they drafted John Wall. The question since then has been whether or not the Wall-led Wizards can achieve the Playoffs, let alone an NBA Championship.
Magic Johnson, perhaps the most celebrated do-it-all point forward in NBA history, began his first four years as a shooting guard. A gentleman by the name of Norm Nixon ran point for the Los Angeles Lakers during Johnson’s 1979-80 rookie season, but in 1983 Nixon left Los Angeles and joined the then San Diego Clippers. When Nixon left, Johnson became the floor runner.
Nixon averaged 17.6 points and 7.8 assists in 1979-80. He was no slouch. Johnson averaged 18.0 points and 7.3 assists at shooting guard, and it was clear he would end up being the future of the 1980 Championship Lakers. He went on to win a total of five NBA Championships with the Lakers, and he played point near exclusively for the last three.
Of course, for Los Angeles, having a big like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar didn’t hurt. Wall and the Wizards haven’t had anyone close to Abdul-Jabbar since forward Elvin Hayes helped Washington take the 1978 NBA Championship. Unfortunately, there’s no one quite like Hayes–let alone Abdul-Jabbar–on the horizon.
Even so, Johnson is the only first overall point to have multiple NBA Championships. In fact, he owns five of the group’s six (Oscar Robertson owns the sixth). It’s not easy running the floor.
STARTED AT SG, ROOKIE SEASON
- Si Green (1956)
- Hot Rod Hundley (1957)
- Jimmy Walker (1967)
- John Lucas (1976)
- Magic Johnson (1979)
STARTED AT PG, ROOKIE SEASON
- Oscar Roberston (1960)
- Allen Iverson (1996)
- Derrick Rose (2008)
- John Wall (2010)
- Kyrie Irving (2011)
Washington’s current bigs–Nene and Emeka Okafor–have Playoffs experience, but no hardware for their trouble. They have some skill, but neither is expected to dominate a game. Nene also has an injury history which will require heavy work by Jan Vesely and Kevin Seraphin off the bench. It’s questionable as to whether the 11-year-pro can beat back his annual plantar fasciitis without such support.
Talented guard play and not enough up front is an old story. Just ask Hot Rod Hundley and the 1962 Lakers, who couldn’t find a way to top the Bill Russell led Boston Celtics. Today’s league lacks quality bigs, however, and the Miami Heat have been a prime example of how a small ball team can make the most of their talent despite lacking a solid interior player such as Tim Duncan.
Washington is attempting to build such a small ball team. The Wall-led Wizards were built for speed, but now Washington has a few shooters in Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, and Glen Rice, Jr. Wall–who knocked down a corner trey last week during a Team USA exhibition–has proven he is capable of being a shooter as well. Five-time Champion Johnson knew as much. Wall will need to continue his recent success if the Wizards hope to make the Playoffs this season, and he’ll need to be able to close games if Washington hopes to ever win a Championship.
The length of their journey, if they get to the Playoffs, will depend on the little things. Will Vesely ever look comfortable on offense or will he hot potato his way through another failed season? Can Otto Porter hit the weight room and become a LeBron James stopper? But most importantly, can Washington, as a team, stay healthy?