Only a year after he was sitting in a Los Angeles apartment, surprised to find out that he was likely going to be a Wizard instead of a New Jersey Net, John Wall will represent the franchise on stage at the NBA draft lottery on Tuesday night in Secaucus, N.J.
Wall averaged 16.4 points and 8.3 assists in 69 games, was a near-unanimous choice for the all-rookie team and finished second to Los Angeles Clippers all-star forward Blake Griffin, the 2009 No. 1 pick, for rookie of the year. But Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld believes that Wall should’ve claimed top rookie honors. While discussing the Wizards’ prospects in the draft lottery, Grunfeld expressed his excitement with picking Wall as the franchise cornerstone last summer and said, “He should’ve been rookie of the year...except for the rule of a second-year player being eligible.”
Griffin wasn’t exactly a second-year player since he missed the entire 2009-10 season after suffering a fractured left patella in the Clippers’ preseason finale. He averaged 13.7 points and 8.1 rebounds in seven preseason games, but never appeared in a regular season game.
The NBA had a similar situation in 2008-09, when Greg Oden, the top choice in 2007, returned after missing an entire year with a knee injury but Derrick Rose, the 2008 No. 1 pick, won rookie of year.
When reminded that David Robinson and Larry Bird also won the award in the season that was different from the year in which they were drafted, Grunfeld responded by mentioning that Bird was still in college when Boston boldly chose him sixth in 1978 when Bird had never declared for the draft and had just completed his junior year at Indiana State. Robinson was taken first overall in 1987 but had to fulfill two years of naval duty before playing for the Spurs.
Grunfeld said the difference was that Griffin actually spent a year in an NBA environment before making his debut in a regular season game. “Last year, I think Blake did play in a couple of preseason games and he traveled with his team, so he got a feel first. But that’s the rule, and he was deserving, obviously. He had a tremendous year. I thought John had a terrific year, also.”