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Not all top NBA draft picks work out, but it's hard to argue with the Wizards taking John Wall

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Likely number one overall pick John Wall discusses his career at Kentucky, the leadership skills he learned, and his transition to the NBA in a press conference prior to the draft.

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 24, 2010

Amid the Wall-to-Wall adrenaline rush, the outright pomp and pageantry over the Washington Wizards drafting the best player in college basketball, a small measure of trepidation looms. Glancing at No. 1 picks throughout history, really, how can you not have at least an ounce of concern?

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Michael Olowokandi, after all, went No. 1. Pervis Ellison was the top pick in 1989. You already know what Brown didn't do for you in 2001. Beyond Kwame, don't forget Joe Barry Carroll in 1980.

Will John Wall underachieve like those No. 1s? Doubtful. But before the Wizards pin the hopes of a franchise rebirth on a 19-year-old kid Thursday night in New York, it's again worth pointing out a sobering stat: Since the draft lottery was instituted in 1985, just four No. 1 picks in the past 25 years have won NBA championships: Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Shaquille O'Neal and Glenn Robinson.

So even when the Ping-Pong balls bounce right, being bad enough to win the lottery rarely equates to a banner hanging from the rafters.

Only one 19-year-old point guard ever taken No. 1 transformed his team into an NBA champion his rookie year, and there will never be another Magic Johnson.

All that said, after reaching and reaching to find something wrong with this pick, I really can't.

Wall will be just the third point guard plucked No. 1 since Magic. If you ask the general managers involved in picking Allen Iverson and Derrick Rose today of their decisions, they would do it again.

Great floor leaders are hard to find. Even in the case of Gary Payton, Jason Kidd and more recently Steve Nash, they take about three years to truly mature into great decision-makers and catalysts.

From all accounts, the kid whom John Calipari rented for one scintillating season at Kentucky is ready today. He's good and young enough for the Wizards to not even consider shipping their pick to New Orleans in hopes of prying away Chris Paul, who, with apologies to Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams and Nash, is right now the best point guard in the game when healthy.

Moreover, in playground vernacular, John Wall can flat-out ball.

He's a new, marketable face for the facade. He's an attraction -- the way Gilbert Arenas played himself into an attraction before the malady of knee injuries and madness of juvenile behavior culminated in that bad dream of last season.

"He'll be really big for this city," said Miles Rawls, the commissioner of the George Goodman League at Barry Farm in Southeast, the District's outdoor-run answer to New York's Rucker Park. "The streets are talkin' 'bout him. They love his speed, his athleticism. They know the jump shot is going to come. Basically, the whole town is buzzin' about him."


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