SPEED OR SAVVY? That is the question.
John Wall or Evan Turner?
Who do you like?
There seems little doubt that in Thursday's NBA draft the Wizards will take Kentucky freshman John Wall with the first pick and the Sixers will take Ohio State junior Evan Turner with the second pick.
But . . . who is the better pick? Who will be the better NBA player?
"I'm a fan of both," said Atlanta Hawks scout Steve Rosenberry. "They're obviously different players. Wall is the prototypical long, speed burner, end-to-end type player, disruptive defensively . . . He's kind of more like Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook, the athletic-type guy.
"Turner is not a 'two', is not a 'three'. He's a point. That's what he is. I have discussions with personnel people and media and I say, 'Guys, if you don't believe me, then you haven't watched him play.' At Ohio State, he had the ball in his hand literally 95 percent of the game . . . He reminds me some of Gary Payton. He was a great post player. What made Gary so good is his ability to pass out of the post. When he took guards into the post, they had to double him or he would just murder them. When they doubled, he punished you with passes.
"That's what this kid is. He's so big and thick and strong that if you play him one-on-one in the post, he's going to score. Then, when you double, his first instincts are to pass. He's a good athlete. He's not an extreme athlete. He's an OK shooter. He's not a deep shooter. He takes you places on the court where he wants to be. He'll just back you to where he wants to get so he doesn't have to take deep shots."
The trick for Sixers coach Doug Collins will be to figure out how to maximize the abilities of Turner, young point guard Jrue Holiday and small forward Andre Iguodala, as all three players are best with the ball.
There won't be much debate in Washington. Wall will have the ball.
"If your inclinations are you like the more traditional, go-go-go type guard, you've got him in John Wall," Rosenberry said.
Neither Wall nor Turner is a great long-range shooter. But both are so good at getting where they want on the court, that making long shots is not a high priority.
"Wall is a Derrick Rose-type," Sixers president and general manager Ed Stefanski said. "They're extremely fast with the basketball. They set the players up. They both seem to have a flair for the game. I thought [Wall], in his first year at Kentucky, had an upper hand on Rose's first year at Memphis shooting the basketball. Now, Rose has developed in the pros and become a very effective shooter."
So, Wall or Turner?
"Washington is saying, 'We're going to take Wall because everyone told us in the country that he's the best player and we kind of believe that,' " Rosenberry said. "I would have to interview both and work out both and really dig and dig. Wall's really sexy because it's really hard to defend speed.
"Russell Westbrook can't shoot, but he is so athletic and he puts so much pressure on the defense. He's a ridiculous offensive rebounder. Wall's not the athlete Westbrook is. [Westbrook's] almost like a power forward in a point guard's body. But Wall has that kind of speed . . . He outruns his mistakes. I think that Wall probably is the first guy, but everyone will tell you it's a two-player draft."
Rosenberry brought up a very good point about the two players. Wall was on a team with four other likely first-round picks - DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Daniel Orton and Patrick Patterson. Turner was on a team with some nice players, but it's possible none of them ever makes the NBA.
"I even give Turner more credit for his accomplishments because he's playing with lesser players," Rosenberry said.
If you were looking for the better defender at this stage, it would be Wall.
"He's quicker," Rosenberry said of Wall. "Turner is going to guard [shooting guards]. Turner has no chance of guarding Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook. Wall has a chance to guard them."
Jerry Holloway, longtime advance scout for the Clippers who has done his share of college scouting, has some reservations about Wall.
"I've heard this from people at Kentucky, that while he is a good player and stuff, he's got a little attitude," said Holloway, who lives in the area and is selling Audis and Volkswagens at the moment because he was out in Los Angeles when Mike Dunleavy was let go. "First pick, I don't know. I think [Gilbert] Arenas [with the Wizards] is not going to dig this at all. He likes to have the ball and he likes to be the show."
With so few good big men in the NBA anymore, elite point guards have become invaluable.
If you don't have Kobe Bryant, LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, you better have one of the elite point guards - Rose, Westbrook, Rajon Rondo, Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry, Jameer Nelson, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Brandon Jennings, Aaron Brooks, Jason Kidd, Chauncey Billups or Steve Nash.
Stefanski is hoping the Sixers eventually have one of those elite point guards in the very young Holiday. Unlike Rosenberry, Stefanski sees Turner as someone who can be effective at multiple positions.
"Has legit, prototype size for a 'two' guard at 6-7, the body, very intelligent with the ball," Stefanski said. "The biggest compliment you can give someone is he makes his teammates better and that's what he does. He goes left or right, slasher, finishes around the basket, going to have to keep working on his jump shot. All reports we get is that he's a gym rat."
But clearly not just a point guard in Stefanski's eyes.
"Can he play point guard? Sure," Stefanski said. "He can play 'two', he can play some 'three'. Handles the ball so well at 6-7, can go anywhere he wants on the court. I just think he's a basketball player. I think he can play any one of those positions."
One scout, who wished to remain anonymous, agreed with Stefanski.
"Evan is multitalented," the scout said. "He can play multiple positions for you. He can shoot, pass, dribble . . . Some people are saying he could be a Penny Hardaway/Grant Hill type, but he could also be a John Salmons type as well. That might be his ceiling. I don't know if he's an all-star."
Turner was the point guard at Ohio State last season because the Buckeyes had nobody else to play the position. So he took it, became player of the year and, in the process, made himself even more valuable to the NBA, a league that went from liking him as a sophomore to loving him as a junior.
With Wall, it was love at first sight. With Turner, it took a little time. As the top two players in this draft, they will be forever linked. And someday, we likely will know the answer to Wall or Turner.