Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
This week, we borrow three questions from The Starters season preview podcasts.
Which former Kentucky guy would you rather build around: John Wall or DeMarcus Cousins?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Cousins. I hate the possibility of being an enabler of bad behavior, but Cousins’ size and skills are harder to come by than Wall’s, so if there’s a chance that he eventually matures and knocks off the pouting, fussing and other antics, he’s the more valuable cornerstone. Wall’s injury history detracts from his value, too.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: In terms of size, the answer would be DeMarcus Cousins. But can you really build a team on a foundation that is shakier than the San Andreas Fault? In short, no. So I’ll go with as the potentially elite quarterback and leader.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: You almost caught me napping on this one. I assumed a choice between John Wall and New Orleans’ second-year stud-in-the-making Anthony Davis was coming. In which case I would have gone with the forever theory of taking the big man. But, since it’s petulant Sac big man DeMarcus Cousins, I’ll go with Wall. While Cousins might become a mature force in the league, he cannot yet be trusted. Wall’s play and leadership in the second half of last season showed real growth, and in a league popping at the seams with excellent point guards, you’ve got to have a dynamic one.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Is this a trick question? Cousins can be good if he matures and finds stability. But Wall is good. And he has a very good chance to be even better. Look at what he did after recovering last season. Wall plays a position, point guard, that is just as hard to fill as Cousins at center. A lot of GMs might not even want Cousins on their team, let alone build around him.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I really wouldn’t build around either of them, but I’ll take Wall over Cousins. Neither of these guys is nearly on the level of Tim Duncan or LeBron James, but those two have taught us the difference between stars and coachable stars. If you’re going to pay a guy max money, he better have more than just offensive talent. He needs to lead, he needs to earn his coach’s trust, and he needs to be willing to play defense. Wall isn’t exactly Chris Paul or Derrick Rose in regard to those requirements just yet, but he’s got the right attitude. From what I’ve seen so far, Cousins is not someone I’d want in my locker room.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: If I still believed we were in the era where a team molded around a dominant big man had the best chance to win and win big, I could have been swayed to the Cousins camp. I do not believe. That era is over and I’m still not convinced Cousins, as talented as he might be, is destined to become the great and dominant big man his raw abilities suggest he should. John Wall is the sort of physical talent and the perfect position for today’s game, and therefore my pick for the former Kentucky guy I’d rather build my team around. When you factor in the drama that comes with Cousins, and the lack thereof that you get with Wall, it makes this decision much easier. I know it’s old school and seems a bit corny in this day and age, but you’re not just winning on talent alone. There has to be some genuine energy, effort and a certain level of acceptance of your role, in whatever system you’re in, that comes into play if you’re going to be the centerpiece of a team that wins at a high level. You’re not building a quality team around a guy who is not interested in the greater good before his own personal and selfish interests. Cousins has time to prove otherwise, but up to this point he hasn’t shown me the willingness to be the kind of player you build the fabric of your team around. Talented? Sure. But a franchise guy, the kind you build around? That’s Wall.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Talk about your Sophie’s Choice. Both players have shown flashes of brilliance and tantalizing talent, but neither has really been able to sustain that production over any extended period of time. And while a young talented big man such as Cousins is always enticing, I’ll ride with John Wall. I still can’t shake seeing Wall play pick-up ball in Vegas during the lockout and dominating against solid NBA players. When I spoke to him earlier this summer, he seemed to have fully grasped the requirements of leadership and understood what was expected of him.
Adriano Albuquerque, NBA.com Brasil: In the era of the point guard? I’m building around John Wall. Also, he seems to be more level-headed and a lot less high maintenance than Cousins. And look at Washington and Sacramento — one is primed for a playoff run this season, the other has a best-case scenario of just sneaking in.
Karan Madhok, NBA.com India: Tough call. Both are young, unquestionable raw talents, with the potential of being game-changers. Wall has shown more maturity in his game lately, and helped the Wizards finish last season on a high. But, despite his faults, I’ve always had an affinity for Cousins’ game. I believe ‘Boogie’ is on the verge of a breakout season and can morph into one of the best offensive big men in the NBA. There are many talented guards around the league, but a Center like Cousins is a much rarer commodity. I would rather build a team around him. (And make sure there are some veterans on that team to keep him on the right track!)