John Wall or Alex Ovechkin: Who Is More Valuable?

12:24 PM, Jan 31, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- Let's play the hypothetical game -- hey, it's the Redskins and Nationals offseason, can you blame me?

But seriously, let's play.

Say for some ungodly reason, Capitals and Wizards owner Ted Leonsis is kidnapped against his will. Tied up. Apple in the mouth. The whole nine-yards.

But the robber isn't interested in money. The robber needs only one decision from Leonsis: If the owner had to remove either Alex Ovechkin or John Wall from their respective rosters, who would he choose?

For some hardcore D.C. sports fans, this would be an agonizing decision. For me? Not so much.

My choice without hesitation is John Wall, and here are the reasons why.

1) Alex Ovechkin's MVP seasons are distant memories

Someone please tell me the difference between Alex Ovechkin and Gilbert Arenas' careers. I'll wait. 

Both came blazing into the league, looking like unstoppable scoring forces. Both were put on a pedestal by the city as the next best athletic thing. Both were surrounded by personnel mistakes which hindered their growth. Both tried to become superheroes, and continually came up short.

I can admit the Russian prodigy on ice's career has been more illustrious than Arenas', but for what exactly? The hardware Ovechkin collected early in his career was the driving force behind building the Capitals rabid fan base. And that's really all he has to show for it now in his eighth season in Washington.

Obviously Ovechkin isn't going to end up playing in China three seasons from now like Arenas, but I hope you get my comparison. If I told you in 2006 the tailspin the Wizards would take over the next several seasons you would've called WUSA-9 and had me tested for bath salts. Same thing goes if I would've told you about the Capitals downward spiral since 2009.

I realize the Capitals have still been able to qualify for the playoffs -- but barely. I also realize one player shouldn't make or break a hockey season. But if you ask a majority of the fan base if they are happy with the direction the team is headed, most will tell you no. Fingers have to be pointed somewhere, and Ovechkin is the biggest target.

2) Alex Ovechkin has reached his ceiling as a player

Ovi's goal totals from 2005-2012 in order: 52, 46, 55, 56, 50, 32, 38.

Blame his decreased production on how he's changed "systems" three times. Blame it on the missteps general manager George McPhee has made. Blame it on Ovechkin not being to evolve his basic offensive game. Blame it on his distracting girlfriend.

It doesn't matter what you blame it on, because his production has dropped from perennial MVP candidate to a guy who sometimes is watching from the bench late in third periods. If he posts a third straight underwhelming season, even his staunchest supporters will have to reevaluate their stance on the almighty 'Great 8'.

As soon as the Capitals front office brass and fan base accepts this reality, the franchise can move in the right direction. To me, Ovechkin can no longer be the best player on a championship team -- and a title seemed within reach just three seasons ago. If he's the clear second or third option on the roster, the organization will be heading in the right direction.

3) John Wall has been in the worst situation possible

While Ovechkin has had his fair share of career defining moments, John Wall has not, at least until this season, when he literally picked up the Wizards from their death bed. The team is 6-5 since return. Wall's prescence alone has turned chicken sh*t into halfway decent chicken salad.

Blaming Wall for the underwhelming start to his career is fair to some degree. But you must take into account he's been sifting through garbage on his Wizards roster from the moment David Stern called his name in 2010. All three of Ernie Grunfeld's 2011 selections (Chris Singleton, Jan Vesely and Shelvin Mack) have amounted to nothing.

Possibly most importantly, Wall knows what it's like to be at rock bottom. He knows what it's like to be a on team that's the laughing stock of the league. He may be a young professional, but the point guard's seen his fair share of criticism and hasn't wilted.

4) Wall has shown signs of growth as a player

When he was first drafted, pundits pegged John Wall to become a Derrick Rose-type of scorer. I think even Wall himself exptected to be a 20-points per game kind of guy.

Wall was plagued by immaturity during the 2011 lockout, when he chose to play in dozens of summer league games as opposed to refining his skills as a point guard.

But through the trials and tribulations of his first few seasons, Wall has finally figured out he's a pass-first point guard. He's learned how to control his supreme athleticism but not holding down the turbo button on every possession. His already highly-praised defense has an impact on the entire team's effort. Although he's yet to develop a jump shot, something that took years for both Jason Kidd and Gary Payton to add to their repertoires.

The Wizards for obvious reasons have lower expectations than the Caps. Will Wall win MVP awards like Ovechkin? No. Will help build a Wizards fan base as large as the Capitals? Probably not. But do his talents, upside and younger age give the Wizards hope that they can become a mainstay NBA playoff team in three seasons? Yes. And that type of foreseeable improvement, to me, is way more valuable at this point than the Caps continuing to come up on the short end of the stick.

A glimpse of the future in which a 24-year-old Bradley Beal and a 26-year-old John Wall are hugging after a first round playoff win seems so much more realistic than a 32-year-old Ovechkin playing in a Stanley Cup final.

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