Washington has been blessed with two prodigies in the last year, but it's John Wall that has more of an opportunity to radically change the fortunes of not only a franchise, but an entire city.
Stephen Strasburg and John Wall have the potential to usher in a golden era of D.C. sports. Both players have the opportunity to revitalize franchises that haven't been legitimate contenders for years. The arrival of these two No. 1 picks could lead to playoff appearances, individual awards, games on national TV and hopefully a few championships.
Both Strasburg and Wall have incredibly bright futures ahead of them. But when it comes to establishing a lasting legacy in Washington, there are several reasons why John Wall has a better chance of being Washington's defining athlete of this generation.
Basketball is bigger in D.C. than baseball.
Here's how Washington's top four sports teams rank in terms of popularity:
But after that, the Wizards still hold the spot as the next most popular team in the District. With the exception of this season, where the Capitals pulled off higher ratings thanks to their best season in franchise history, while the Wizards were simultaneously going through their worst. All things even, the Wizards are still going to lead the pack for the best ratings when it comes to pro teams not owned by Dan Snyder.
Washington can be a very good basketball town when it wants to be. The Bullets/Wizards haven't given the city much to cheer about in the last 30 years, but the passion for quality hoops is still evident at the college and high school level. The fervent crowds that come to watch Maryland, Georgetown and the city's top high school squads are the signs of the sleeping giant of a fan base ready to be awakened by a hardwood phenom like John Wall.
John Wall will have a bigger impact on the success of his team than Stephen Strasburg
The math here is simple. Someone who plays 40 minutes per night on offense and defense can have a much larger effect on the game than someone who only plays seven-to-eight innings every five days.
Although dominant starting pitching is essential for a World Series run, one pitcher can't carry a team by himself. Bullpens can blow even the most secure leads and teams still have to find ways to win for the other four days of the week when their dominant pitcher isn't pitching.
Basketball makes it much easier for the game's best players to dominate the regular season and the playoffs. Though teamwork is still a key part of any championship run, one player can take over a game or a series through scoring, passing, rebounding or stifling defensive pressure. When you get a legend, they can dominate in all four of those areas. That's why Kobe Bryant and LeBron James always find themselves in the hunt for a championship every year while Tim Lincecum and Zach Greinke are still waiting for a sniff of the playoffs.
In the last 10 years, four teams have won the World Series without a Cy Young winner on the staff, five if you discredit Eric Gagne's presence on the 2007 Red Sox, where he only pitched one inning in the World Series. In the NBA, on the other hand, MVPs are essential. Only one team in the last 20 years (the 2004 Pistons) have won a title without an MVP on the roster.
Strasburg is part of a rebuilding effort, John Wall is a one-man revolution
Stephen Strasburg is the most important piece of rebuilding effort that has been taking place in NatsTown for five years. When the Nationals came to Washington, they may as well have been an expansion team, given how badly they had been pillaged while owned by Major League Baseball during their final years in Montreal. Since the Lerners bought the team, Stan Kasten has been putting together a plan to get the Nationals back on track.
While there have been some bumps in the road and some things that arguably could have been handled better, the plan is beginning to bear fruit. Strasburg might be the juiciest orange on the tree, but he's not the only player on the Nationals that is ripe with potential. Even without Strasburg, the Nationals would be in a good position moving forward thanks to prospects like Bryce Harper, Drew Storen, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler, Ian Desmond, Chris Marrero and Justin Maxwell.
The Wizards? They would be stuck in the same cycle of mediocrity they've been stuck in for decades if those ping pong balls hadn't bounced in the Wizards' favor last month. Wall is the only player the Wizards could have acquired this off-season who can help the team rid itself of the vestiges of failed past regimes. He' s the only player in this year's draft with enough talent to supplant Arenas as the face of the franchise from the get-go. His presence simplifies Gilbert's necessary transition from top option to second banana, which helps both the team and Gilbert moving forward.
More importantly, John Wall gives Ted Leonsis the perfect player to jump start Ted Leonsis' top-to-bottom overhaul of the Wizards. He gives the Wizards a player that will fill seats and be the cornerstone of the team for the next decade. Wall simplifies the team's chain of command from Leonsis, to the GM, the coach, to Wall, and then to the rest of the team. His presence increases the worth of the franchise as a whole and the value of his teammates, who will all benefit from the opportunities he creates with his speed and court vision.
It took almost a decade of revamping with the Capitals for Leonsis to finally put the right system in place in order to build a contender. With the Wizards, he'll have that system in place as soon as David Stern announces the first pick tonight.
The NBA's salary cap helps teams retain players. MLB? Uhh...
Let's be honest, the Nationals won't have the money to sign Strasburg to a $300 million deal once his contract expires.