Next Man Up: Blake Griffin

Photo courtesy of Ryan Hurst/@NBA_Photos
I’m not a fan of regurgitating things that have already been said in the media, but in this case I will gladly make an exception. Earlier in the NBA season, I wrote a piece on Blake Griffin after watching him assault the rim with reckless abandon against the Golden State Warriors. Mind you, he has since had the opportunity to play against other opponents and give us a chance to see him display his talents against some of the league’s best players at his position.

The conclusion that we have all been able to draw is a simple one: Blake Griffin is a bad man. More bad than Michael Jackson’s Bad video, more bad than Nas’ Ether and more bad than anything Shaq ever said about Kobe Bryant. We have seen players before with incredible athleticism; however not all of them were exactly great or even good basketball players. The names of Darvin Ham (in case you just said “who the hell is that”, Ham is famous for shattering a backboard in the NCAA tournament a few years ago), Kedrick Brown and DeAndre Jordan come to mind. But in the case of Griffin, he combines all of his physical gifts with actual basketball skill.

As a result, we have the first rookie since Tim Duncan to average over 21 points and 10 rebounds per game. Oddly enough, most basketball fans are not sure if they have ever seen this combination of size, speed, quickness, leaping ability and basketball IQ in a power forward before. But the truth is we have. There is one player that comes to mind; and the funny thing is you would never think to associate Griffin to him.

It might seem downright blasphemous to compare a rookie to the greatest power forward of all time, but the comparison really is not that much of a stretch. People forget this now, but Tim Duncan came into the NBA as a highflying power forward that dominated the boards. Any of this sound familiar?  Have a look at the highlight montage (please seriously have a look, specifically starting at the 2:40 mark):

From the highlights you just witnessed, it’s obvious that Duncan has not always been a below the rim player. He once terrified the opposition with his forays to the hoop much like Griffin does today. Mind you, the Big Fundamental was a much more polished player in his first NBA season given the fact that he had spent four years playing at Wake Forest. Indeed, he possessed a much more refined post game and was a better individual and team defender than Blake Griffin is today. Not to make excuses for the Clippers power forward, but Duncan benefitted from joining a defensive minded squad that was a perennial playoff team and who also had a Hall of Fame center on board in David Robinson. And yet, one could argue that Griffin has had a better season through 36 games. Have a look at their numbers:

Tim Duncan
Blake Griffin

As you can see from the numbers, Duncan’s shot blocking numbers are far superior to Griffin’s, however the former Oklahoma star has a distinct advantage in the offensive rebounding and assist department.

As I mentioned previously, although the Griffin to Duncan comparisons are somewhat premature, the productivity of  players both in their first NBA season is quite similar. But how does Griffin stack up against some other notable forwards?  It might be an interesting exercise to compile the Player Efficiency Ratings of some of the greatest NBA forwards in their rookie campaigns:

Blake Griffin
Tim Duncan
Chris Webber
Larry Bird
Charles Barkley
Karl Malone

Should we use this graphic to project that Griffin will one day be in the Hall of Fame? Of course not. Instead, we should look at his play this season and realize just how remarkable he has been as an NBA power forward in addition to the spectacular dunks he has provided fans with.

Blake Griffin may or may not make the All-Star Game this season, but do not let that fool you. This young payer clearly has a promising future ahead of him and may end up being the best power forward in the league within the next few years. And with that, that’s why G6 has to be seen as the Next Man Up.

Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments section or you can contact me by email at You can also find me on Twitter with the handle name ShyneIV.


All Day E'ry Day Sportz said...

I'm not really feeling the comparison J.M. It makes sense statistically but leaves a bad taste in my mouth aesthetically. Duncan is a great player without question, but watching highlights of him could cure insomnia (BTW, Ultimate Tim Duncan Mix=nominee for worst ever player mix highlight music). They could play Griffin highlights - high school and college included - as often as CNN covers Jared Lee Loughner and I still wouldn't get tired of seeing them. Griffin is on the the Magic, Shaq, LeBron level of projected greatness rather than the Bird, Duncan, Deron Williams level; both groups include hall of famers and potential HOFers but the former group did it or are doing it with a little more umph.

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