Over the past fortnight or so Blake Griffin has become the centre of two conversations. Dwight Howard added the LA Clippers to his list of preferred trade partners and thus inciting the inevitable possibility of Blake Griffin heading in the opposite direction. The other topic of debate that has emerged, largely due to the incomparable influence of ESPN, is the parallels between and the comparing of Griffin with the Timberwolves’ rebound king, Kevin Love.
In my opinion, there is an definite answer for both, and neither are in favour of the KIA jumping power forward from Oklahoma.
We’ll begin with the potential trade.
To me, it is clear Dwight Howard does not want to remain in Orlando and at the very least will leave in free agency, should Orlando be naive enough to allow that to happen. This means they will have to trade him. The rule in the NBA is that when trading a star, you will never get back equal value, rather the ambition is to stockpile draft picks, young players and expiring contracts to ensure the future of the team can be rebuilt following the chaotic loss of their franchise player.
The possibilities for Orlando when trading Dwight sat only with the Nets, Lakers and Mavericks, as these were the only teams Howard said he would sign an extension with. No promise of signing an extension would obviously nullify any teams interest in him, as there is no point trading all your best pieces for a year or even less of Dwight Howard.
Dallas have very little in terms of young players and draft picks. They have expiring contracts, but that is not enough to tempt Orlando into a trade. Their best bet is clearly to hope he makes it to free agency and try and sway him with Mark Cuban’s exuberance. The Lakers have the young, injury prone, talented center with a poor attitude, known as Andrew Bynum, and very little else. They have nothing in terms of youth and their draft picks are worthless in value. The Nets in my opinion had the best pieces of the three and gave Howard the best chance to win of the three. They could offer draft picks, some talented young players and give Orlando back a dominant big man, in Brook Lopez, who does similar things to Howard, but obviously a significant downgrade.
So when Dwight added the Clippers to the list, it gives both teams a unique opportunity to make the most of a difficult situation. The Clippers are on the verge of something special. Everyone can feel it. The trade for the game’s best point guard, Chris Paul, put the Clippers on the map unlike anything they had ever experienced before and has elevated the laughable franchise to the status of the hottest ticket in town, something none of us would have ever contemplated happening. Not only that, but Chris Paul was all but a Laker only a week or so before the Clippers made the deal. How quickly it can turn. How quickly it did turn.
Despite the trade for Paul, combined with the signing of Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups, the Clippers are still at least a year away from truly competing. Griffin and Jordan are both still young. Their coach, Vinny del Negro is largely unproven and they need to show they can make it work in the playoffs with their four point guard system.
However, should they bring in Dwight Howard, that changes everything. Immediately they would be the best team in the Western Conference and may even rival Miami as the consensus best team in the league. The combination of Paul and Howard is terrifying to think about, and it may not come at a price that would hurt the Clippers nearly as much as one would have first thought.
The deal would likely be Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan for Dwight Howard. Sure the Clippers are giving up two of the best young big men in the game, but they are getting the hands down best big man since Shaquille O’Neal and one of the greatest defensive players of all time. He would instantly change the franchise defensively, he would become a part of possibly the greatest pick and roll the game as seen and he brings in a player with a higher ceiling than either of the two they are trading away.
If I were the Clippers, I would get Otis Smith, Magic GM, on the phone immediately and make it known Blake Griffin is on the table.
Before I explain why I think Griffin is not worth what others believe him to be, let’s discuss the Kevin Love comparison.
Kevin Love has emerged as one of the best big men in the game. To me is the undisputedly the most underrated player in the NBA (followed by Udonis Haslem). He is the only reason the Timberwolves didn’t go 0-82 last season, and is the main catalyst behind their early season form this year. The Clippers have already seen how good he is, as Love drained a three at the buzzer to beat the Clippers a week ago.
Kevin Love has dethroned Dwight Howard as the game’s best rebounder and did it in the most spectacular of fashions. He broke Moses Malone’s record of 51 consecutive double doubles last season and was the first man in over 30 years to record a game with 30 points and 30 rebounds.
The Timberwolves have lacked leadership and direction since their favourite son, Kevin Garnett, left for Boston in 2006. Kevin Love has began to fill that void, inspiring his team both on and off the court. He has extended his range to Dirk Nowitzki length and I believe he is the second best shooting big man behind the German champion. He’s as tough as nails, can play the 48 and by all accounts is as nice a guy off the court as he is a great player on it. He may not be the flashiest star in the league, but do not underestimate that he is just that, a star.
Blake Griffin has the potential to be one of the faces of the NBA. He is highly likeable, he’s very charismatic and he is a human highlight reel. THAT game against the Knicks last year was mind boggling. I was skeptical about his undersized height for the position he played and his knee injuries before he made his debut, but he quickly quashed whatever serious questions I had of him.
However, he is another example of this growing trend that has swept the NBA and I place most of the blame with ESPN. It has become apparent that SportsCenter’s Top 10 has now become a genuine analytical term for determining a player’s standing against his peers. To dumb that down, I basically mean that if you can throw it down, swat it into the 12th row or break someone’s ankles, you are a top 10 player in the NBA. There is no better example of this than Derrick Rose. He is clearly not the best point guard in the game, and not even close to the best overall player, yet people make the argument for both because of the ridiculousness he produces on the court. The same can be said for Blake Griffin.
The majority of the people that are on the Griffin bandwagon are those who do not watch a lot, if any, of his games and/or do not know basketball. They justify their beliefs by watching NBATV’s plays of the night.
Don’t get me wrong, Griffin has the potential to be a true superstar of this league, maybe even on the level of Dwight Howard, but he isn’t close yet. Griffin is still so raw. His offensive game is, at times, a mess. His jump shot isn’t true and has little to no consistency. He is lacking the post moves to become a really dominate paint scorer and his defense, from what I’ve seen, is largely non existent. He gets plenty of rebounds, about 11 per game, mostly because of his athleticism. I have no doubt all of this will improve, but he is 2 years minimum off becoming the all dominating player he could be.
Dwight Howard is already there. As is Kevin Love.
LA need to show Chris Paul they are all in and want to win now. Paul doesn’t want to have to wait around for Griffin to blossom. Dwight Howard would solve everything.
I don’t think Blake Griffin knows for sure what he is yet, nor what he will become. He has gotten by, thus far, on his incredible athleticism, but there is only so long that will suffice. People will figure you out, and once that happens, you’d better hope you have some tools.
Regardless of Griffin’s potential, I am not certain he will ever be as good as Dwight Howard. That’s why you have to make this deal.
Regardless of Griffin’s potential, I am certain Kevin Love is the better player right now. It’s an unfair comparison anyway, in my opinion, given Griffin is a sophomore and Love is one of the most complete big men we’ve seen in the past decade.
Nonetheless it will be fascinating watching the next few weeks leading to the trade deadline, and indeed beyond as these three big men look to impose themselves more so upon the league that is certainly at the mercy of their talent.
Topics: Andrew Bynum, Blake Griffin, Boston Celtics, Brook Lopez, Caron Butler, Chauncey Billups, Chicago Bulls, Chris Paul, Dallas Mavericks, DeAndre Jordan, Derrick Rose, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett, Kevin Love, LA Clippers, LA Lakers, Lebron James, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Mark Cuban, Miami Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, Udonis Haslem