Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Blake Griffin: NBA Superstar?

I must make a confession: I did not fill out a bracket. Honest. I do watch the NCAA tournament, but I do it more in this decade of my life as a primer for the NBA Draft in June – so that I am properly familiar with all of the lottery picks who are from the USA. Then, from naturally camping out on the couch, a story line or 3 will jump out at me during the tournament, and by the Final 4, I am going crazy over the tournament. I just don’t need my brackets or to hear about your brackets (no offense) to fall in love with the annual March tradition.

Anyway, when watching it every year, I try to see who the experts like for the draft, and then see if I see what they see. According to about 50 mock drafts , it would appear that there is NO question who the #1 pick in the draft is going to be:

OU’s big, strong Blake Griffin.

Big Blake

He obviously is a special talent. He obviously is a man-against-boys in the college game. He obviously will be a strong player with a long NBA Career.

But, #1 overall?

#1 overall is something I try to reserve for LeBron, Dwight Howard, Tim Duncan, Yao Ming, and Shaquille O’Neal. Heck, Derrick Rose seems to be a true #1. I guess, I want my #1 overall pick that will be granted to the winner of the NBA Lottery to be a guy who leads his team by being an absolute match-up nightmare. A guy the opponent has “no answer” for.

Of course, there are other years. Just ask Milwaukee about Andrew Bogut being their #1. Toronto’s life likely didn’t change to much when they won the “Andrea Bargnani” Lottery. And heck, Greg Oden may not have quite made all of Portland’s dreams come true.

See, in the NBA, it isn’t just about winning the lottery. It is about winning the lottery in the proper year.

So, now back to big Blake.

I love his game. But, it seems to largely revolve around his more-than-superior skills in the paint, that are mostly due to his insane strength and remarkable hands. He is listed at 6’10, which we generally find about draft time that it has been enhanced by an inch or so.

Mitch Lawrence discussed this topic last week :
Consensus No. 1 pick averages 22 points on 63% shooting with 14 boards a game. "Even if he bombs in the tournament, he'll still go No. 1," said one scout. "He's that much better than anybody else." Griffin is being compared to Utah's Carlos Boozer, but with more athleticism. Only red flag: Previous problems with both knees, including surgery on right knee. Listed at 6-10.

I am always worried about guys his size who make their game by being bulls-in-the-china shop. Does that carry into the NBA? Carlos Boozer? What about Corliss Williamson? Former #1 overall pick Larry Johnson? I think you would have to be pleased to get Grand-Mama in the fold. But would I compare his career with Duncan or LeBron? I don’t think so.

College Basketball can be the great deceiver sometimes. Joe Smith was the #1 overall pick in 1995. Christian Laettner was arguably the greatest NCAA player of his generation when he left Duke. Donyell Marshall was dominant at UConn. I remember when some thought Marcus Camby was going to be the big man that would change a franchise after doing what he did at UMass. Was anybody as great in March as Danny Manning? All had NBA Careers and likely don’t lack for money, but did any of them come close to their draft day promise?

So, when Blake gets to the league, will he be able to find match-ups where he has a huge strength advantage and be the alpha-male on a fabulous team? Or will he be a great 2nd or 3rd banana on a team where he averages a 15 point, 10 rebound career? Nothing wrong with that, right? But, #1 overall?

Michael Beasley went #2 last year to Miami, after being a 6’10 destroyer at Kansas State in his only year. Unlike Griffin, Beasley would routinely head outside the 3-point stripe. So far, nobody is close to arguing that Chicago took the wrong guy at #1 when they grabbed Rose.

Really, this may have nothing to do with Blake Griffin. It may have more to do with the year he entered the draft (we assume). For instance, once upon a time, Chan Ho Park was the best pitcher available in the free agent pool. Even in the ugliest town in a America, they still have a beauty pageant, right?

He appears to be the best of the bunch. Only Spain’s young, small point guard Ricky Rubio is talked about as a #1 consideration if you don’t take Blake Griffin.

I just wonder if that makes this a bad draft year to win the lottery. I will continue to examine Blake’s game this week in the Sweet 16.

Like I said, I like his game translating in the NBA. I just don’t love it. NBA Superstar? I just can't figure him out yet.

Incidentally, according to this mock draft , the Mavs grab UNC's Ty Lawson to help play Point…Interesting. And in the Top 5 on many of these mock drafts is Brandon Jennings. His story is incredibly unique and he is featured on the current episode of HBO's Real Sports. I would advise you to check your local listings and take a look at that if the Draft interests you.

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