SLAMonline Mock Draft: Blake Griffin, No. 1
Four cautionary words: Remember The Michael Olowokandi.
With the first pick in the 2009 SLAMonline Mock Draft, the Los Angeles Clippers select…
The Ghost of Ron Harper. Okay, that’s a lie. The Los Angeles Clippers select Blake Griffin, but the choice isn’t as easy as you may think, and that will be the very issue facing the Clippers. If they overthink this, they may get themselves into trouble.
To say that the Clippers are a team in turmoil is like saying Kim Kardashian has a decent posterior. It’s pretty damn obvious to anyone who has eyes. Now that the No. 1 pick has fallen into their laps, L.A. has the chance to add to the puzzle that is missing a lot of end pieces right now. Too bad it didn’t happen in a year that a LeBron or Shaq was waiting. Griffin is an awesome player, granted, but he doesn’t pop out as having Hall of Fame potential like some other No. 1 picks of the past when you first look at him. And that is why I briefly considered passing on Griffin in favor of filling another spot the Clippers are hurting at, point guard.
Every championship team needs a general and Baron Davis has only proven fit for latrine duty in L.A. The Clippers grabbed Davis with the understanding that Elton Brand was coming back. When that fell through, you could see the fear in Mike Dunleavy’s eyes. It was Heather in The Blair Witch Project kind of fear. There are many strengths and flaws in Baron’s game, but indifference has to be his Achilles heel. Match that with injuries and bad habits on the court and at the dinner table, and you can see why there is at least a small reason to entertain the idea of grabbing Ricky Rubio.
In my eyes, which admittedly haven’t been up close enough to weigh all of Rubio’s game, the youngster is a leader. While I am not ready to crown him Pistol Pete 2.0, as many “experts” have, he is an exciting and mature player for his age, someone that would fill seats and gain a cult following the way Jason Williams did in his rookie year in Sacramento. Man, now that was some beautiful ball. So even if the Clippers weren’t getting the W’s, which they assuredly wouldn’t overnight, it’d still be fun to watch them. Rubio would push Baron to be a better player, likely pushing him out the door, but he could bring fire to a team that I nicknamed The Extinguishers last season. Someone would take Davis off the team’s hands, you know it. If Stephon Marbury can get run, so can Baron. Easily. In a time that could be considered a Golden Age of point guards, Rubio’s creativity could inspire the Clippers.
So why not pull the trigger and pick Rubio? Three reasons. One, nothing can overshadow losing and there aren’t enough behind the back passes to make you happy with being a lottery team. Rubio’s transition will take some time, thus the Clippers’ overall improvement would as well. It appears that Blake Griffin can bring the Clippers into playoff contention much quicker than Rubio.
Second, and maybe the most obvious, the Clippers gave Baron so much cheddar last year that they can’t afford to plug another mouse in the same hole, even if the aforementioned mouse is considered by some to be a rat and the cheese has gone stale. Sigh, damn hindsight.
Third, Rubio still is a question mark in spite of all his YouTube clips. We don’t know exactly how his game will adapt to the NBA. Griffin, however, seems as close to a sure thing as there is in a Draft that is full of project players. He has been described as automatic from 10 feet in, and he almost carried an Oklahoma team to the collegiate promised land, which was harder than it looked. Aside from his domination of opposing players in college, he brings character to the Clippers, who at the moment can only use their name in the same sentence as character if you put the word cartoon before it. Griffin is a student of the game, which goes a long way. Plus, he is just nasty. You can see that in how hard he throws down dunks and attacks his defender. That passion will translate to all areas of his game, including his need to improve his perimeter and free throw shooting. As physically gifted as he is, Griffin has a love for the game and desire to rise above others that could put him in rare air. He matches his God given talent with an unquenchable work ethic. In short, he is everything that Clippers of the past like Darius Miles have not been. That much I am sure of, and that is enough for me to justify taking him with the first pick.
It’s worth noting that in 2001 the L.A. Clippers grabbed Elton Brand, a top notch power forward like Griffin, that was supposed to shift a disheveled team in the right direction. Elton Brand, we hardly knew ye. Well yes we did, but then you turned your back on the Clippers and your boy, Baron Davis. How did that work out? Granted, Brand wasted his best years in L.A waiting for help, but the past is the past. The Clippers will get a chance to hit the repeat button by grabbing Griffin, only they now get a young and hungry player that comes without injuries or baggage. So for all the hell L.A. went through, they may actually come out on the other side a better team than the one they had envisioned they’d be in 2008.
Yes, the Clippers have a very big liability, I mean scoring threat, already at the power forward position in Zach Randolph. But damn it, if New York can move The Matador, as he is known amongst my friends, then someone desperate for scoring in the post will take him. The biggest deterrent will be the forthcoming salary cap, which may be lowered. I still say you can never have too many pieces, and Griffin trumps Randolph by playing defense. So you move Randolph and perhaps Camby as well to find less apathetic pieces of the puzzle. At this point, almost everyone on the Clippers is worth moving except Eric Gordon and maybe Al Thornton. The smooth stroke of Gordon has to stay, but the demeanor of both Gordon and Thornton is exactly why Griffin is a must have. He will be the respected vocal presence in a locker room that has none.
Any way you examine the situation, the L.A. Clippers should draft Blake Griffin, but they should do it for the two most important reasons of all. He is a sure thing and the pick makes the most sense. And that is why Donald Sterling will inevitably trade the No. 1 pick to Houston for Tracy McGrady. It’s just dumb enough of a move to happen in Clipperland. The L.A. Clippers. Where collective sighs of disappointment happen. Not anymore if Blake Griffin is chosen.