SLAM Top 50: Blake Griffin, No. 20

Ranking who the top 50 NBA players will be by the end of the season to pass the monotony of the final weeks of the offseason is as fun as it is hard. It’s fun because it gets the juices flowing again, reminds us of how great the League is, and that a new season is upon us. Watching the comments section devolve from thoughtful, well-crafted opposing views to ‘your (sic) a fucking moran,’ can also be fun if you’re into that sort of thing.

It’s hard because in today’s NBA any 50 of the names (sans a few) you’ve seen on this list, and many who were left off, could reasonably be swapped.

The Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin is entering his eighth season in the League, and checks in at number 20—down from 14 on last year’s SLAM Top 50. The fact that I would have had him ranked closer to 10 than 20 speaks to how difficult it is trying to rank the best of the best in the top hoops league in the world.

When Blake is right physically, which has been an issue that has hampered him throughout his career, he is capable of being the most impactful player on the court—regardless of who else is playing.

The 6-10 power forward made a splash in the League immediately with his explosive athleticism, but the continual polishing of his overall skillset has helped him become a five-time NBA All-Star. Despite sustaining a season-ending plantar plate injury in his foot during Game 4 of the Clippers’ first round playoff exit againstthe Jazz, L.A. made sure they kept their franchise player in town by re-signing him to a 5-year, $173 million deal.

Though Chris Paul departed for Houston in one of the offseason’s trades, don’t expect the Clippers to be anywhere close to a rebuild. Griffin is reportedly expected to be ready to roll by December following surgery in May, and Danilo Gallinari has had injuries plague his career as well. Assuming they’re both on the court and healthy for at least three quarters of the season, expect the Clippers to be safely in the playoffs.

For his career, Griffin boasts a scoring average of 21.5 points per game along with 9.4 boards and 4.1 assists while shooting 52 percent from the floor. While it could take time for him to mesh with new point guards Milos Teodosic and Pat Beverly, Griffin proved himself a monster when everything ran through him when Chris Paul missed games.

Griffin has become one of the toughest covers in the League because he can consistently knock in an 18-footer now. If his defender takes that away, his ability to drive and finish is as good as any big in the League. His passing ability is also tops among those categorized as a big, and he’s developed a devastating chemistry with DeAndre Jordan over the course of their seven seasons together in L.A. Griffin’s mix of power and finesse is rare, and with seven seasons of experience under his belt to sprinkle on top, he has the tools to dominate any game he plays in.

The questions revolving around his health and ability to get into a groove with the new-look Clippers will linger until he gets back onto the court. Assuming he does return as the Blake we’ve come to know, the only question that will remain is how far can he carry the Clippers now that it is his show?

Previous Rankings:
2016: No. 14
2015: No. 8
2014: No. 8
2013: No. 17

Rankings are based on expected contribution in 2017-18—to players’ team, the NBA and the game.

No. 50 – Dion Waiters
No. 49 – Ben Simmons 
No. 48 – Brook Lopez
No. 47 — Harrison Barnes
No. 46 — Jrue Holiday
No. 45 — Lonzo Ball
No. 44 — Myles Turner
No. 43 — Goran Dragic
No. 42 — Andre Drummond
No. 41 — Al Horford
No. 40 — LaMarcus Aldridge
No. 39 — Kevin Love
No. 38 — Paul Millsap
No. 37 — Hassan Whiteside
No. 36 — Andrew Wiggins
No. 35 — Marc Gasol
No. 34 – DeAndre Jordan
No. 33 — Bradley Beal
No. 32 — Kemba Walker
No. 31 — CJ McCollum
No. 30 — Devin Booker
No. 29 — Nikola Jokic
No. 28 — Joel Embiid
No. 27 — Mike Conley 
No. 26 — Kyle Lowry
No. 25 — Rudy Gobert

No. 24 — Gordon Hayward
No. 23 — Kristaps Porzingis
No. 22 — Carmelo Anthony
No. 21 — DeMar DeRozan