Top 50: Blake Griffin, no. 14

by Franklyn Calle / @FrankieC7

It wasn’t too long ago that folks were offering the Greg Oden comparison when referring to new NBAer Blake Griffin. Many pondered over the possibility of him being injury prone for the remainder of his career and whether his career was over before it had even begun. A quick Google search gives you tons of old articles contrasting the former Oklahoma standout to the current Portland Trail Blazer center. But even the thought of Griffin in that way should be illegal today.

Following surgery on his broken left kneecap, the top pick in the 2009 NBA Draft found himself sidelined for the entire ‘09-10 regular season. What had started as a stressed fracture on his left knee after coming down on it following a dunk in his last pre-season game, turned sour when the true gravity of it became clear a few weeks later.

Fast forward to the fall of 2010, and Griffin was ready to make his rookie debut—once again. But this time it would all be worth the wait. What transpired over the next few months became known as “The Blake Show.” Griffin brought a level of excitement back that not too many top draft picks have been able to live up to.

Night after night, it was the Oklahoma City native who was featured with the top play of the night, just like his ridiculous acrobatic dunks became posters for SLAMadamonth on a regular basis. This video might refresh your memory on all 214 regular-season dunks and the amount of posterizing that took place on Griffin’s watch. Who could ever forget when he practically dunked on the entire Knicks team? No matter what he does throughout the rest of his career, poor Timofey Mozgov will always be remembered as the guy Griffin once tea-bagged. I’m not even sure if I’m even allowed to say that here.

For the first time in a very long time, or maybe even ever, the Los Angeles Clippers not only became watchable, but also one of the NBA’s main attractions. The Clippers’ home attendance didn’t just skyrocket at Staples Center, which was Laker-Town from the get-go, but the franchise also was among the top teams in the League in drawing crowds on the road. Averaging 17,614 fans per night in away games, the Clippers finished seventh in road attendance. Just the previous season, the same L.A. team finished second to last—29th in the League—in the aforementioned category. Undeniably, the Blake-effect.

It shouldn’t be to anyone’s surprise that this 6-10 forward, despite having never been ranked in SLAMonline’s Top 50, stands today among the top-14 players in the League. You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone his size with the amount of athleticism and poise he has. There just aren’t many, if any, power forwards who could imitate his game.

And what I find the scariest right now when thinking about Griffin’s potential is his upside. At the moment, most of the 2011’s Rookie of the Year offense seems to come from his athleticism and post-up game. His done an excellent job using his strength to get defenders off him and finishing at the basket with rim-rattling authority.

Reality is that at some point in his pro career, some point very soon, he’ll probably expand his game outside of the paint. He easily averaged a double-double last season, 22.5 points and 12.1 rebounds, without any true offensive threat from mid-range or beyond. It’s only a matter of time before his jumper becomes one that demands respect. I honestly believe he could be peaking at 27 ppg and 15 rbg by that point. Once his shot begins to sink in consistently, Griffin could go from being one the most entertaining players to watch, to one of the most dangerous offensive threats in the L—although technically he already is one.

Now let’s be real, no one expected to see this much from this kid, at least not this early. I mean, not even in college was Griffin this freakishly explosive. It’s as if the injury sort of rejuvenated his springs. It’s hard for anybody to even hate on him. How many guys in the League are willing to sacrifice their body on just about every single play? The way he attacks the basket sometimes seems as if he’s only bound to get hurt again. But then again, there just aren’t many players who can withstand and produce in the kind of way Griffin has proven to.

The 22-year-old became the first player to win all six Rookie of the Month awards since Chris Paul in the ’05-06 season and the first rookie to average over 20 points and 10 rebounds since former Clipper Elton Brand in 2000.

It’ll be interesting to see how he follows up his spectacular rookie campaign. Can he outdo it next season? Will he be able to posterize just as many, if not more? Why not? One thing that is for certain: Only a year into it, Griffin has already become the most exciting finisher in the League.

SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2011
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Luol Deng Bulls SF 8
49 Andrew Bogut Bucks C 7
48 Ray Allen Celtics SG 9
47 Marc Gasol Grizzlies C 6
46 David West Hornets PF 15
45 Kevin Martin Rockets SG 8
44 Andrew Bynum Lakers C 5
43 Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 11
42 Lamar Odom Lakers PF 14
41 Gerald Wallace Blazers SF 7
40 Brook Lopez Nets C 4
39 Joakim Noah Bulls C 3
38 Carlos Boozer Bulls PF 13
37 Kevin Garnett Celtics PF 12
36 Eric Gordon Clippers SG 7
35 Tony Parker Spurs PG 10
34 Andre Iguodala 76ers SG 6
33 Al Jefferson Jazz PF 11
32 Al Horford Hawks C 2
31 Stephen Curry Warriors PG 9
30 Tim Duncan Spurs PF 10
29 Josh Smith Hawks PF 9
28 Manu Ginobili Spurs SG 5
27 Tyreke Evans Kings PG 8
26 Rudy Gay Grizzlies SF 6
25 John Wall Wizards PG 7
24 Danny Granger Pacers SF 5
23 Monta Ellis Warriors SG 4
22 Joe Johnson Hawks SG 3
21 Paul Pierce Celtics SF 4
20 Steve Nash Suns PG 6
19 Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 8
18 LaMarcus Aldridge Blazers PF 7
17 Chris Bosh Heat PF 6
16 Kevin Love TWolves PF 5
15 Rajon Rondo Celtics PG 5
14 Blake Griffin Clippers PF 4

• Rankings are based solely on projected ’11-12 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Maurice Bobb, Shannon Booher, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Sandy Dover, Adam Figman, Jon Jaques, Eldon Khorshidi, Ryne Nelson, Doobie Okon, Ben Osborne, Quinn Peterson, Dave Schnur, Abe Schwadron, Dan Shapiro, Irv Soonachan, Todd Spehr, Tzvi Twersky, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Ben York.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.