One player is featured nightly on SportsCenter, while the other player accumulating 53 double-doubles in row and could barely make the All-Star team. One player has “Dunk Alerts” and the other “Double-Double Alerts”. One plays above the rim and the other plays below the rim. One player plays in Los Angeles, while the other plays in Minneapolis. On Friday night, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love squared off for the first time this season and these two young stars didn’t disappoint, either. Even without All-Star point guard Chris Paul, the game still featured Ricky Rubio, Love, and Griffin. In case you missed it, the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Los Angeles Clippers on Love’s three-point buzzer-beater as time expired. But who is better, Love or Griffin?
Griffin is a stud. He has all the tools to become a superstar. He is athletic, can handle the ball, rebounds, and passes well. But other than catching alley-oops and dunking on people, what is Griffin good at? His free-throw percentage is at 52.6%. His field-goal percentage is at 50.9%, but he doesn’t take any jump shots outside of the paint and doesn’t have a mid-range game. His post-game is inconsistent and sometimes non-existence. He is a pretty good rebounder (11.7 RPG), but he blocks less than one shot per game. Griffin solely relies on his athleticism to get by with what he lacks: an overall game.
Griffin was the first pick in the 2009 draft. There was no question that he had serious potential coming out of Oklahoma after his sophomore year. He averaged 22.7 PPG and 14.4 RPG in his second year at Oklahoma and was a human-highlight reel. A knee injury in his rookie season put him out for the entire season. Last season was his rookie season and he didn’t seem to lose any of his athleticism. He averaged 22 and 12 in his rookie season, but the Clippers were still a very bad team.
Coming into this season, I expected, or was hoping, Griffin would add something new to his game, something that would make him a better player. If he has, either I missed it or nothing was added. He is still the same player that he was last season. If anything, he might have gotten worse. His PPG is down more than one point per game, free-throw percentage, free-throw attempts, rebounds, and assists are all down. The Clippers have a better record because of the additions of Chris Paul and Caron Butler.
So, let me ask you this: what is Blake Griffin good at on an NBA-level? Besides that he sells tickets and hit an occasional jump shot, I would have to say that Griffin is extremely over-hyped and I blame it on ESPN. ESPN loves to over-hype players and teams that make highlights for their show. The majority of NBA players can catch alley-oops or dunk. Now, I am a fan of watching cool dunks and watching players get dunked on. That’s all “fun and games”, but when ESPN shows Griffin highlights, nightly, it persuades public opinion because it gets people thinking this guy is really good, when in all reality, he is not as great as they make him seem. Jumping over a mid-sized car in the Slam Dunk contest is something that probably 50 players in the NBA could do.
If you want my attention, jump over a Chevrolet Silverado or make a jump shot.
The other side of this argument is [Kevin] Love. In his four years in the NBA, how good has Love become? I am not going to talk about his double-double streak, or his 30-20 games, or 20-20 games, or that he averaged 20 and 15 last season. All you need to know is that Love has been snubbed over the past two seasons. He barely managed to make the All-Star team last season, an honor that he greatly deserved. This offseason, he got into the best shape of his life, losing 25 pounds so he can endure the rigors of a shortened-NBA season. He can score, whether it’s on the block, mid-range, or three-point range, he rebounds, and his defense is improved. While he isn’t the most marketable or athletic player in the league, Love still has many star qualities. He works hard, has a positive image, and has already accomplished more than most NBA players in the league.
A lot of people say that Love could never be the #1 guy on a championship and that may be true, but he would be a bigger factor on a championship team that Griffin would, at this point. Griffin has more natural ability, but Love has made the most of his abilities and should only get better over the next few seasons.
I know one thing: both Love and Griffin will never settle or be satisfied with where they are at with their games. They will continue to find ways to evolve their game and get better. But if you want to compare Griffin and Love at this point in their careers, you are almost insane.
While Griffin is busy doing Kia car commercials, Love is busy working on his game. While Griffin is practicing his dunking, Love is finding a way to get a max contract. Griffin might get there someday in the near future, but Love is ahead of Griffin, right now.
And it’s not even close.