Rarely has a rookie come into a season with so many question marks, on such a questionable team, and managed to singlehandedly transform his image and his team’s image into a globetrotting show that fans from everywhere paid to watch — that is exactly what Blake Griffin did this year. The question: is he really a rookie? And how did he stack up to the players drafted in the 2010 draft. The Chasing 23 picks for 2011 NBA Rookie of the Year are…
The NBA Realist: Blake Griffin
First, let me tell you what I was unimpressed with – Blake Griffin’s Slam Dunk Performance. I may be in the minority on this one, but after watching the NBA’s shameless attempt at product placement, the least I expected was for Griffin to jump over the meat of the car. Even more disturbing though, is the way that the Slam Dunk Contest has officially digressed into an annual clown car event during which the NBA and Player Participants try to figure out how many Romper Room props they can shove within an 18,000 person arena. It’s really no longer a contest, it’s a bad Carrot Top special, and completely different than it was pre-2004.
But that was just about the only thing during Blake Griffin’s 2011 season that was unimpressive. I can even forgive the FT shooting which I anticipate will improve next season. Everything else that Griffin did this year exceeded my expectations – his spectacular dunks, the internal drive, his willingness the learn and improve, the 23 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, and 51% FG shooting, and most importantly, his ability to make the Los Angeles Clippers relevant.
I don’t know about you, but I am on pins and needles in trying to figure out how the Clippers are going to screw this one up. Blake Griffin is a can’t-miss prospect and easily the greatest talent that has ever donned Clipper gear.
Brown Mamba: DeMarcus Cousins
I said it during the midseason picks and I’ll say it again now: Blake Griffin should not be considered a rookie. He had a full year to watch and practice with NBA players. How is that fair for the real incoming rookies? Additionally, if a 3rd year players missed his 4th year due to injury, would you say that his 5th year is really his 4th year? This makes no sense. There is no doubt that Griffin, who had an absolute monster season, will win the 2011 NBA Rookie of the Year award – but for my money, the best “true” rookie of the year is the Sacramento Kings’ (with John Wall an extremely close second). Now keep in mind, this is not an award for “Most Mature Rookie” or “Rookie Least Likely to Beat Up His Own Teammates” – both are titles that DeMarcus would lose going away.
Cousins, is simply, a beast. During the regular season, he averaged 14 ppg and 9 rbg in limited minutes (29 mpg). By comparison, Wall averaged 16/8.5/4.5 along with a eyebrow-raising 4 TOs per game to go with 41% shooting (in 38 mpg). If you normalize Cousins stat line for Wall’s minutes, Cousins average per 38 minutes would be an impressive 18 ppg and 12 rpg. More importantly, Cousins seemed to pick up steam during the regular season and avoided hitting the ever present rookie “wall”. If he can stay out of jail (or airplanes) he will have a bright future in the NBA.
Honorable Mention: John Wall
Dave Sheridan: Blake Griffin
There is no debate. No other rookie should receive a first-place vote for 2011 NBA Rookie of the Year except Blake Griffin. This should be an unanimous decision, but some philistine in Washington or Sacramento will cast a ballot for a rookie who does not possess the last name of Griffin.
Let’s look at the tale of the tape: Griffin averaged 22.4 points per game. He ripped down 12.1 boards per game. Averaged 3.7 assists and blocked 0.5 shots per game. And recorded an Efficiency Rating of +25.47.
The only negative in Griffin’s game – he has to play for the Donald Sterling-owned Los Angeles Clippers, which would appear to be a trivial matter until he revisits LeBron’s Decision and Carmelo’s plea to escape from Denver.
Marcas Grant: Blake Griffin
Easiest call on the board. Whether it was his 22 and 12 every night or the ever-growing list of highlight reel dunks, Griffin immediately made himself one of the must-see shows in the NBA. As the year went on, we started to see that there was more to his game than just rocking the rim. Griffin began to develop a mid-range jumpshot that could serve to make him a matchup nightmare in future seasons. There may be other guys like John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins with higher ceilings, but as far as opening acts go, Blake Superior’s will be tough to top.
E-Dog: Blake Griffin
Well, duh; only the most obvious pick for ROY since at least Dwight Howard, perhaps since Tim Duncan. The only question: Is he really a rookie? I say yes; in my book, if you haven’t yet played in a regular-season game, you’re a rookie, period. For all the talk about how he used the 2009-10 season to get physically stronger and more familiar with the league, it’s hard for me to characterize last season as an advantage for him since, after all, he spent most of that time recovering and rehabbing from a serious injury. The fact that he did so, and with such spectacular results, also makes him a strong candidate for Comeback Player of the Year as well. Add to all that the buzz that Griffin brought to the Clippers, and his ability to bump even the despicable Donald Sterling to the back burner, there can be no serious debate as to who this year’s Rookie of the Year is.