Blake Griffin

Kevin Love vs Blake Griffin: Who’s the Better Power Forward?

About a year ago,  I wrote a somewhat controversial post (at the time) about how Blake Griffin was a better player than Amare Stoudemire  - only a few months into his rookie season. By the end of the season, there was little doubt as to who was the better player – Blake Griffin had established himself as the pre-eminent, and rising power forward talent in the league, averaging 23 points, 12 boards, and 4 assists per game (Stoudemire wasn’t bad, but wasn’t as good, with a stat line of 25/8/3)

Having settled that debate, a new argument has arisen in the NBA. With apologies to LaMarcus Aldridge fans, the emergence of Kevin Love has threatened to unseat Blake Griffin as the league’s most promising young power forward. Love’s ascent from a pasty, pudgy UCLA Bruins alum (whose previous claim to fame was the best outlet passer in college basketball history) to a dominant NBA All-star has been meteoric – drawing comparisons to Moses Malone while giving Timberwolves fans hope that Rubio-Love can be the best white man combo since Bird and McHale.

So the question on everyone’s mind now is: in the battle of Kevin Love vs Blake Griffin , who is the better forward, both now and in the future? Let’s break it down and compare the various aspects of each player’s game.

 

Offense

On the offensive end, Griffin and Love could not be more different. Griffin relies on monstrous power dunking as well as a rapidly improving post game – featuring his fast developing signature fadeaway. Love, on the other hand, is an excellent 3 point shooter at his position, averaging 2 threes a game this year on 40% shooting. His game is currently predicated on outside shooting complemented by offensive boards and scrappy around-the-basket play.

In terms of overall performance, Kevin Love has been the more prolific scorer, averaging 25ppg this season and 20ppg in 2010-11 (vs. Griffin’s 21ppg each season). While Love’s FG% is lower than Blake Griffin’s  (a full 8 percentage points this year), his TS% – the more accurate way of measuring efficiency – has been meaningfully higher each of the last few season. This has been primarily fueled by higher 3 point shooting as well as outstanding free throw shooting, Griffin’s Achilles heel. Love, although he has averaged less assists than Griffin, is probably the better all-around passer as well.

In terms of impact on the game, Love gets an edge here as well, with a higher career Offensive Rating (per BasketballReference.com) than Griffin’s. Given the statistical evidence, as well as the still evolving nature of Griffin’s offensive game, we give a slight edge to Love on the offensive end.

 

Defense

Just as with the offensive end, the defensive stats for both Love and Griffin suggest a remarkably close match-up. Neither player has made his mark yet on the defensive end, averaging around 1 steal and 0.5 blocks per game. Love has been the more prolific rebounder during their brief careers to date, however this can partially be due to greater prowess on the offensive glass.

Subjectively, Griffin’s quickness and leaping ability make him a more versatile defender, able to switch and effectively defend 4 positions on the court. His physical style of play along with the threat of his shot blocking ability (though this has not manifested itself in impressive stats), also provides some level of intimidation over his opponents.

 

Clutchness

Another incredibly close category. According to 82games.com, in the 2010-11 season, Griffin averaged 28.5 points per 48 minutes of clutch time, whereas Love averaged 27.8. Griffin shot almost 20 percentage points better in the clutch however, and had a plus-minus ratio of -2, significantly better than Love’s -36 (though admittedly, neither player was particularly great). It might be reasonable based on statistics to give Griffin a slight edge in this category, but it is clear this is not a standout area for either player currently.

 

Winning/Intangibles/Impact on Game

Ok – so what player just does what it takes to win?

At the risk of sounding repetitive, this is yet another area where both players are extremely close and have seen success. Blake Griffin won 4 consecutive state titles in high school and followed that up by taking a mediocre Oklahoma Sooners team and leading them to a 30-6 record and an Elite Eight appearance. Love led his high school alma mater in Oregon to 3 consecutive state championship games, and then as a rookie with UCLA, led the Bruins to a Final Four appearance. With respect to intangibles, Love seems to be the player that does the little things most often to win: the key outlet pass, the offensive board, the hard pick, etc.

That being said, the difference here between Love and Griffin is that Blake Griffin demands attention. Even this year on a team with Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups, Griffin has established himself as the go to scorer and leader of the team. Griffin’s pure physical gifts requires opponents to pay special attention and therefore makes the game easier on his teammates. Briefly stated, teams are required to develop game plans around Griffin.

 

Long term potential

Love is a double-double machine and a player who will undoubtedly be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. However, just like the player he is most compared with, Moses Malone, one can’t help but observe that Love is not most effective when he is the guy with the ball, but rather has a keen sense for picking his spots to get the open shot, or the loose ball as it comes available. Additionally, it remains to be seen how much better Love can become. Given his limited physical ability, we may have seen the peak of what Love will achieve in the NBA.

Griffin, on the other hand, seems to have limitless potential. He is averaging 20 points per game even as elements of his post up game remain unfinished and his mid-to-long range jumper is just beginning to develop. Griffin also seems to have an innate desire to be the best, and carries himself with a swagger that has brought toughness to the rest of the Clippers’ squad. If Griffin can develop a consistent 15-foot jumper as well as a refined go-to post move, he will be nearly impossible to stop.

 

The Outcome

Based on the above, it is my belief that just as with Amare, Blake Griffin gets the nod over Kevin Love, both in the near term as well as their long term outlook. With Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the Clippers feel like they have two bonafide superstars that will allow them to contend for years to come (or at least until CP3 opts out to join Carmelo Anthony in New York). With Kevin Love, it remains to be seen if his amazing statistics can translate into wins, and ultimately deep runs into the playoffs. Only time will tell, until then, Griffin remains the best young hope at power forward in the NBA.

Related posts:

  1. 5 Reasons Why Blake Griffin is better than Amare Stoudemire TODAY
  2. Sam Smith: Will Minnesota Show Kevin Love The Money? (1/23/12)
  3. Dirk Nowitzki’s Not A Top Three Power Forward, Yet
  4. Kevin Love: The Mamba’s Pick for All-Star Snub of the Year (and maybe Decade)
  5. David Kahn’s Illogical Love for Ricky Rubio

Discussion

9 Responses to “Kevin Love vs Blake Griffin: Who’s the Better Power Forward?”

  1. I take offense at your comment about how much better can Love get. Because hes already as you say a double double machine and his stats are pretty amazing considering that he plays for a team likely to miss the playoffs. He also doesn’t have Chris Paul passing to him. I think Blake has more weaknesses then Love at the moment.

    I also don’t think that Chris Paul will want to go to NY after this season because as the team is constructed they are a major train wreak. The players they put together do not work well together. People who complain about Lebron and Wade being the same type of player(which is not true at all) only need to look at NY to see how much worse it could have been. The team has zero ball movement, not to mention they rarely if ever play defense. Thats partly their coach and partly the fact that you can’t just throw any superstars(if you consider Amarie a superstar, which I don’t) together and expect it to work. I don’t know if Chris Paul stays with the Clippers but I do know that they are capable of putting a pretty good team around him for years to come. If they have good management/ownership which they have not had to this point. And the team needs to learn to play defense before it can be a major threat in the playoffs.

    Posted by nightbladehunter | January 29, 2012, 4:41 pm
    • Nightbladehunter — thanks for the comment. My point around Love’s limited upside really relates to his lack of athleticism (relative to Griffin) as well as ability to create his own shot.

      Note that I acknowledge that Love overall is a better offensive player today, but as Griffin masters a solid low post game and a mid-range jumper, I expect that to change over the next few years.

      With respect to CP3 — that was mostly a sarcastic remark. It would be inane for CP3 to leave the core he has with the Clippers to go to the mess that is NY (for many of the reasons you state), but, in this player-driven league, you never know…

      Posted by Brown Mamba | January 29, 2012, 11:31 pm
  2. The rise in Kevin Love’s stats has produced, IMO, the most overrated player in the game. There’s a lot of parts I disagree with so let me state my points.

    Defensively, Love might be the worst player at his position. He doesn’t have good feet, he’s a poor post defender, his limited athleticism cuts short his help defense and he cant really challenge shots. The only thing he does is finish possessions with his rebounding. Blake is not great himself but he is better than Love without a doubt.

    Offensively Love is very limited as well, he doesn’t have a post game, he CAN’T create shots for himself or for his teammate and he doesn’t force double teams. He can spot up, get to the line and can attack the offensive glass. Blake on the other hand DEMANDS double team’s, is a force at the rim, can run the floor better than anyone at his position, is a beast on the offensive glass and is a MUCH better passer than love. He can run the break with the ball in his hands, He’s good at passing the ball out of double teams and is a decent interior passer. Love can only really outlet the ball better.

    Love is a hardworking fellow but he is a monster rebounder and a good shooter, give me Blake any day of the week and I would definitely take Lamarcus over him as well.

    Posted by stillshining | January 30, 2012, 10:10 pm
    • Lol, Love has lost 20 lbs in the offseason and is a good defender now. Griffin has done kia commercials in the offseason and has not improved any part of his game.

      Posted by Griffinisalahypeproduct | February 19, 2012, 10:01 pm
    • I completely agree with everything u just said. How can one call someone a good offensive player when he can`t even create his own shot. And I never seen love get doubled when he has ball on iso. Griffin on the other hand draws multiple double teams. But he needs to improve on his passing out of doubleteams.

      Posted by Cheema | March 12, 2012, 11:26 pm
  3. Lamarcus Aldridge is better than both, but for the sake of this argument, its got to be Kevin Love. He plays harder and has a better shot and defense.

    Posted by lucas | February 13, 2012, 12:52 pm
  4. Love has proved he is actually better with a better team. Griffin has shown that he is a trick pony, and he has not improved, even with a better team. Griffin is nothing more than Amare Stoudamire without the ability to shoot free thows. He is one ACL tear away from a mediocre player with a 80-100 million unloadable contract, because the only thing in his game is his athleticism.

    Posted by Griffinisalahypeproduct | February 19, 2012, 10:07 pm
  5. I still fail to get in what sense is Blake Griffin considered a superstar? If he is then that is a pretty low standard for superstar the writer has. Chris Bosh is better then either of them, even playing with somewhat limited touches because of the team he is on. And I don’t consider Bosh a superstar(hes the level just under superstar), even though hes one of the best players at the PF in the league. To me superstar is top 5 players, top 10 maybe. Its a player that can take a team on their back and carry them when they need to be carried.

    Posted by nightbladehunter | February 20, 2012, 9:29 am
  6. Homerism for Blake Griffin is wafting through the air in this article. Love is averaging 25ppg/14rpg and boasts a .500 record, and you have to go deep into convenient stats to try justifying picking Griffin over him.

    The Clippers are currently 4 games ahead of the Wolves, and in the previous seasons they were horrible, so stating that the knock against Love is that his “amazing stats might not translate into wins” is hypocritical, because the Clippers are unproven as well and both have similar makeups with Griffin/Paul and Love/Rubio.

    Love is the better player, time will show. Griffin has just always had the hype.

    Posted by Brian | February 23, 2012, 5:17 am

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