In terms of NBA production, Karl Malone has already proven to be great and NBA rookie Blake Griffin has potential to be. While we can't predict the future and Griffin has yet to even play a game, Malone has definitely provided an example and set the bar for the rookie to strive for.
There are differences, as with all sports comparisons no two situations are exactly alike but their similarities are many. Both measure out to 6'9 maybe 6'10 with shoes, both are incredibly strong (Malone looks to be a little stronger) and incredibly athletic (Griffin looks to be a little more explosive). They both do work in the paint or the "Post" Office so Malone's nickname of "The Mailman" was quite fitting, double doubles are to be expected and many defenders will be posterized. Other skills and attributes they share, both very agile for their size, they run the floor and fill the lane as well as any big men, they both have surprising passing skills and are unselfish, and they are workout warriors.
Griffin's final season at Oklahoma he averaged 22.7 points and 14.4 rebounds per game and was the player of the year before going on to be the first pick of the 2009 NBA Draft.
Malone, though he wasn't the NCAA player of the year like Griffin, had a fine college career at Louisiana Tech University averaging 18.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game over three years there. Drafted 13th in 1985 NBA Draft (behind forgotten players like Benoit Benjamin, Joe Kleine and Kenny Green) no one predicted he would go on to become one of the greatest power forwards to ever play in the NBA.
His rookie season with the Utah Jazz, Malone averaged 14.9 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, was third in the Rookie of the Year voting and named to the All-Rookie Team. Matching or surpassing Malone's rookie production is definitely within Griffin's reach, in fact because of his first pick status he needs to do much better to live up to expectations.
One of Griffin's weaknesses is free throw shooting, Malone also came into the league as a poor free throw shooter his rookie season but quickly improved by his third season. Griffin will need to improve in this area as well as developing his shooting range, the Mailman developed a deadly jump shot that made that "Stockton-Malone" pick & roll so tough to defend.
I think in the early years Griffin should be able to match or exceed Malone's early years production. The more difficult challenge is to match Malone's consistency and durability, Karl Malone played 19 years in the league and pretty much played injury free and didn't miss games. His production was also like clock work, the Mailman always delivered at least 25 points and 10 rebounds per game. For 11 straight years Malone was All NBA First Team, he made 13 All Star Games, was twice the leagues MVP and is the second all time leading scorer behind Kareem.
While I think Griffin will be a dominant NBA power forward, you can't predict a career like Malone's. Half of the Mailman's awards, accolades and production would make for a heck of a career, let's see that would be one MVP, six All Star Games, five times All NBA First Team and 18,464 career points (good enough for 51st all time, more than Tracy McGrady, Kevin McHale and Magic Johnson) wow, half a Malone might get you Hall of Fame consideration, not bad.
Comparing the proven commodity Malone to the potential star Griffin is unfair to both and a compliment to both players. Being that Griffin has not played in the NBA yet and Malone has accomplished so much this is a premature exercise and pure conjecture. Truth is, every player is different but if Blake Griffin ever wants a yardstick to measure himself against he could not find a better player to try to match than Karl Malone.
One thing is for certain, if Blake Griffin can turn the Clippers into a winner that may be the greatest accomplishment in the history of sports.
What do you think about comparing Blake Griffin to Karl Malone, fair or unfair? In your opinion is there a better player comparison for Griffin? Let me know your thoughts.