As expected, the cream have statistically separated themselves from the rest of the 2010-2011 NBA rookie crop. Either Blake Griffin or John Wall will win the NBA Rookie of the Year Award, barring injury.
Both players readily exhibit flashes of superstar qualities at their respective positions. Both were the first pick overall in their receptive drafts.
Griffin won the Naismith Award naming him College Player of the Year in 2009. He left Oklahoma University after his sophomore year and was set to begin his NBA career in the 2009-2010 season, when he suffered a season ending injury in the preseason of what should have been his rookie year.
Each of these fine young players is the franchise centerpiece their teams intend to build around, but only one of them can be the 2010-2011 NBA Rookie of the Year.
The following are 10 reasons why Brake Griffin will be the 2010-2011 NBA Rookie of the Year.
Griffin: Out for the 2009-2010 Season
Very few players come out of college with a National Basketball Association body, that's in National Basketball Association shape. A top flight professional athlete will build their condition over a period of several years.
Prolonged injuries often present a player with an opportunity to build toward, or improve upon his conditioning.
I'm sure Griffin would rather have played last season. If he had, he may have missed the long term benefits a hard working player can gain, should he receive the right type of training over a full year. The fact that he spent all year working out may give him a better chance of sustained excellence throughout an 82 game season and a leg up on a 10 to 15 year career.
The NBA regular season is 42 games more than John Wall played in 2009-2010, his final season at the University of Kentucky. Wall has had neither the conditioning or the rest from the grueling grind of competition that Blake Griffin has.
Subsequent slides will illustrate a cumulative effect that the difference in conditioning and their respective schedules this past year will have upon the outcome of the Rookie of the Year selection.
Griffin Falls Hard
John Wall has already missed several games with the kinds of minor injuries players experience when fatigue becomes a factor and conditioning is in question.
Everyone in professional sports misses games due to injuries. Even the great Brett Favre finally fell prey to the injury bug. But some of the games Wall missed were due to tendinitis.
NBA analyst and Hall of Famer Charles Barkley said, "You can't sit out because of tendinitis in the NBA. If I sat out for tendinitis I would never have played. Cmon man."
Meanwhile, after playing through a preseason plagued with injuries, including plummeting directly onto his back from the peak of his jump, Griffin has not missed a regular season game.
Griffin is putting up superstar numbers and plays as hard as anyone in the NBA.
John Wall Fullfilling a Media Commitment
The "rookie wall" is a euphemism for the exhaustion young players experience when making the transition from college to the pros. The "wall" looms large for guards like John Wall who's game is predicated on speed and quickness.
There is an old NBA adage which states that "quick guys get tired, but big guys don't shrink." This axiom is especially relevant when you take into account the differences in the last year of these two young player's respective lives.
Griffin spent the past year rehabilitating a broken knee cap and conditioning his body to play power forward in the NBA. While this is hard work to be sure, it does not compare to the mental and physical rigors of a season in the SEC, leading his team to the "Elite Eight" in the NCAA tournament, being drafted, going right into summer leagues and then starting an NBA career.
When a player is out for the season before he starts his career, people tend to forget about him. Griffin was able to go about his work unencumbered by a slew media commitments.
While Griffin virtually disappeared for a year, Wall invented a dance, launched a shoe and was interviewed by everyone with a media credential.
Wall is going to hit the "rookie wall" hard. The Wizards can only hope to scrape him off in time to profit from his considerable fan appeal since only an act of deities unknown could get the Wizards into the playoffs.
It's unlikely that the Wizard's point guard will recover in time to salvage a Rookie of the Year bid when the competition is bigger, stronger, fresher and has dunked on everyone including referees, sportswriters, mascots, Commissioner David Stern (he was fined $25,000) and the kid who wipes sweat up off the floor.
Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose
There has been an influx of youth at the point guard position in the last five or six years. The competition at point guard is stiff and deep.
In addition, there are some veterans guards such as Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Chauncey Billups and Tony Parker that may have lost a step, but are still driving their teams at a very high level.
The top point guards in the league are as follows:
- Rajon Rondo
- Russell Westbrook
- Derrick Rose
- Raymond Felton
- Chris Paul
- Deron Williams
- Steve Nash
- Jason Kidd
- Chauncey Billups
- Tony Parker
- Brandon Jennings
- Jameer Nelson
- Tyreke Evans
- Stephen Curry
- Baron Davis
How I have these point guards ranked is a topic for another discussion. You can rank these point guards however you wish, but the fact is there are 15 of them.
Whether you rank them by assist to turnover ratio, assist rankings, leadership capabilities or their ability to hit the mid-range jumper that keeps defenses honest, it is difficult to say that Wall's contributions stand out in this crowd of high functioning point guards.
There are only four power forwards putting up superstar numbers in both points and rebounds, Amare Stoudemire, Kevin Love, Pau Gasol, who has actually been playing center in Andrew Bynum's absence, and Blake Griffin. Of the four, only two are high flying, in your mug piece dunkers, in a large media market.
Griffin is a rare talent in the NBA right now, Wall is not.
In Kevin Love's Mug Piece
Washington has a football team with drama between coaches and players and a quarterback controversy. Los Angeles does have the Lakers and they are definitely the media darling of L.A.
But Los Angeles is one of the two biggest Media centers in the U.S. and Blake Griffin is an eye popping, hard dunking, must see high wire act. If it was possible, he could be both Rookie of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year at the same time.
Griffin is a better story, in a media town and a panel of sportswriters make the Rookie of the Year selection.
Did you see the video? 'Nuff said!
Every once in a while someone comes along who regularly exhibits skills that are outside and beyond the label placed upon them, and they become something more. Not just a "power forward," but a "ball player."
Blake Griffin just MIGHT be a "ball player."
I am loath to mention once broken rookies on the same slide with the all-time greats. However, there have been very few power forwards, or players with power forward size, that are able to get a tough rebound against centers and power forwards and start the break by bringing the ball up in the point position.
The list gets shorter when a player can either take the ball coast to coast, or dish dimes to their teammates running the wings, without the aid of a guard.
You don't see Griffin get the rebound that starts the break in this video. One must assume he got the rebound because no one passes the ball to a 6'10" rookie in his debut, in the back court. The video does show Griffin throwing a perfect, one handed, 25 foot bounce pass, off the dribble to the wing man from the point position on the break. That's special!
John Wall can play his position. Whether or not he plays it as well or better than the top fifteen point guards will be subject to debate for as long as Wall dons an NBA jersey and beyond. There is no debate about the fact that there have been very few rookie power forwards in the history of the NBA that can make that play, as well as dunk with the kind of aggressive ferocity exhibited in this video.
Lebron James finds himself on several short statistical lists with Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan, the two greatest all around players in the history of the game.
Like Robertson, Jordan and all the other all-time greats, James is always looking for ways to hone his craft and improve his game. This year James made a decision. No, not the decision about where to "take his talents," the decision about his approach to the game.
James decided that it was better for his focus, his legacy and his image to cut out the clowning and the dancing and adopt a more serious and workmanlike approach to the game.
The last year of John Wall's journey to the NBA has been like a trip to Disneyland. This video proves that he is on a ride that may be more about show than substance. Conversely, Blake Griffin has been forced to have a workmanlike approach by a season ending knee injury before he ever played a game that counted.
Watch him play...Clearly he was serious about rehab!
Anyone who thinks Ervin "Magic" Johnson did not have fun in his storied career was not paying attention. The joy he experienced playing the game was conveyed by that smile. Magic Johnson's smile is an image that is burned into the consciousness of everyone who watched NBA basketball in the 80s, no matter who they were routing for.
But, when it was time for Magic to leave his mark on a ballgame, on a series, on a season, or on an era, there was no one that was more serious, more focused or more intense.
Many players have to learn to take a serious approach to the game. Blake Griffin was forced to learn the hard way and is playing like he's making up for lost time. John Wall is still just having fun. That approach might have gotten him named Rookie of the Year for most seasons, but not this one.
Blake Griffin getting position for a rebound
Rebounding is the most important statistic in basketball because all the other offensive statistics are dependent on having the ball.
Rebounding is the primary means of acquiring the "rock" because the field goal percentage on an average in the NBA is roughly .450. That means 55% of the shots hoisted eventually become rebounds.
If I were building a team I would start with an elite rebounder because there are fewer players averaging 10 rpg (11) then there are high functioning point guards capable of running a team. Furthermore, said point guards can do nothing unless they have the ball.
Blake Griffin's 12.3 rpg makes him 4th in the league in rebounding and one of the most valuable commodities in the NBA.
John Wall does lead all rookies with 8.9 apg, good enough for sixth in the league.
Blake Griffin soaring about the rest
Double figures in two major statistical categories has long been the standard of NBA excellence. A season wherein a player averages 20 points and 10 rebounds or assists is considered greatness.
Players who average 20 and 10 for a career go to the Hall of Fame.
Though placing this rookie, who has already lost a season to injury in the Hall of Fame is preposterous, a third of a season of greatness should be enough to earn Rookie of the Year honors. The other candidates have yet to reach this lofty standard.
Griffin averages 20.8 ppg,12.3 rpg, (nearly 4 offensive rpg) 3.1 apg and shoots .510% from the field in this his rookie season, and then there are the dunks.
The rest of the league might name Blake Griffin Rookie of the Year just to avoid ticking him off.