Is it possible that Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers could do something that not even poster-boy LeBron James managed to accomplish: Become the first player since Wes Unseld to win both the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player Awards in the same season? Does it sound crazy? Yes. But only because we know the NBA will never award the league's most illustrious award to a player who's team possesses a losing record, and has yet to build a solid reputation in the business. But, should they reconsider?
Griffin's case for Rookie of the Year isn't even in question. Not even 2010's top overall pick John Wall can put up enough of an argument to displace Blake from the top of the mountain. The question is: Is his resume enough to put him into the conversation with the league's best players? The most important thing in determining the answer to that question lies in the destination at which we arrive after asking the question, "what is the NBA MVP?" Most voters have their own interpretation: The best player in the NBA, the best player on the best team, the breakthrough performance of the year. Whatever your determination, for the sake of this article, one must accept the idea that the Most Valuable Player is a player who makes the most out of the least in his respected situation. When shifting gears to such a mindset one can see that Blake Griffin does in fact have a case for this year's award.
We're halfway through the season and last night, on January 18 against the Indiana Pacers, Blake Griffin dropped 47 points, the highest of any player to this point in the season. Currently, Griffin has a 27-game double-double streak, bested only by Minnesota's Kevin Love. The difference between the two? During Griffin's streak, he has posted a more impressive 14-game streak of 20+ points and 10+ rebounds while Love has managed a mere six-game streak of the same numbers. Within Griffin's 27-game streak he has managed five-plus assists 10 times, which shows that the LA forward is proving himself to be one of the best passing big men in the league.
Players will be forever matched to their predecessors. In Griffin's case, it may be pertinent to address past winners of the MVP award who also occupied the power forward position on their respective teams. In the past decade Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan (twice) and Kevin Garnett have all received the award and played the same position as Blake Griffin. In each case the winner averaged 23+ points, 9+ rebounds, and 50 percent shooting from the floor. At the moment, Griffin owns a stat line of 22 points, 12.7 rebounds, and a 52 percent shooting percentage. His points may be a little low, but during his 27 game double-double streak Griffin has averaged 24.5 ppg which qualifies him in all applicable categories. If strictly looking from a historical perspective in terms of numbers Griffin matches all recent winners of the award from his position.
One cannot ignite an MVP conversation based solely on the player himself. Eventually, the team, and the overall success of that team, must be addressed. At a current record of 15-25 the Clippers may seem to be biggest roadblock in Griffin's path towards his first mantelpiece accessory. Upon further dissection their recent success is in fact strengthening Griffin's case. Due to a recent streak the Clippers are a mere 3.5 games back from the second spot behind the Lakers in the Pacific Division. In their past 14 games the Clippers have 10 wins, including victories over league heavyweights the Lakers, Bulls, Nuggets and Heat. With Blake Griffin and fellow youngster Eric Gordon firing on all cylinders are the Clippers ready for a second-half playoff push? Will that be enough to put Griffin atop the MVP conversation?
The intangible argument must be mentioned when discussing Blake Griffin. When was the last time the Clippers had anything to cheer about? Now, with center Chris Kaman off the floor, and the ensuing insertion of DeAndre Jordan to the starting lineup, the Clippers have a solid balance of offense and defense in the post. With Eric Gordon and Baron Davis paroling the perimeter the Clippers have a well-rounded team capable of competing with anyone in the league. As the catalyst for one of the league's up-and-coming teams, if the Clippers can manage a successful playoff push after the All-Star break Blake Griffin will be one of the MVP front-runners alongside staples LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki, and newcomers Derrick Rose and Amar'e Stoudemire.