October 27, 2009
By: Zachariah Blott
The Clippers revealed Monday night that Blake Griffin, their franchise savior and first-overall pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, broke his kneecap, probably from landing after a dunk in a preseason game last Friday. It’s expected to keep Griffin off the court for at least 6 weeks, which covers a span of 20 Clipper games. Here’s where it happened.
There are a few things this means for the league and its fans:
1 - Like Greg Oden a few years ago, we don’t get to see what the top pick is capable of for much longer than anticipated. Griffin played pretty well in the preseason—averaging 14 and 8—and clearly was improving as the regular season neared. Now we won’t see him until mid-December, and he probably won’t be at the same level he was at just last week for a while. When will we see the real Griffin? Who knows, but hopefully it’s sooner than how long it’s taking to see the real Oden.
2 - The Clippers are again unbearably bad. They weren’t real good even with Griffin, but now who do they have? Baron Davis, who loves to hang onto the ball, drive into traffic, and throw up bad shots (37% FG last year); he’ll now want to shoot more. At this point in his young career, many people love SG Eric Gordon’s ability to score (16.1 ppg as rookie, improved during season), but he could be overrated considering he doesn’t help teammates score (2.8-2.1 A/TO, worsened during season), or stop opponents from scoring. Centers Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby may actually be the two best Clippers behind Griffin, which can’t excite fans much. LA was 19-63 last year, which they’ll probably be on course to repeat by mid-December. Their slide will begin by going 0-4 before November, playing the Lakers, Suns, Jazz, and Mavericks in the first 5 days of the season. Ouch!
Blake Griffin Photo Credit: Icon SMI
3 - The Rookie of the Year race is now wide open. Whereas Griffin was a virtual lock for the award just last week, the rest of the field now has a chance. I don’t know what sort of stats he’ll put up once he returns, but they probably won’t be as good as they would have been had he started healthy right out of the gate, and he’ll now have 25 percent less time to display them. I think the Thunder’s James Harden, the Spurs’ DeJuan Blair, and the Warriors’ Stephen Curry have the best chance to win if Griffin doesn’t return on fire and obviously improve the Clippers.
Harden will score, Blair will do everything (but is sitting behind proven veterans), and Curry will have the chance to score. Sacramento’s Tyreke Evans could be in the mix as well since he will get points and some assists in the Kings’ starting lineup. Minnesota’s Jonny Flynn might have something to say about it, as well.
4 - This gives the Clippers a much better chance of securing a second-straight #1 pick. If they win the lottery again, LA could deep-six the career of another can’t-miss prospect, like uber-athletic PG John Wall (whose undoing is already sort of obvious: his eligibility to play at Kentucky is still up in the air, his half-court decisions are weak, and he relies on his athleticism for everything) or potential Chris Bosh clone Ed Davis (he’s too skinny and doesn’t really have a mid-range jumper, but the UNC sophomore truly could be the next Bosh).
5 - The Kings could move out of the Pacific Division cellar. Or not.
Zachariah Blott is a dish best served cold.