Found Objects – 8.15.2011
• Zach Lowe’s Top 100 rankings continue, with Blake coming in at #14 (Pierce is #15 and Randolph is #13):
14. BLAKE GRIFFIN
PF, Los Angeles Clippers
2010-11 Stats: 22.5 PPG, 50.6 FG%, 64.2 FT%, 12.1 RPG, 3.8 APG
Ranking Griffin above established stars like Garnett and Stoudemire just seems uncouth. But a year from now, ranking him even this low will look silly when he puts up some crazy average line, like 25-14-4, and shows a new gear on defense.
It’s the potential for immediate improvement that puts him ahead of KG and Stoudemire, by the slightest of margins. Griffin is never going to be a roving pick-and-roll destroyer on Garnett’s level — has anyone ever been? — but he’s already a top-eight defensive rebounder who held opponents to 30.8 percent shooting in isolation. He didn’t fare nearly as well in the post or in the kind of positioning defense Garnett mastered more than a decade ago, but Griffin’s combination of athleticism and smarts suggests that he’ll make quick progress. And on offense, Griffin is the kind of every-night force Garnett was in his prime Minnesota years.
As for Stoudemire, Griffin is a better overall defender already, and he should close the gap in terms of scoring efficiency very soon. He’s already one of the most efficient post-up and pick-and-roll players in the league, and you can expect him to improve both his mid-range shot and his outside-in off-the-dribble game next season.
To put things in perspective, though, we’re talking about all of these improvements when, after just one year as a pro, Griffin ranked 15th in PER; averaged nearly four assists; recorded a higher assist rate than any player bigger than 6-10 (aside from Hedo Turkoglu); drew an automatic double team in the post; discovered a great pick-and-roll chemistry with Eric Gordon before Gordon’s injury; and emerged as one of the 10 best rebounders in the league on both ends of the floor.
This ranking feels better now.
• CBS Sports’ Eye On Basketball Blog ranks EJ at #37 on their top 100 (way too low in my opinion):
37. Eric Gordon, SG, age 22, Los Angeles Clippers
2011 stats: 22.3 ppg, 4.4 apg, 2.9 rpg, 1.3 spg, 45.0 FG%, 36.4 3P%, 18.56 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 40, 40, 27
Honestly, 37 feels a tad low for Gordon. Last season was derailed a bit by a wrist injury for him because before it, he was off to a pretty torrid scoring pace. Remember: He’s just 22. With Blake Griffin as the featured player and someone defenses are forced to focus on constantly, Gordon is clear to bomb away from deep, where he shot a solid 36.4 percent.
But don’t think that’s all he is. He’s really one of the game’s most underrated slashers and finishers. He’s great with both hands and with his stocky, strong frame, he takes contact extremely well in the paint. I don’t know if Gordon will ever be an elite scorer per se, but he’s certainly a threat to average around 25 a game for multiple seasons.
• In an interview with ESPN LA, Blake claims he’s organizing off-season workouts with teammates:
What his mindset is right now:
“Really waiting. That’s all we can do right now. I’m actually bringing in a lot of the guys next week and we’re gonna work out together. Get them in here and do some stuff. You saw some of the football teams doing that so hopefully we follow the same path as the NFL did, but it is frustrating though. Very.”
On the Clippers getting better:
“Definitely. We have a better nucleus and the key for us is staying healthy. I think we have talent, we have athleticism, we do have some experience, but like I said staying healthy is the biggest thing. And getting off to a good start. Last season we started off 1-12 and then played .500 ball the rest of the way.”
• Kevin Duffy examines the deep bond between hip-hop and sports and why athletes tend to struggle as rappers:
Hip-hop and sports — particularly basketball — are deeply connected.
Before NBA games, players sit in the locker room listening to their favorite rappers on iPods. During NBA games, rappers sit front row with their eyes locked on their favorite players. Rappers write lyrics about the hottest athletes — in two recent singles, Fabolous name-drops Blake Griffin and alludes to LeBron James’s “Decision” — and athletes tweet about trending rappers. On a recent Sunday afternoon, via his @KingJames Twitter account, James talked about his three favorite current songs: “Otis” by Jay-Z and Kanye West, “Novacane” by Frank Ocean and Drake’s “Headlines.” It’s Drake who best sums up the rapper-athlete relationship in “Thank Me Now” with: “Damn, I swear sports and music are so synonymous / ‘Cause we wanna be them, and they wanna be us.”
Hip-hop and basketball collide so often that it has become standard to associate one with the other. But why is it so difficult to have success in both?