Minnesota Timberwolves at Los Angeles Clippers
ESPN and Fox Sports Prime Ticket
KFWB 980 AM
1. True or False: In a few years, Ricky Rubio will be considered the best point guard from the 2009 NBA Draft.
Jovan Buha, ClipperBlog: True. The jury is still on the point guard crop of the 2009 draft class. What’s the ceiling for Ty Lawson and Jrue Holiday? Are Stephen Curry and Tyreke Evans point guards? Are Darren Collison and Eric Maynor starting-caliber players? Nonetheless, Ricky Rubio looks to be far and away the best prospect. He’s already an elite passer and defender, and his shooting is much better than advertised. No one knows if any of these point guards are “true” franchise players, but Rubio already looks like he may be the best.
Zach Harper, A Wolf Among Wolves: True. Tyreke Evans and Stephen Curry might be the better overall players but nobody out of that class is going to be the better point guard. His feel for the game, defensive impact and ability to manipulate the flow and energy of the game are hard to best. He doesn’t seem to get rattled and shows poise in all situations. In terms of leading a team and getting them executing properly, nobody from that class can say they’re better than him at that.
Michael Shagrin, ClipperBlog: True. His shot may never be as accurate as Stephen Curry’s or Tyreke Evans’ and he may never be able to accelerate into the fastbreak with the same speed as Jrue Holiday or Ty Lawson, but Rubio’s already a passing savant (2nd in Assists per 48 Minutes–only behind Steve Nash). After only 14 games in the NBA, the Spaniard has steadily improved his shooting without hampering his ability to control the tempo of the game. It’s only a matter of time before the question becomes: “Is Rubio the best point guard in the league?”
2. Who is the best power forward in the game: Kevin Love, Blake Griffin…or someone else?
Jovan Buha, ClipperBlog: The best power forward in this game tonight? Kevin Love. As it stands, Love is better than Blake. He’s more efficient (sixth in PER), is a better rebounder (second in the NBA), has deeper range (and strokes it more consistently), and is arguably a top-10 player. As far as the best power forward in the game period, it’s between Love and Dirk. It’s a toss-up, but I’d take Love right now.
Zach Harper, A Wolf Among Wolves: IT’S KEVIN LOVE!!!!!!! Okay, it’s not and it’s certainly not Blake Griffin. Dirk is still the best PF in the league and if it’s not him, it’s probably Dirk. I’d also put Z-Bo and Aldridge ahead of them. And now for the toss of the gauntlet! Then I would have Love ahead of Blake. Better shooter, probably equal in passing, better rebounder and he’s been a better defender this season and much of last season. I don’t expect this to last much past the next couple years. But as of right now, that’s my order.
Michael Shagrin, ClipperBlog: If Dirk can return to 2011 Postseason form, then he is undoubtedly the best power forward in the game, but we may or may not ever see that basketball player again. Three outstanding bigs in Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Blake Griffin are knocking on the door. Each of these forwards have a fundamentally different strength. Love is a magnet on the boards and can knock down three’s (when he has time). Aldridge is an incredibly smart big with a devastating midrange game that opens up opportunities for him in the post. Then there’s Blake Griffin who just dominates the paint on offense with his strength and athleticism. I’m a sucker for dunks, so I’m going with Griffin.
3. Fact or Fiction: The Clippers continue their home dominance and take care of the Wolves on Friday night.
Jovan Buha, ClipperBlog: Fact. With or without Chris Paul, the Clippers should defeat the Timberwolves Friday night. There’s no denying the palpable talent disparity between the two teams, though this game becomes more competitive if Paul can’t play (I know, I know, I want to see a Rubio vs. Paul match-up as much as the next person). The T-Wolves are one of the top defensive and rebounding teams, though, so the potential of them causing problems for the Clippers (and thus making it a close game) looms.
Zach Harper, A Wolf Among Wolves: Holy Rubio I’ve sounded like a homer in my first two answers. How about this for a reasonable answer to finish this off? If Chris Paul plays tonight, I think the Wolves can keep it close but ultimately lose by 7. It’s going to be a fun game and there is going to be so much puppy breath and cinnamon spread around by Rubio, there is no reason to not watch this ESPN showcase.
Michael Shagrin, ClipperBlog: Fact. Even with the entertaining duo of Rubio and Love, the Wolves won’t have enough firepower to compete with a mostly healthy Clippers offense. I would look for a big game on the wing from the likes of Caron Butler. After going HAM early against the Nets, he made just one shot against the Mavs. Tuff Juice should try to take advantage of open looks when Minnesota’s inexperience leads them to overdefend Griffin and Jordan in the post.