Los Angeles Clippers vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
7:30 p.m. PST
November 11, 2013
FOX Prime Ticket
1. Who’s the better defensive point guard? Ricky Rubio or Chris Paul?
Steve McPherson, A Wolf Among Wolves, (@Steventurous): I’m tempted to say that Paul is likely the better defensive point guard right now, but that Rubio has more upside. One of Rubio’s absolute best traits is his defensive abilities at the point guard spot, but right now he also has a tendency to press and gamble on defense when he lets the emotion of the game carry him away. This leads to roaming on defense, and while this can lead to steals, I think at this point, Paul has a better understanding of how his defensive responsibilities as a point guard fit into his entire game. Rubio is still trying to figure this out.
Jovan Buha, (@jovanbuha): Chris Paul is the better defender, but Ricky Rubio tries harder (so I’d have to take him). Paul takes a dozen or so plays off defensively each game, and will lackadaisically close out against lesser point guards. Rubio doesn’t have as high of a ceiling, but he’s more consistent in his effort and technique.
Luke Laubhan, (@lukelaubhan): Well, I’ll say Chris Paul, mainly due to his all-encompassing feistiness, but it’s close. Rubio leads the NBA in steals per game (3.3), but Paul is second. Per NBA Wowy, opponents shoot 47.4 percent from the floor and average 1.08 points per possession with Paul on the floor, and 51.7 percent and 1.16 with him off. Meanwhile, Wolves’ opponents shoot 47.2 percent and average 0.99 points per possession with Rubio present and shoot 41.4 percent and average 1.03 points per possession with Rubio out. They’re both great.
2. Who’s the better power forward: Blake Griffin or Kevin Love?
McPherson: I think this might have been a tougher call two years ago – when Griffin’s ability to finish at the rim seemed to balance out Love’s effectiveness from the perimeter – but with what we’ve seen from Love as a facilitator (his 4.9 assist per 36 is almost better than double his 2010-11 best of 2.4), I think we can say that Love has rounded into a completeness offensively that Griffin can’t match right now. Of course, some of Love’s improved passing has come from bringing in Corey Brewer, who’s a perfect complement to his outlet passing skills. This highlights how much the system and players around you can change perception, but it doesn’t change the fact that Love has looked generally pretty amazing so far, and likely has room to get even better as this team grows into itself. If Griffin makes some kind of defensive leap, however, we may have to revisit this, because while Love’s defense has been good this season, I can’t see it ever being elite.
Buha: Kevin Love – and I’m not sure it’s that close, either. Two years ago, Love was a top-10 player. It’s early, but at this point he may be in the top five. He’s a better scorer, shooter and rebounder than Griffin; Griffin only edges him out in shooting efficiency. They’re probably a wash in passing and defense, but Love’s advantages in other areas are significant.
Laubhan: It pains me to say it, because I’ll ride with Blake to the grizzly end, but Love is better. Not just better, though – at this point, I’m not even sure Love is human. He’s currently second in the league in scoring (27.2), first in rebounding (14.7), and third among forwards in assists per game (5.0). Add those numbers up, and statistically, Love surpasses LeBron and Durant. Blake’s playing well, but not that well.
3. Over/under 15 rebounds for DeAndre Jordan.
McPherson: Well, for one, the Wolves have been giving up a ton of rebounds (at 46.4 per game, they give up the third most in the league, currently) and for two, Jordan has always been able to eat Nikola Pekovic’s lunch. Pek has traditionally struggled with athletic, taller centers, and I don’t see any reason for that change, especially with Pek not looking quite himself in terms of finishing around the hoop so far this season. I expect defensive boards to be there for Jordan if Pek is still missing the dinkers and dunkers. Looks like Jordan is already averaging 13.7 rebounds per game, so I’m comfortable going with the over here.
Buha: I’m going to say under, because he’s going up against the best rebounder in the league (Love) and an absolute bruiser (Nikola Pekovic). I could also see Jordan getting into early foul trouble by trying to defend Pek one-on-one and/or trying to contest the foul-drawing machine that is Kevin Martin. I still think he’s in the 12-to-13 rebound range, though.
Laubhan: The Wolves rank first in the league in field goals attempted per game (88.2) and 26th in opponent field goal attempts (88.5). There will be rebounds. Meanwhile, in his first five seasons, D.J. grabbed 15 or more rebounds in a single game ten times. Through seven games this season, he’s already done it three times. I think he takes the Love challenge personally and goes over 15 again.