Los Angeles Clippers at Oklahoma City Thunder
Chesapeake Energy Arena
5:00 p.m. PST
November 21, 2013
1. Who’s the better athlete: Blake Griffin or Russell Westbrook?
Jovan Buha, (@jovanbuha): I’ll give the slight nod to Griffin, even though Westbrook has the clear advantage in speed and quickness. Griffin’s hand-eye coordination is arguably the best in the game, and the degree of difficulty on a lot of the lobs thrown at him is just insane. No one can catch, plant and explode like he can, and his aerial creativity is still unparalleled.
Fred Katz, (@FredKatz): Griffin is a monster in his own right and clearly has the advantage in power, strength, and size, but I’ll give the edge to Westbrook if only because of the fun factor. Isn’t it always more fun to see someone dunk on a guy that’s bigger than him? That’s what Westbrook tends to do. Griffin, just because he’s a power forward, does the opposite more often than not (though Timofey Mozgov and Kendrick Perkins will probably disagree with that sentiment).
Andrew Han, (@andrewthehan): What a nebulous question. Athleticism isn’t some kind of generic bucket you can scoop out of and apply willy-nilly, unfocused and haphazardly. Do you need top end speed and angling? Westbrook is your guy. Nimbleness to sidestep obstacles but have the low end torque to smash through them? Griffin is the man. I know, how about “a little bit of both” and claim Eric Bledsoe?
2. How can the Clippers try to contain Kevin Durant with no Matt Barnes?
Buha: The Clippers have to do what they did last game – mix up the individual coverages on Durant (i.e. put Dudley, Bullock and Griffin on him), hedge hard on his curls (which Blake did a good job of) and constantly try to trap him and get the ball out of his hands. The Thunder have shown it’s tough for them to win if KD isn’t going, but it’s easier said than done.
Katz: The Clips are going to have to mix it up. If you can’t contain with quality, at least do it with variety. We’re going to see multiple guys guarding Durant tonight and there’s a chance we could see some hard doubles on him as well. The Clippers’ defense is already pretty aggressive so hedging hard every time K.D. comes off a screen is likely in the cards for tonight.
Han: Apologies to Matt Barnes, but even with LeBron James, no individual can contain Kevin Durant. The notion of the “defensive stopper” has become as overblown as the “go-to scorer” in terms of practicality and efficiency. A system of interlocking sets and teammates on a string is how the modern NBA stops elite scorers; not single-handedly, but collectively.
3. Where does Chris Paul rank in the MVP discussion right now?
Buha: I have him third, behind LeBron James and Paul George. If Paul improves his shooting (he’s posting a near-career low 46.3 effective field goal percentage) and regains the level of offensive aggression he flashed to start the season, he’ll be neck-and-neck with LeBron.
Katz: Unfortunately, LeBron James inexplicably continues to get better in every year of his career, so Paul isn’t close to the No. 1 spot right now. Kevin Durant and Paul George would likely follow. And then there’s Chris Paul. Even with the great start to the season CP3 is having, his spot in the MVP race may not have changed much from last year. This is on you, Paul George. Stop being so good.
Han: Too soon to tell. There’s a small grouping of candidates that have begun campaigning for MVP: LeBron, Durant, Paul, Kevin Love and Paul George. They’ve set the early narrative to establish their tale but a preliminary ranking won’t be meaningful until we have a larger sample size. Check back in January.