The better question might be “how soon?” and not “if.” He has earned every bit of praise thrown his way for his strength and athleticism, but as Tom Haberstroh points out, it’s his well-rounded game that begs comparisons to one of the most dynamic players of the last few decades:
Griffin is so talented that we may look at the next generation of big men and ask ourselves not “Who’s the next Kevin Garnett?” but instead, “Who’s the next Blake Griffin?” He appears to be the complete package, sprung from the mold of Garnett himself. In his debut season, Griffin crushed his newbie competitors, running away with the rookie of the year award and even garnering votes for MVP. He became the only player not named Shaquille O’Neal to average 22 points and 12 rebounds before turning 22 years old. He is a freak of nature who, with one thunderous move toward the rim, can embarrass even the best defenders at a moment’s notice.
But to appreciate Griffin’s candidacy as Garnett’s successor, you have to look past the dunks. Ignore the Timofey Mozgov posterization. Put aside the fact that he leaped over an automobile and put a ball through a basket that stood 10 feet off the ground, if you can.
Because to fully appreciate why Griffin ranks as the most qualified contemporary to perform an uncanny Garnett impression, you have to consider Griffin’s softer side: his passing. The list of active players who can drop a nightly 20 points and 10 boards is longer than Joakim Noah’s gnarly mane. But dig deeper and you’ll discover that Griffin resembles Garnett because they mirror each other beyond the standard measuring sticks applied to big men.
Do you know who led the Los Angeles Clippers in assists last season? That distinction belongs to Griffin, a power forward who stands 6-9 and weighs 250 pounds. The 22-year-old plays with his head up, unlike most big men who become a black hole once the ball is entered into the post. Griffin features enough handle and quickness to keep defenders from hounding him out on the high post. It is there in the high post where he flaunts Garnett’s unique versatility.
Haberstroh goes on to remind that Garnett is the best defensive power forward of our time, and that is an area in which Griffin has perhaps the most amount of room to improve. The Garnett comparison is interesting, though, in that it symbolizes a departure from obsession with size and strength — the previously accepted one was Amar’e Staudemire, with better rebounding — and more attention to the subtle, nuanced ways that he dominates the game.