George Karl Thinks Blake Griffin Is the Third Best Player in NBA


February 7, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin (32) shoots a basket against the Toronto Raptors during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The new year has brought a change of perception on Blake Griffin. Previously the the “All He Can Do is Dunk” mascot, Griffin has transformed into one of the leagues best players and what was once a muted response to his heightened play has become an outcry based on his excellence. Primary example: George Karl’s thoughts on Griffin’s ranking in the NBA:

Karl’s statement has one wanting to ask a few questions and make some mental notes.

  • Is Karl speaking on Griffin’s ranking based solely on this season, a la Kevin Durant being the best player this season while not completely toppling Lebron James as the “king” of the NBA, or is this his permanent placement going forward?
  • Is Blake Griffin even the best player on his own team? (cc: Chris Paul)
  • This would mean the debate on who the best power forward in the NBA is over right? Well at least until Anthony Davis reaches his full potential.
  • How much of Griffin’s improvement can be traced back to Doc Rivers coaching? No coach can outright make one player better, but they have a large hand in emphasizing that players strengths.
  • When the inevitable Clippers playoff exit happens, the anti-Blake Griffin force will use this as an attempt to prove that he is overhyped.

What matters most is something that we are all often prisoners of: recency bias. Blake Griffin averaging 33.7 points and 11 rebounds heading into the All-Star break makes it hard to exclude him from a top player discussion. But it’s too early to tell whether this is an blip on the radar or a trend that’ll continue for the rest of his career.

Look at Indiana Pacers forward Paul George. Not too long ago in the season was he the clear favorite for third best player in the NBA. Analysts around the league were comparing his leap from good to great to what we witnessed from Tracy McGrady when he emerged as a superstar as a member of the Orlando Magic in the early 2000s. Fast forward to now and the perception of Paul has dropped a bit, unclear if his start to the season was an anomaly, if his recent play (shooting 39 percent in 2014) is also an anomaly, and if he’ll eventually find middle ground as the season moves on.

Has Blake been a top-3 player this season? Sure. He’s scoring with the best of the best, carried his team when the top player went down with an injury and has improved all areas of his game, offensively and defensively. For the first time in his career, Griffin is getting the proper respect he deserves, not because there is a former NBA mind that thinks he’s one of the best players in the game, but because the media is recognizing Blake’s good play when it happens. Before it was something that was often swept under the rug as some patiently waited for an “I told you all he does is dunk” or “I told you he you can’t win with Blake” moment.

I’ve said it before. The true perception of Griffin won’t change and be universally similar until he dominates a playoff series and wins it. But until we get to that point, it’s best we enjoy the new-and-improved Blake.