Hot Take: Blake Griffin could win a NBA 1-on-1 tournament


Right now, over at Hoops Hype where they’re holding a poll for a hypothetical league-wide 1-on-1 tournament, Blake Griffin is losing his matchup against LeBron James, with James grabbing 89% of the current votes to Griffin’s 11%.

As someone who has, but if any NBA player is going to be my sleeper pick for hypothetical tournament of sorts, it’s Blake Griffin.

Removing the other four players from the floor and limiting playing range to one half-court, you strip away a long list of issues that hamper one’s standing as a top NBA player. Slow feet when forced to defend the pick-and-roll? The inability to run a pick-and-roll? All of that goes away.

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  • And instead, the skills that’d make you the consensus first pick on your favorite playground comes into play. One-on-one scoring. Quickness. Ball-handling. All of which leads me to Blake Griffin, who is pretty good at those things last time I checked.

    But where Griffin beats out James — and others — is the combination of size, speed, and strength, three keys that may matter more in 1-on-1 basketball than they do in a 5-on-5 setting. You ever play against a friend or teammate and they have one of the three traits over you: too quick for you to stay in front of; too strong to keep from bull-rushing through you; too tall to contest their easy attempts at the rim? Now imagine being the : in comparison to about 98% of the NBA, Griffin holds those advantages over his peers. Not to mention Griffin has a nice handle for his size (and doesn’t have to worry about help defenders sneaking in to poke the ball away). And his improved jump shot — or a mirage of such — will force defenders to respect him from 15 feet away, forcing his speed at 6’8/9 to be a factor.

    And just imagine this: Griffin decides to stop shooting jumpers (you know he’s gonna settle for a lot of those) and decides to step close to the half court line and just bullrush toward the rim every time he possesses the ball. How does anyone stop that? I think it’d end in a bunch of highlights that look similar to this:

    Some names who come to mind that’d give Griffin troubles on the blacktop? Obviously James as he’s close to Griffin in size and strength but quicker. Carmelo Anthony, who is no.2 on my 1-on-1 ranking behind LeBron; if you’ve watched him play basketball you understand why. Kevin Durant‘s length, speed, and shooting stroke could cause problems for the alligator-armed Griffin. And two other low-key favorites in this hypothetical tournament, Kawhi Leonard and Russell Westbrook; Leonard for his size and Westbrook for his “good luck outdoing him on in a setting where making sure his other four teammates do well doesn’t matter or exist”.

    To be clear, it’d take about 21 games of 1-on-1 to truly determine who is the better player is. In some games, you get lucky and knock down every shot attempt you throw up, even if you lack the history of being a good shooter; in some games, the complete opposite happens, and for 24 minutes — or however long it takes to complete a game — Stephen Curry transforms into Tony Allen and couldn’t hit the Pacific Ocean with a basketball. But I do think Griffin could out-playground his NBA friends if put in the situation (and just imagine the highlight plays that’ll happen!).

    Maybe when NBA 2K16 comes out, I can run a simulation of Griffin vs. James, or any top 1-on-1 prospect, to see if he pans out as I’d expect him to.

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