Peak Blake Griffin on the LA Clippers was better than peak Kyrie Irving was.
No NBA on television has led to a plethora of player comparisons over the past few months. Some are generated by TV events (LeBron versus MJ), some are generated by videos of guys starting to amp up their training (looking at you, Gilbert), and others are generated by sites just looking for content. An example of the latter happened Monday morning when Bleacher Report posted a ranking of all number one draft picks since 2000. On that list, Kyrie Irving (selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers) was ahead of Blake Griffin (selected by the LA Clippers).
Let’s address the obvious first. Yes, Kyrie Irving has a championship ring. We all remember the clutch shot he hit over Stephen Curry in game seven of the NBA Finals. I’m not taking that away from him. It was a great shot and he played well in that series. Does that one single event mean he’s better than Blake? Of course not.
Has Blake Griffin been injured a bunch and never made it out of the second round? That’s also true. Still, given he was in the Western Conference and has never had a player on his team at the same level as LeBron James (sorry CP3), I think we can forgive him somewhat.
Remember, Blake finished third in MVP voting during the 2013-14 season, behind Kevin Durant and James. That season, he was dominant, putting up 24.1 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 1.2 steals per game.
Back to Kyrie. He’s a better offensive player. Given his size at only 6’2″, he is incredible at scoring from all levels, thanks mostly to his immaculate dribbling ability. Kyrie, as he would say in his Uncle Drew alter ego, gets buckets. But what else does he do that’s great? He’s never had any other stat average in double-digits and as a point guard, his playmaking is mediocre. He averages just 5.7 assists per game, which is just 1.3 more than Blake Griffin’s 4.4 over his career.
Keep in mind, Kyrie is often the primary ballhandler and has a higher usage rate than Griffin. Given that, the minimal difference in assist numbers is interesting.
There are also advanced statistics. While I am personally not a huge fan of analytics over everything, they do hold value when looking at player’s careers. Over their respective careers, Griffin and Irving have offensive ratings of 112 and 114 and defensive ratings of 106 and 109. Kyrie is slightly better on offense while Blake is better on defense. Their box plus/minus numbers also paint a very similar picture.
Blake, however, does sport a better value over replacement player (VORP). This state “estimates the number of points per 100 team possessions that a player contributes over a replacement-level player, translated to an average team, and prorated to an 82-game season.” Confused? Me too.
In layman’s terms, VORP “measures reasonably accurately what a player did produce in terms of value for a given team.” Blake has provided more value to his teams over his career.
Obviously, these arguments are just scratching the surface and I’m sure someone with more understanding of advanced analytics could argue these points in a better way. Still, in terms of overall career, Blake has seemingly been better despite not having the same career success as Kyrie.
I have Blake as slightly better but, honestly, they probably sit around the same tier. Both players are solid and will have legitimate shots at the Basketball Hall of Fame one day and will probably have their numbers retired by at least one team. The worst part? They could have been teammates had the Clippers not traded the pick that became Kyrie in a deal for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon.
Thanks, Baron Davis.