Anybody who says one-and-done players ultimately hurt college programs more than they help should take a look at Kentucky. Thanks to John Calipari‘s lineage of point guards — Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall — that spent one year under Calipari before moving on to NBA riches, now the nation’s top high school PG’s fight each other for the right to accept a Kentucky scholarship. The revolving door system may not translate into a national championship, but Cal remains the most talked-about coach in the country, his reputation as a recruiter and developer of NBA talent preceding him.
After D-Rose and Tyreke won back-to-back NBA Rookie of the Year trophies to further bolster Coach Cal’s status, the early favorite for next year’s R.O.Y. is Wall, projected to go No. 1 in next month’s draft. But before you chalk up three straight R.O.Y. winners for Calipari, don’t forget about Blake Griffin.
After missing what would have been his rookie year with a knee injury, Griffin will, like Greg Oden in ’08-09, be officially considered a rookie next season. Earlier today it was reported that Griffin has been cleared for all basketball activity, so he’s got the whole summer to work on his game and take his place as the L.A. Clippers franchise centerpiece.
“Right now Blake is working out with no restrictions, at full speed, 100 percent to the point where (strength coach) Rich Williams asked me to talk to Blake about dialing it back a little bit,” Clippers GM Neil Olshey told ESPN. “The only guy I feel bad for is the first one of his teammates that shows up and wants to play one-on-one with him.”
Griffin showed in his summer league and NBA preseason appearances last year that he’s going to be able to produce big numbers right away at the pro level, and if his knee is no problem moving forward, nothing is stopping Griffin from dropping about 15 points and 8-9 rebounds per game right off the bat. If you take his first preseason game (jitters) and his last (when he got injured) out of the equation, Griffin averaged 16.0 points and 9.2 boards on 61 percent shooting from the field.
If Griffin were re-listed into the 2010 Draft, even with the injury, he would eclipse Wall as the No. 1 prospect — a fully developed 6-10, 250-pound beast of a power forward with a guard’s athletic ability. It’d be like the D-Rose versus Mike Beasley argument all over again, except Griffin doesn’t have any of the character issue/work ethic questions surrounding him that Beasley had.
Assuming the Washington Wizards take Wall with the No. 1 pick, he is going to have shots taken away from him by D.C. gunners Gilbert Arenas, Andray Blatche, Nick Young and Al Thornton. Meanwhile, Griffin will be flanked in L.A. by a playmaking point guard in Baron Davis, an unselfish two-guard in Eric Gordon, and an All-Star center in Chris Kaman who will draw double teams, allowing Griffin more freedom to operate.
We know this much: Griffin is without question the most talented big man in the rookie class, and probably the most talented player overall. Griffin, Wall, and Evan Turner are the only three rookies who could be immediately crowned their team’s No. 1 guy, but Griffin has the best supporting cast around him. He’s my early pick for Rookie of the Year.