NBA / Jan 27, 2011 / 10:30 am

Kevin Durant versus Blake Griffin: One pick to build a franchise

Blake Griffin (photo. Nicky Woo)

Remember Kevin Durant? Before Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire and all things Miami Heat stole your attention this NBA season, Durant was the hottest topic in basketball. Depending on whose preseason predictions you listened to, KD was going to average 35 points a night, lead the Thunder to the Finals, cop league MVP, and beat the Monstars 1-on-5 in the Space Jam sequel. This was his year for the taking.

Durant hasn’t exactly been forgotten — he is still leading the NBA in scoring, and will be announced later today as an All-Star starter — but the hype around him had noticeably slowed down until very recently, when he followed up a weekend buzzer-beater to defeat the Knicks with a 47-point, 18-rebound magnum opus in Minnesota that included another game-winning bucket in overtime. It wouldn’t be right to say Durant is “back,” but the hyperbolic way we talk about him has made its return.

Nobody has snatched the NBA spotlight away from Durant, however, more than Blake Griffin. Ever since he exploded on Opening Night with a handful of vicious dunks that nearly crashed Twitter’s server, Blake has been the League’s new golden child. He had his own 47-point effort a couple weekends ago, and has otherwise scattered his game log with 30-point, 15-rebound stat lines and owned YouTube with his impersonation of Shawn Kemp inhabiting He-Man‘s body.

Griffin, 21, and Durant, 22, are the NBA’s two hottest young superstars. So if you had the chance to pick one as the foundation of your own franchise, who would it be? (Notice how things change so quickly: Not long ago, this question was reserved for LeBron James and Dwight Howard.)

Oddly enough — especially if you remember how Durant’s durability was a question mark going into the ’07 NBA Draft — the 250-pound powerhouse Griffin may be the least “safe” choice. As solid as he is, Griffin has already missed an entire season with a knee injury, and his mosh-pit style of play and nightly attempts to jump over 6-foot and 7-foot human beings makes it seem like another major injury is only one bad fall away. Durant, meanwhile, has held up to the NBA rigors with his skinny frame: Of a possible 293 games so far in his pro career, he has played in 283 of them. He has made the pre-draft camp bench press irrelevant.

One is a prolific and smooth scorer on the perimeter, the other a buckets-and-boards machine under the glass and above the rim.

Who would you take to start your team?

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  • hahns

    kd for sure

  • Kevin

    KD without question. He can go get the rock during end game for a buzzer beater. Griffin would have to have someone bring it up and throw it to him.

  • Promoman

    I guess it depends on what you’re looking for and can’t really go wrong either way. If you’re looking to win now, then roll with Durant. His main weakness is his defense but he’s starting to improve but he’s got a ways to go. Blake is really going through rookie rigors now. He just needs to refine his offense and learn the ins and outs of NBA level defense. He’d be the pick if you’re looking long-term.

  • NTstateOFmind

    KD hands-down, scorers always find a way to get it done even on the decline of their careers

    Blake (as of right now), skilled as he is, won’t always have that explosiveness in his later years

  • http://dimemag.com Austin Burton

    Devil’s advocate question for the Durant supporters:
    What about the “perimeter scorers come a dime a dozen, but dominant big men are rare” school of thought? That was basically the reason why Durant was drafted behind Greg Oden. Has that theory become antiquated?

  • K Dizzle

    Gotta say KD. After what he did last season and what he did this past summer, Durant’s the better ball player. No doubt Blake’s the better dunker, but what does that mean when we talkin wins and losses…

  • Lefty

    Austin,

    No. It hasn’t become antiquated, but Durant may be the wrong player to apply it to, seeing how the whole Oden/Durant thing has already worked out in his favor.

  • Jane

    Blake Griffin…he’s only going to get better…

  • K Dizzle

    Cuz Durant’s not gonna get better???

  • Soopa

    To say Durant is just a scorer is like saying Rodman was just a rebounder – i mean come on!

    It is a tough pick tho but i just think Durant has more upside. He has incredible size for his position and could still develop into an elite defender giving in length.

  • IGP

    I say Blake Griffin. I agree with what Austin said too.

    Durant is a nasty scorer no doubt. He can score in anyway. But both have a huge heart and play their ass off for his team every night. Both are good character guys. Both are leaders. But BG is a rookie and already one of the top players in the game. Name 10 players who are having a better year than him, all things considered. And Durant’s scoring average isn’t that much more than Griffins.

    If you really think about it isn’t Monta Ellis on the same level at least of a scorer as Durant? It’s at least close.

  • jrav

    In Bill Simmon’s BBOB he writes you always talks about taking the sure thing big over the sure thing guard. Thus it was wrong for Portland to take Oden who had while Durant was the sure thing. However Houston was right to take Akeem over Jordan since both were sure things, just Akeem was bigger.

    So we can say KD is a sure thing, can we say the same thing bout Griffin?

  • aj

    When’s the last time an “undersized” PF/C that’s a #1 or 2 option won it all? Blake is about 6’10” ain’t he? While that’s not undersized, the big man theory really applies to the exceptionally tall guys. Duncan, Gasol, KG, Shaq, Hakeem, D-Rob, ect all at 7’0″ or taller.

    I really like Blake but unless he gets some Duncan/Gasol going on both offense and defense, he reminds me of a McDyess type who’s too athletic to be a “BIG”.

  • http://dynastybball.wordpress.com/ sean.dynastybball

    Until Griffin stops throwing himself around with reckless abandon, give me Durant. If I’m building a franchise, I take the guy that I think will be able to sustain excellence over the longest career not the dude that gets the most youtube video hits and gets twitter abuzz. The Golden Child’s play is great for Sportscenter and NBA All Star votes but won’t keep him from beating up his body in the long run.

  • Heckler

    Take the big man.
    it’s ALWAYS easier to build a team around a big man.

    the most difficult thing for a franchise is to build a team around a ‘wing’ player (notice I say wing and not backcourt player).

    grant hill was a great wing player, so is lebron and carmelo, so was tracy mcgrady. building around a wing player wont get you to the chip round.

    go with the big man; even if he is not the better individual player.

    matter of fact….what was the last team to win a chip that was built around a wing player?!!?

    …dont worry…I’ll wait

  • Soopa

    Build around a wing player? Hmm lets see…

    How about Mr. Kobe Bryant?

  • Heckler

    Soopa,

    I see kobe as more of a backcourt player than a wing player.
    but even if i give you kobe, feel free to name 3-4 more

  • http://www.dimemag.com Lucas Shapiro

    Tough debate. On one hand, I have a hard time seeing a team going to Blake Griffin in the clutch because he’s a big man. On the other hand, you have possibly the best athlete in the NBA in Blake. I guess it is pick your poison but I’d still have to go with KD. For now at least.

  • http://dimemag.com bullet380

    @ Soopa: I was about to say the exact same name.

    I go with Durant; don’t even need to think twice about it. I believe he’ll be able to sustain his level of play for a longer period of time than Blake Griffin.

  • IGP

    Didn’t Blake hit a game winning 3 this year?

  • MattO

    can we make the nickname “poster child” official already?

    @Heckler – umm…how about last year’s champs, the Lakers/Kobe?
    Before that, 2006 Heat/Wade? And before that, the whole Jordan/Pippen Bulls dynasty?

  • K Dizzle

    Not to mention that Blake’s already had a serious knee injury and the concussion issues in college.
    Durant bends but he don’t break.

  • http://www.curtpalme.com/forum/files/you_re_a_homo_767.jpg JAY

    @jrav: “In Bill Simmon’s BBOB he writes you always talks about taking the sure thing big over the sure thing guard. Thus it was wrong for Portland to take Oden who had while Durant was the sure thing.”

    How can you say that it was wrong at the time?? Are we just talking offense?? Last I checked, basketball is played with 2 nets. Oden was a sure thing on the defensive end. Heck, he still is. When he plays his defensive instincts shine through. The center’s job, to protect the rim and at the time, Oden was a monster on defense.

  • Stunnaboy2K11

    Hmmm, dunno bout Oden/Durant. Still believe that when Oden plays a full year 13/11/3 aint that impossible for him to be dropping. He is a monster (I’m talking Dwight esque) on the defensive end when he ironed his fouls out and was able enough to score his points on a decent percentage. His injuries were all freak accidents so I won’t say he is injury prone.

    Now Griff vs Durant is tough, Griffin is a freak who can go out and grab 13 boards score 30 points and dunk on 5 people. He is developing handles and is leading fast breaks from the PF position, pretty incredible. His defense is still meh and he is VERY injury prone.

    Now Durant can flat out score, is virtually unguardable and brings no off court drama whatsoever. While he does get 3 happy, he also is a very important thing, CLUTCH. Can’t pass that up man. I’d train him to crash the boards a lil bit more but dude is a guaranteed 50 wins nowadays.

  • Diggity Dave

    Vanilla Gorilla over the Durantula.

  • http://www.curtpalme.com/forum/files/you_re_a_homo_767.jpg JAY

    @Matt
    Good job naming 3…. Heckler’s gonna “give you those 3″ but ask for 5 more. Lol.
    BTW, Celtics were built around Pierce, another wing player.

    @heckler: “grant hill was a great wing player, so is lebron and carmelo, so was tracy mcgrady. building around a wing player wont get you to the chip round.”

    It sounds like you’re implying that building around a bigman will get you to a Finals. Orlando was built from the ground up around D-Howard and he’s yet to make a Finals appearance. He’s been the most dominant bigman for like 3-4 years too. His problem is, he keeps running into teams built around wing players. Lol.
    It’s a guard’s game today. I would have agreed with your “take the bigman first” theory 10 years ago but the game is different today. Refs don’t allow big men to bang down-low anymore. They call the “Divac” rule too often…. if the defender flops, call a charge.

  • bookkwormmaster

    It’s a TOUGH decision but I would ultimately take Kevin Durant.

    @ Heckler

    1. Kobe Bryant (although like you said more backcourt than wing)
    2. Paul Pierce
    3. Dwyane Wade
    4. Michael Jordan
    5. Isiah Thomas

  • jrav

    “How can you say that it was wrong at the time?? Are we just talking offense?? Last I checked, basketball is played with 2 nets. Oden was a sure thing on the defensive end. Heck, he still is. When he plays his defensive instincts shine through. The center’s job, to protect the rim and at the time, Oden was a monster on defense.”

    But he wasnt a sure thing on D. Oden had been injured for most of the year with a broken wrist and he only had one great game, though it was the championship game. So its difficult to claim he was a sure thing on D.

    There were red flags around him with the big one being that one of his leg was larger than the other. This often can be cause of leg injuries. Also he admitted he wasn’t in love with bball and had a relatively poor draft workout. So most people were hoping that Oden would develop into a Russel, Robinson etc.

  • jrav

    “It sounds like you’re implying that building around a bigman will get you to a Finals. Orlando was built from the ground up around D-Howard and he’s yet to make a Finals appearance. He’s been the most dominant bigman for like 3-4 years too. His problem is, he keeps running into teams built around wing players. Lol.”

    Howard was in the finals in 2009

  • Todd

    1. How is Isiah Thomas a wing player he played the point? also jay your an idiot the magic have made the playoffs with Dwight Howard how are you even on an nba board?

  • http://www.curtpalme.com/forum/files/you_re_a_homo_767.jpg JAY

    @jrav:
    “So its difficult to claim he was a sure thing on D.”
    Really?!? So him averaging 3.3 blocks in just 28min/gm is just a fluke. That doesn’t include the countless shots he changed jsut be being in the lane. He owned the defensive end. That’s not even debatable.

    “Oden had been injured for most of the year with a broken wrist…”
    He wasn’t injured for “most” of the year. He only missed 7 games (his only injury ever up until that point) and then played with a cast, and still dominated defensively with one hand…. he even learned to shoot free-throws and baby hooks with his left hand.

    Your memory fails you because Oden was touted as a “once in a generation” big man. To me, that’s scout’s jargon for a “sure thing”.

  • http://www.curtpalme.com/forum/files/you_re_a_homo_767.jpg JAY

    “Howard was in the finals in 2009″
    Oh yeah, that’s right. Lost in 5. I concede.
    But still, it’s a guards game today.

  • sweetv0mit

    KD has more of a complete game than Griffindor

  • OverPowered

    Lakers rely as much on Gasol as they do on Kobe, just remember what Kobe did with the exact same team sans Gasol…I think it was the 8th seed and a first round exit?

    Give me Durant for the long term, Griffin for the highlights

  • jrav

    MIN PTS REB AST BLK
    24.6 6.2 6.4 .4 3.8
    31.0 10.5 7.9 .4 4.5
    31.8 13.6 10.8 .5 4.2

    Those are the stats of a recent college player over the course of three years. His blocks per min are higher than Oden’s and I’m pretty sure he’s in the D-league right now.

  • iCARNACKi

    Purely based on Blake’s game so heavily relying on his athleticism and having already had major knee surgery I would pick Durant. I also think Durant is slightly easier to build around, with regards to making a championship team.

    I wouldn’t pick Blake based on the same reasons I wouldn’t have given Stoudemire a max contract this off season.

  • nizzio

    I’d have to go with Griffin. He is still a rookie and if he plays for a good coach who can work on his defensive side, he will become a white version of Shaq, but with more scoring tools and less trash talking. KD can improve his defense as well, but like Heckler said, it’s so much easier to build around a big man

  • johnsacrimoni

    I would still take LeBron first if I had the choice. He’s not even 26 yet. But Durant and Griffin would be solid consolation prizes. I would probably give the nod to KD only because I’d be worried about Blake injuring himself the way he plays.

  • Bill

    The Thunder rely as much on Russell Westbrook as they do on Kevin Durant. Maybe even more. I’ve seen Westbrook rank higher than Durant on ESPN’s MVP ranking list.

    If Blake Griffin had a solid supporting cast like Durant, he would turn them into a contender immediately. People forget this is his ROOKIE year.

    Durant’s rookie year: 20 ppg, 4 rpg, 3 apg on 43 FG% and his team only won 23 games

    Blake’s rookie year: 23 ppg, 13 rpg, 3 apg on 53 FG% and his team will win at least 40 games.

    He is improving so much with every game. The fact that he plays so hard and is highly competitive is what sets him apart from the rest of the young guys.

    Blake is the next Kobe. Durant is the next Carmelo.

  • s.bucketz

    its easy to say KD now with what he has accomplished so far…what if in 2 years griffin is averaging 20-20 and has proven that hes durable??thas wen u gotta re-ask this question

  • http://www.curtpalme.com/forum/files/you_re_a_homo_767.jpg JAY

    @jrav
    That’s nice you’re pulling stats of a random player. but anyone who watched Oden play in college witnessed his defensive instinct and raw ability. Saying that D-league player had better stats than Oden…. you’re acting like dude was crap. Lol. Stats are misleading unless you watch them play. I can show u freshmen stats of Beasley, ‘Melo, and Jordan to support the argument that MJ was the worst offensive player out of the 3… just because the stats show it, doesn’t make it true.

  • Ian

    Soopa
    And how many rings has kobe won without the dominant big?

  • Ian

    People you guys are sayin todays nba is all about guards give me one that has won the last ten years without a dominant big?? Pierce had kg wade had shaq so did kobe and he has gasol.

    Always go with the big man other than jordan no midget (nba size) has one without the big and everyyy dominant big has won.

    Now I don’t think griffin is that type of big he’s more like kemp imo he can be the second best player on a championship team I think durant can be the best. still since size is harder to find ill take griffin like someone mention you can find a monta ellis type player easier to pair with griffin than a griffin type player to pair with durant.

  • http://dynastybball.wordpress.com/ sean.dynastybball

    @s bucketz

    You don’t thinking predicting a 20 / 20 AVERAGE is a bit over the top?

  • http://dynastybball.wordpress.com/ sean.dynastybball

    …dude might be bagging over 9 women per week BUT he’s no Wilt.

  • Claw

    Durant has such a fluid game, scores very easily and becoming a better rebounder and distributor just needs to work on D a little more. The way Griff plays is dominating but I can see him getting hurt if he keeps this attack mode up.

    I just remember Amare being the same type of player until knee injuries started setting in, and he is taking some hard fouls when attacking the rim.

    Durant, he could become a more dominant offensive force and is still developing and I don’t know if Griff will be able to keep this up.

  • Shot In Ya Face

    Even though I’m from LA….

    I’d go with Durant.

    1) He’s only a year older, but his game is much more polished than Griffin’s. Blake’s is very raw and relies more on athleticism and power to dominate.

    2) Durant lives and breathes buckets and they come easily for him. Not so much for Griffin who has to work for his buckets most of the time.

    3) We know Durant is a true superstar and scoring champ with more years proven. Griffin has only 35-40 games proven.

    4) Durant is a different kind of defender than Griffin (obviously). Durant relies on his length to get blocks and steals. Griffin relies on strength and athleticism to guard his opponents. Eventually overtime Durant will have a better defensive career than Griffin for the little things he does with his length. It may not show up in the box score however.

  • dagwaller

    @ ian – THANK YOU! Bigs win rings, not guards or wings. Forget who it was that said that only BIG bigs win, though, and it may be true. Not too many dominant PFs win titles over dominant Cs.

  • Chuck

    Great question! I love both but they are entirely different players. Like many here, I would be concerned about Griffin’s style and the likelihood for a serious injury. But he has Nureyev feet meaning he is quick and gets up quick.

    KD has been my favorite from his first game at Texas. He is still growing into his body whereas Blake is a man right now. I still think if KD puts on 10 pounds he will be a major rebounded as he showed last night. The problem with the Thunder is they are not well coached, Westbrook dribbles too much and they really don’t have many plays for KD. He should be the center of everything just as Jordan and LeBron were but RW doesn’t see it that way as talented as he is.

    I would take Durant here.

  • First & Foremost

    Sorry I’m late but as much as Durant is considered a great scorer he also takes 20 shots and 10 free throws a game to score 28 points.

    To build a team, I’d take the Big Man and some mediocre scorers. Having a great big man makes the wings better. Shaq-Kobe; Gasol-Kobe, Garnett-Pierce; Shaq-Wade; Duncan-Ginobili. Jordan-Pippen was the exception.

    Eric Gordon has gotten better, but how much of his improvement can be attributed to Blake being there? The Celtics are clearly a better team when Garnett is healthy. The Lakers are a better team when Gasol is getting more touches.

    Bottom line, I’d take Blake over Griffin to build a team.

  • First & Foremost

    I would say all of that and then sounds stupid at the end.
    To build a franchise, Blake > Durant

  • Dagger

    I’m guessing the majority here who’d choose Durant over Griffin would also select Kobe over Duncan. The big man who gets you rebounds, blocks and shoots at a high percentage will always be more valuable than a swingman of comparable talent, with the exception of a few freaks like Mike or Lebron. Griffin is having a much better rookie campaign than Durant’s and it seems he’s got a chance to be one of the best bigs ever, but in this case I think the jury is still out given Griffin’s injury history. Assuming his injury was a freak occurrence I’d pick Griffin.

  • 12thman

    KD is a leader and a humble guy. Weve seen for sure that hes loyal with the extension he signed quality. Hes a fan favorite and global darling because of the humility he acts with. Plus, his leadership took a GIANT step forward in the summer with team USA and then, on top of that, he has the surefire clutch level you need to win games, is more versatile than Griffin, has a ridiculous body for his position and needs no one around him to get you wins.

    Blake is a freak and a monster in the post, but I think a lot of people are forgetting that the two are of comparable height. Blake is not that great defensively either and relies more on the freak athleticism he has like LeBron, another overhyped player on D. No one has any idea what his ceiling is but it can’t be said that Durant is going to stop his level of improvement. We know bigs win championships, but how many athletic freaks have won championships? Give me Durant

  • you-d

    kd is a gamer, closer kd is better//// i such love watch kd plays