Blake Griffin might be the most criticized star player in the NBA right now. From his defense to his shooting to “all he can do is dunk!” it might not even be close. It’s odd, at least when you look at his numbers. The 6-10 power forward has improved every year — he hasn’t forgotten about the dunks, either — and if he isn’t the best power forward in the league, he’s right there.
But Anthony Davis is no slouch. The Pelicans’ second-year star might be the most intriguing young player in the league, and will certainly develop into an MVP candidate for years to come, barring injury. The two forwards are completely different talents, yet today we’re asking the question. Who would you rather have: Blake Griffin or Anthony Davis? We argue. You decide.
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Don’t be blinded by the high-flying, fast-breaking, dunk-slamming style of Blake Griffin. Although easily one of the league’s more entertaining big men, Blake falls short when we examine both sides of the court. Let’s consider two key concepts when choosing between Anthony Davis and Blake Griffin: consistency on offense, and dominance on defense.
Firstly, in terms of offensive production it’s a near stale mate. When we look close it’s hard to see a clear advantage for either player. Griffin’s athleticism and inside game is better — he finishes 62 percent of the time at the rim and Davis finishes 60. However, Anthony Davis is the more comfortable midrange shooter. Along with scoring, their rebounding is dead even. Per 36 minutes, .2 rebounds per game is the margin of difference.
Let’s take a look at the raw offensive numbers:
Griffin: 36.2 MPG, 22.0 PPG, .520 FG percentage, 7.6 FTA, .702 FT percentage, .573 TS percentage
Davis: 34.6 MPG, 19.2 PPG, .526 FG percentage, 5.7 FTA, 76 FT percentage, .578 TS percentage
They’re both efficient scorers on a solid volume of attempts. You give Anthony Davis the extra two minutes a game, it gets even closer. I’m highlighting how close they are on purpose for one reason: potential. Griffin is 24 years old in his fourth season, and Davis is 20 years old in his second season. It’s not like Blake Griffin is a grandfather but when it’s this close why wouldn’t you take the guy with four less years of mileage? The other thing to factor in here is Griffin has the league’s best point guard running his offense. Jrue Holiday is no Joe Schmo but you have to concede there isn’t a single person who’d take him over Chris Paul.
So we have two big men producing similar numbers in different ways on offense. What about defense? This is where I make it easy to choose Davis. It’s no secret Blake Griffin has been labeled as soft. Chauncey Billups said Griffin might be, “too nice.”
We all remember when Matt Barnes had his infamous ejection against the Thunder earlier this season, where afterward he tweeted, “Love my teammates like family but done standing up for these N*****! All this **** does is cost me money.”
Now all that aside, Davis won the NABC award, given to college basketball’s best defensive player. At Kentucky he broke the freshman block record with 183 swats. He only fell 24 blocks short of David Robinson‘s all time college record (207). The Admiral was an All-Defensive team member on eight separate occasions, just for a point of reference.
Synergy Sports ranks Griffin 217th at opposing points per possession. They rank Anthony Davis at 114. Davis is averaging 3.1 blocks per game, which is first in the NBA. Griffin is averaging .6 blocks per game. Davis is also averaging 1.4 steals per game, to Griffin’s 1.1 steal average. When you look at advanced statistics meant to outline the output of a player on a whole, you can see the difference. Davis is sixth in the league for player efficiency rating (26.3); Griffin ranks 18th (21.8). Davis’s defensive rating is over six points better than that of his team this season. Griffin’s is only two points better than that of his team. Davis is averaging .210 win shares per 48 minutes, (WS/48). Griffin is averaging .182 WS/48. What does all that mean? It means that you can anchor your team around Davis at both ends of the floor, something that can’t be said for Griffin.
People forget far too often, especially in basketball, that defense matters. Davis, in his second year, is already the key cog in the Pelicans offense and defense. Griffin, at 24, isn’t the key offensive or defensive piece.