Essay: The Superstar Swap, Part IV
It’s superstar swap time! Here, a hypothetical straight up player for player deal is offered involving two of the league’s best and brightest. Both viewpoints are then processed, and the fake trade’s winner is decided by way of which fan base would ultimately be happier. In this fictional situation, the players are only swapped for a single season of action, with everything else—rosters, coaches, owners—staying exactly the same.
Blake Griffin vs. Kevin Love
2010-11 relevant stats:
Griffin – 82 starts, 9.8 WS, 21.9 PER, 54.9 TS%, 10.2 ORB%, 8.5 FTA, 64.2 FT%, 12.1 RPG, 3.8 APG, 22.5 PPG.
Love – 73 starts, 11.4 WS, 24.3 PER, 59.3 TS%, 13.7 ORB%, 6.9 FTA, 85 FT%, 15.2 RPG, 2.5 APG, 20.2 PPG.
L.A. Clippers’ Viewpoint:
Right now, Kevin Love is more reliable than any basketball player in the world. His production can not have an off night, unless he wants it to, and as he meanders his body around the court, the one thing he excels in can not be stopped by any opponent. Pound for pound, and maybe just outright, Love is the best rebounder the league’s seen in the past 20 years. He plays angles, is eternally aggressive, and knows the tendencies of every jump shooting teammate he has. When the ball is in the air, Love tends to know where it’s going based on where it was released. (For example: If Michael Beasley is spotted up on the left elbow and shoots a turnaround jumper, Love knows, through studying him in practice, that 8 times out of 10 that shot will clang back rim and land near the foul line.)
On the Clippers Love will be paired with two guards he played beside during the 2010 FIBA World Championships—Chauncey Billups and Eric Gordon—so should already have a bit of familiarity with positioning himself for advantageous offensive rebounds. On top of that, this will be the first time in his short career the undersized Love will be paired alongside a lengthy, defensive savant like DeAndre Jordan. Not only will this make his job much easier on defense, it could also allow Love (a 42% three-point shooter last season) to step outside a little more. And if we push the hypothetical envelope even further, matching Love’s insane ability to throw an outlet pass up with Chris Paul’s ability to catch the ball in enemy territory before an opponent can ready itself, would create some of the most comedic cases of defensive befuddlement in league history. It’s difficult to find a team that wouldn’t be able to utilize Kevin Love’s abilities, but the Clippers seem like an especially snug fit.
How many times do you get to have a superstar AND his poor man’s model? That’s what the Timberwolves would get if they paired Derrick Williams with Blake Griffin. The athleticism would freak everyone out, and if we’re getting hyperbolic, could account for the most insurmountable momentum shifts in the history of a professional sports season. Having Griffin and Williams in his starting lineup would also do wonders for Ricky Rubio, who wouldn’t have to worry about lowering his self-worth with a jump shot, and instead could just close his eyes and throw passes near the backboard. It goes without saying that if this transaction were to happen, a Timberwolf would assume position as NBA League Pass’s official mascot. Nobody who likes basketball would not want to watch this team play, and people who don’t know what basketball is would line up to see what everyone’s talking about. That, in a nutshell, is the economic power of Blake Griffin. An evolving monster on the court, but a fully formed Godzilla to paying customers, Griffin’s potential value extends beyond 94 feet like no other player in the world—besides LeBron James. For all his dunking and jumping and twirling and athletically hypnotic movement, Griffin has the body type and expectations to eventually show off some seriously solid fundamentals. He’s big enough to prevent low post bullying on the block and has vision and unselfishness to someday avoid double teaming mosquitoes by hitting cutting teammates for easy layups. Griffin will soon make his teammates better just by existing on the floor.
While Kevin Love is a great player, his ceiling seems to be more one dimensional; Clippers fans have already had their fair share of those, and in LA, there’s only so many ways a man can grab a rebound that’ll get people excited. On the other hand, Griffin is the definition of a franchise player and would be the most exciting thing Minneapolis has seen since Steve Buscemi shot Harve Presnell on the roof of that parking garage. Edge goes to Minnesota.