Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Start a franchise: Blake Griffin, Kevin Love or LaMarcus Aldridge?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: This is a Goldilocks choice for me. Griffin is a beast whose offensive game has broadened in Chris Paul‘s absence, but a heavier diet of face-up work doesn’t mean he’s all the way there yet as a shooter. Aldridge doesn’t put as much power in this power forward spot but he’s the longest of the bunch, craftier inside of 15 feet and probably the most committed defender of the bunch. But Love, to me, has the best – and rare – combination of skills, a “stretch 4″ all the way to serious 3-point range who bangs inside for garbage points too. At 25, he’s negligibly older than Griffin (24) but three years younger than Aldridge, so my hypothetical team-building would have more legs. (Bonus points for Love: With 31-17 against the Lakers Tuesday, he posted his 25th game of 30 points and 15 rebounds, snapping in less than six seasons the Timberwolves’ record Kevin Garnett set in 12).
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: If I’m building a team today, I assume you want me to get better in the future. That means age is definitely a factor. So no offense, LaMarcus, but at 28, the oldest player doesn’t make the cut. I have questions about both Griffin and Love as my franchise foundation. Still not sure that Griffin doesn’t get too easily distracted and thrown off his game by some of the tactics used by opponents. Love has been disappointing this season with his play at end of close games and hasn’t been able to prod what should be a contender for a playoff spot to play hard every night. I’ll give Love the nod for his more varied offensive skills and better nose for rebounds.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Wow, tough one. I’ll start with eliminating Kevin Love, sorry Minnesota. I love LaMarcus Aldrdige’s game. There might not be a sweeter fadeaway jumper this side of Dirk Nowitzki. He’s really matured and there’s just so much to like. My choice, though, is the 24-year-old from Oklahoma. Blake Griffin is averaging 23.3 ppg, 9.7 rpg and 3.5 apg while shooting 53.1 percent. It’s all coming together, the overall package, inside, outside, offense, defense, free throws, you name it. He’s been stellar in Chris Paul‘s absence. And, as I mentioned, he’s 24. Critics love to pile on, but if there’s a power forward with the combination of size, strength, power and skill in the league today at such a young age and with such potential to grow, I haven’t seen it.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The fact that I changed my answer in my head several times before starting to type is a sign of being torn. Tough one. I was thinking Love because his passing ability is a unique dimension that makes teammates better, in addition to his own scoring and rebounding. Griffin deserves a lot of credit for expanding his offensive game to be more than a dunker, no matter what his reputation says. But if Aldridge is going to rebound like this, with a nice increase for the second season jun a row and a current slim lead over the other two candidates in percentage of rebounds per chance, that’s a difference maker. But, really, you can’t go wrong with any of the three. If one of them breaks out defensively in the next season or two, that’s the real winner. And with his athleticism, it could be Griffin.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Kevin Love, though it’s a very close call between him and Griffin. Griffin is obviously the better athlete, is the better passer, and the better defender. But shooting is so critical in this league and Love can space the floor a lot better than Griffin can. Aldridge is more than three years older than both of the other two, with about twice the NBA mileage (20,000 minutes vs. 10,000 minutes). He’s a great offensive player and I might take him if I had a decent point guard and needed one basket on one possession. But long-term, I’d prefer one of the other two.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I love these sorts of 1-percenter questions. “What’s your favorite car in your collection … the Mercedes, the Jag or the BMW?” This would be an excellent problem to have for any general manager. All that said, Blake Griffin is my pick. He has the box office appeal to go along with the All-Star credentials and the ceiling to get better over the next three or four years in ways that the other choices do not. LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love are All-Stars as well and well established as elite power forwards in this league. And you can clearly build a winner around Aldridge, as we’ve seen with Portland this season. But Griffin has that mix of star power, jaw-dropping ability and skill that is hard to find in a player that’s just 24. Love is only a year older and is arguably the most complete power forward in the league, save for his work on the defensive side. If Aldridge was 25 instead of 28, he’d be hard to pass up when you’re talking about starting a team from scratch with one of these guys as the first pick. But in the end, Blake’s entire body of work, so far, combined with his potential on and off the court makes him hard to pass up as the first block of the foundation of my new team.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com All Ball blog: I love Aldridge’s game and his leadership, but if I’m drafting for the future, he’s 28 years old, so I’d go with either Griffin and Love. Those guys have both had injury issues, but they’re a couple of years younger than LaMarcus. Of those two, I guess I’d go with Love. He’s not as athletic or powerful as Blake, but he’s so versatile, and a guy you can build around.
Simon Legg, NBA Australia: Can someone else make this decision for me? Right now I think LaMarcus Aldridge is a more complete player, one who’s been in the MVP conversation all season, so if you want me to pick someone for one season it’s him. If I’m building for the future and looking ahead to multiple seasons then I’ve probably got to take the 24 year-old Griffin over the 28 year-old Aldridge. There’s heaps of upside to Griffin right now and I think he’ll continue to improve. This season alone he has become a better passer, his post game has developed nicely and he’s become a more active defender. The injury to Chris Paul has allowed Griffin to flourish and mature as a player and I anticipate him only getting better. It’s a great dilemma to have though because Kevin Love would fit nicely into most teams too!
Selçuk Aytekin. NBA Turkiye : I would go with Blake Griffin first for two resasons: star factor and toughness. I’ve loved to watch him battle this year, especially with CP3 out, and I really like his acrobatic basketball style. Who doesn’t? We should never forget that this is a just a game and basketball should be something that we love to watch. After that, I’d choose Kevin Love for almost the opposite reason: because of his fundamentals, his technique. LaMarcus is doing a great job right now, but I do want to see if he can maintain his current performance.
Davide Chinellato, NBA Italia: Can I have them all? 2 of 3? No? I’ll go with Kevin Love then. We’re talking about the best 4s in the league, and all three would be the cornerstone of the big men department with a lot of points and a lot of boards any given night. But Love is also a menace from 3-point range, one of the most important aspects of the game nowadays. It would be tough to give up on Blake’s unbelievable dunks or on Aldridge’s consistency, but I’d pick Love.