Our friend Kevin Arnovitz posted this earlier in the week and it intrigued me.
When the Clippers drafted Al in the summer of 2007, I was among many skeptics who were dumbfounded by the front office's decision to draft a forward (a luxery at the time) and not a point guard (a dire necesity because of Mr. Livingston). However, I was a temporary skeptic once I saw him play in the summer league; specifically when I saw him drop 24 against the Nuggets. We saw him struggle before the all-star break, but then he broke out during the second half of the season after being snubbed from the rookie all-star team. We've seen how vicious Al can be with a chip on his shoulder (Ask the Grizzlies & Hawks), and it earned him a spot on the first-team all rookie; he was one of the few bright spots on a Brandless season.
From his days at Florida State, to the pros, Al has been improving. Al's a guy that's all about working hard at the gym, practicing, and... working hard. He understands his flaws (rebounding, passing, defending) and Al just seems to look better each game. Even from his words I get this feeling Al wants to be the franchise player or the go-to guy, or whatever you want to call it. I remember Al stating after the first blowout to the Lakers this year, "At the end of the day, we all have the same goal. We want to win. It can't be tolerated."
Al has a talent for scoring, and he can do it anywhere on the basketball court. His slashing and finishing skills are amazing in the paint and as much as we want him to drive more to the basket, Al can make some of the most incredibly difficult jump shots I've ever seen. Honestly, I'm happy that he's driving more now, but at the same time I'm a bit disappointed that he isn't shooting as many 3-pointers. Last year his 3PT% was much higher than Kevin Durants (albeit Al took considerably less 3PT shots than KD did). But this is an entirely different subject in and of itself.
What I'm concerned with is Al's future in the league. As many of us here at Clips Nation have recognized, AT12 is not a young rookie. In fact, he just recently turned 25. One of the most noteable superstars Al has been compared to is "The Human Highlight Film," Dominique Wilkins. Our own Marcus Camby has even seen the flashes of Nique in Al and perhaps it's possible for Al to achieve Dominiqueness (Even now in the shadows of Davis1 and Z-Bo). Although the Hawks failed to make the playoffs in '84-'85, Nique was averaging 27.4PPG and 6.9RPG at the age of 25 and consistently averaging 20+PPG in his career.
So perhaps Nique'ness is a bit too much to expect at the moment for youg ole Al, but could it be possible for him to attain such greatness in the future? Honestly, I don't believe AT ALL that Al is the second-coming of Corey Maggette, and as much as I appreciate everything Corey's done for the team, I think he is the worst-case scenario for Al to end up as (A one-dimensional scorer). One reasonable comparison that strikes similar with Al is Alex English. At the same age both players have similar stats, and I think Al can make the same progression as a player that English did. Al has the athleticism and flash in his game but low basketball IQ, while it was slightly the opposite for English. For now, it's a very reasonable best-case scenario for Al, and if he can be as good as English, then maybe he can obtain the Nique'ness that we all believe he can reach. Al works hard enough, and I blieve that his hard-work and belief can be greater than the weight of age.