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ESPN Insider: Is Blake the best rookie EVER? In honor of all our recent talk about Blake being...

ESPN Insider: Is Blake the best rookie EVER? In honor of all our recent talk about Blake being the best LA rookie ever (over Magic) and comparing him to other rookies, ESPN Insider did a nice stat filled report for us at Clipsnation! *I would link the article but it's ESPNInsider so you gots to pay for it and all. Measuring Griffin against the greats By John Hollinger ESPN.com Archive Blake Griffin is averaging 22.5 points and 12.8 rebounds a game for the Clippers, who are on the rise. Normally at this time of year, I might write a column that compares the various Rookie of the Year candidates in order to help sort out a tight race. Uh, not this year. Blake Griffin has run away with that honor, with Monday night's 47-point outburst against the Pacers serving as the exclamation point on what's almost certain to be a unanimous vote. (Unfortunately, we're required to say "almost" given the long history of moron homer votes that have kept other obvious winners from unanimity). Griffin is blowing away the competition so badly that he has a seven-point player efficiency rating lead on his closest rookie rival, Washington's John Wall; Griffin's estimated wins added (EWA) is greater than that of his five closest rivals combined. Overall, he ranks 14th in the NBA in PER and, in spite of his team's awful record, seems a near-lock to make the All-Star team. That's through half a season of work, but given that most rookies see their numbers improve in the second half of their first season, he's likely to move up the charts further. Sunday's explosion added to his massive list of superlatives, while placing him in some rather select company. According to Elias, Griffin's point total was the most this season. His 19-of-24 shooting, for 79.2 percent, was the best percentage by a rookie taking at least 20 shots in more than a quarter center (Hakeem Olajuwon shot 18-of-22 on Dec. 6, 1984). He joined Shaquille O'Neal as the only rookies in the last quarter century to have a 45-10 game, and joined Michael Jordan and Rick Barry as the only rooks to have at least 47 points and 14 rebounds in the same game. Griffin is 12th in scoring, fourth in rebounding, and has an amazing streak of 27 straight double-doubles. He's been so good that the Clippers have become a must-see team in spite of the fact that they're 10 games under .500 and, having played more home games and fewer road games than any team in the league, are likely to slip even lower. So there's no Rookie of the Year race to analyze. Instead, we're left with a more historic question: Is he having one of the best rookie years ever? And if so, where does it rank? Great recent rookie seasons, pace-adjusted to 2010-11 PAP40=Pace-adjusted points per 40 minutes; PAR40=Pace-adjusted rebounds per 40 minutes; PAA40=Pace-adjusted assists per 40 minutes Player PAP40 PAR40 PAA40 PER David Robinson, 1989-90 24.9 12.3 2.1 26.3 Michael Jordan, 1984-85 27.4 6.3 5.7 25.8 Blake Griffin, 2010-11 24.1 13.7 3.6 23.3 Shaquille O'Neal, 1992-93 23.7 14.0 1.9 23.2 Terry Cummings, 1982-83 23.6 10.6 2.5 22.8 Tim Duncan, 1997-98 22.6 12.8 2.9 22.6 Chris Paul, 2005-06 18.6 5.9 9.0 22.1 Chris Webber, 1993-94 20.4 10.6 4.2 21.7 Hakeem Olajuwon, 1984-85 21.0 12.1 1.4 21.1 Alonzo Mourning, 1992-93 22.9 11.2 1.1 20.8 Elton Brand, 1999-00 22.5 11.2 2.1 20.6 Magic Johnson, 1979-80 17.6 7.6 7.2 20.6 Larry Bird, 1979-80 21.3 10.4 4.5 20.5 To answer that question, I went to the archives. As it turns out, Griffin's rookie year (so far) isn't the best in history … I'd say Wilt Chamberlain has that pretty safely salted away by jumping out of the gate with a 37.6-27.0 campaign in 1959-60. Nonetheless, it's still pretty amazing. The first thing one notices is the players he's being compared to -- Griffin is on a trajectory that few have approached, and rookies of this quality virtually always turn into superstars. For instance, Griffin is on pace to be the seventh rookie to average more than 22 points and 12 rebounds in a season; five of the other six are in the Hall of Fame and the sixth, Shaquille O'Neal, is a mortal lock to join them. Of course, most of the great rookie seasons happened in the 1950s and 1960s, when (a) players rocketed into the league with four years of college experience, and (b) the college game was a better learning ground because everybody else stayed four years too. Griffin, for instance, won't be touching Wilt's rookie numbers, or the Big O's near triple-double campaign of 30.5-10.1-9.7 in 1960-61. In the past four decades or so, however, players have routinely left school early and taken more lumps as NBA rookies. In that light, Griffin's rookie season seems even better. Only two rookies in the past 40 years have exceeded Griffin's current 23.26 PER, and one of them was a 24-year-old David Robinson. The other was a fairly decent player by the name of Michael Jordan. Everybody else takes a back seat to Griffin. EVERYBODY. Shaq, Duncan, Magic, Bird -- no dice, fellas. The comparison of Griffin to other dominant big men of recent vintage is particularly noteworthy. Once we adjust for pace and minutes, as I've done in the chart, his rookie season seems completely in place next to those of Robinson, Duncan, Shaq, and Olajuwon. And in one respect (his passing ability) he's already far beyond them and nearly into Larry Bird/Chris Webber territory. The other thing you'll notice from the chart, again, is the quality of the comparables. Of the other 12 best rookies in the past three decades, all but two are either in the Hall of Fame or well on their way. We'll try really hard to ignore the fact that the two exceptions both played for the Clippers. Keep in mind, too, that we're comparing Griffin's half-year numbers against the other player's full-year numbers. But Griffin is still ramping up -- his scoring, rebounding and assist numbers have improved dramatically every month. Griffin averaged only 20.9 points and 11.7 boards in November; in January he's at 27.6 and 14.4. At this rate, his April numbers are going to be the stuff of video games. Sum it all up and we're left with only one conclusion: Griffin isn't just another Rookie of the Year. He's, most likely, a superduperstar. Basically, his career represents the collision of two trends that have had few, if any, exceptions: The first, that players who play this well this early virtually always become all-time greats, and the second, that the Clippers are cursed. L.A.'s "other" team will have its fingers crossed that the first trend can overcome the second. ESPN Insider John Hollinger

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