For the third time in their three seasons together, Los Angeles Clippers' teammates Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have been selected to the All NBA teams -- Paul a first team selection, and Griffin on the second team. Paul and Griffin were one of three sets of teammates among the 15 names on the three All NBA teams, joining James Harden and Dwight Howard of Houston and LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard of Portland. They are the only teammates to have been selected three years in a row.
Which begs the question: are they the top twosome in the NBA right now? The answer is undoubtedly "yes" if the measure is the quality of the sidekick in the pairing. But let's face facts: even the most ardent Batman fan realizes that Superman and Krypto is still stronger than Batman and Robin -- sure, Krypto's a dog, but Superman is Superman.
Other duos in the conversation at this point include reigning MVP Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (Westbrook missed the All NBA teams this season for the first time in four years because injuries kept him out of about half the season), last season's MVP LeBron James and Dwyane Wade (or James and Chris Bosh or James and Mario Chalmers ... really, take your pick, they're all Krypto in this analogy), Harden and Howard and Aldridge and Lillard.
What may be unique about the Paul/Griffin pairing is that it's unclear which one is Batman and which one is Robin. Paul is the on court leader of the team, and until this season he was also clearly the better player. But Griffin just completed his fourth season in the league and his steady improvement has allowed him to catch Paul and perhaps pass him in basketball importance. Consider this: Griffin was voted by the fans into the starting lineup in the All Star Game while Paul was selected as a reserve; Griffin finished third in this season's MVP race while Paul finished seventh. Yet Paul was a first team All NBA selection, while Griffin was on the second team. So which one is better?
Of course we know that those inconsistencies are mainly due to the idiosyncrasies of how each of those honors is determined. In particular, Griffin plays forward, the same position as the consensus top two players in the league, Durant and James. The All NBA teams are selected by position, leaving Griffin on the second team ballot for all but five voters (four who got creative with positions and Chris Sheridan, the only voter to choose Griffin ahead of James as a first team forward).
But voting quirks aside, the simple fact is that there is no clear pecking order for the Clippers Big Two, unlike most others in the league. You could argue that Harden and Howard are close in importance, but Harden is ball dominant on offense and Rockets coach Kevin McHale has clearly made his choice for how he wants to play, at least on that end. Aldridge and Lillard will be an interesting duo to watch in the coming years: especially considering that Lillard is the younger of the two, one would suspect that he will surpass Aldridge in importance on that team. But they're not currently at the same overall level as Griffin and Paul.
Any team would want two equally great players: or would they? Is it possible that, psychologically, it's easier for all involved to know who the alpha dog is? It's worth remembering how lackluster the Big Three experiment in Miami began, back when James and Wade took turns being "The Man". And it doesn't take a genius to see that Oklahoma City suffers when Westbrook dribbles the ball for 15 seconds before shooting a contested jumper, freezing Durant out of so much as a touch on key possessions.
Honestly, I'm just stirring the pot on the question of whether there needs to be a pecking order between Griffin and Paul. There doesn't because there's a clear distinction here. Unlike with James and Wade or Durant and Westbrook, who are all perimeter players, Griffin and Paul play different positions. There's no question as to who should have the ball in his hands at the end of a game -- it's Paul, because he's the point guard. He also happens to be one of the best distributors and decision-makers in the game. If Paul has a fault, it's that he's too unselfish, but if you give him the ball on a key possession, good things will happen, and one of those good things might be that he gets the ball to Griffin.
Not only do the Clippers have arguably the best Big Two in the league -- they also have a Big Two that mesh perfectly. With both of them signed for four more seasons, Griffin entering his prime and Paul still in his, the Clippers have a dynamic duo that should keep them in the championship hunt for years to come.