Rookie of the Year
D.J. Foster, May 4, 2011

After witnessing game one of the Blake Griffin experience, we all kind of knew that we were in for something special. Griffin dropped a 20-14-4 line on the Blazers in that season opener, and his first bucket was the biggest foreshadow of them all Ė a sky-high dunk off an alley-oop. The debut may have been delayed, but it didnít disappoint.

Griffin continued to dazzle during the rest of his rookie campaign. In his first full month in the NBA, he averaged 20.9 points and 11.7 rebounds Ė numbers most rookies donít even dream of putting up. The Rookie of the Year race would play out more like a sprint than a marathon, as it wouldnít even last into 2011. Some of the other rookies were having nice years, sure, but no one was waging a full blown assault on the league like Griffin did. It got to the point where comparing Griffin to his fellow rookies was almost belittling him, as he was already among the leaders for all players in points and rebounds.

By putting up consistently fantastic efforts for 82 straight games, Blake Griffin has more than earned the distinction of being named the NBAís Rookie of the Year.

While that title comes as more of a formality than anything at this point, Griffinís greatness this season needs to be placed in proper context. You canít accurately describe his brilliance by comparing him solely to this yearís crop of rookies. To really understand just how dominant Griffin was this season, you have to broaden the scope.

The last decade

So now that Griffin has the trophy to prove he was this seasonís best rookie, itís time to compare him to past Rookie of the Year winners.

Letís start with a familiar face in Elton Brand. In the 1999-2000 season, Brand split the Rookie of the Year award with Steve Francis. Brandís numbers probably look familiar Ė he put up 20 points and 10 rebounds a game in his rookie campaign with the Bulls. Solid numbers to be sure, but Griffin has him bested with averages of 22 points and 12 rebounds a game with a better field goal percentage. Next.

The three contenders that came after Brand (Mike Miller, Pau Gasol and Amaríe Stoudemire) all put up decent numbers, but Griffin beat them all in combined points/rebounds/assists by a healthy margin.

That brings us to the mighty LeBron James, the player many consider to be the best in the league.

Now you may think that LeBron, stat-stuffer that he is, would have Griffin beat in the combined points/rebounds/assists category. After all, this is a guy who regularly flirts with triple-doubles and contends for the scoring title every season.

But believe it or not, Griffin has the rookie (and somewhat human) version of LeBron James beat pretty handily. Griffinís combined total comes to 38.4, while LeBron clocks in at 32.3. Letís move on to the next contender.

Emeka Okafor was a double-double machine his rookie year, but Griffin snapped his record for longest double-double streak for a rookie this season. In the combined stats category, Griffin takes care of business.

Coming up next is Chris Paul, Brandon Roy, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose and finally, Tyreke Evans. All great players, but Griffin has them all beat. In the last decade, no rookie has a better combined points/rebounds/assists number than Blake Griffin. No player scored more points per game (22.5) in their rookie year than Griffin. No player had more rebounds per game (12.1) in their rookie year than Griffin. No one made or attempted more free throws. And only Chris Paul Ė who is one of the greatest point guards of all-time when healthy Ė recorded more win shares in their first season.

Got all that? Statistically there hasnít been a better scorer or rebounder to come into the league in the last decade than Blake Griffin.

Ok, letís go back a little furtherÖ

There hasnít been a recent rookie on the level of Griffin. To find ones who were, you have to dig up some hall of fame names.

Want to know the last rookie to score more points per game than Blake Griffin?

The answer is The Answer.

Thatís right Ė Allen Iverson, one of the best scorers to ever play, scored 23.5 points per game his rookie season. Keep in mind though that it wasnít exactly pretty. Griffin got his 22.5 points per game on 50 percent shooting from the field. Iverson shot just 41.6 percent his rookie year.

Without trying to make you all feel terribly old, remember that Iversonís rookie season came all the way back in 1996.

To find a comparable rebounder to Griffin, you have to go back even further than 1996. The last rookie to average as many rebounds per game as Griffin?

The one, the only, The Diesel.

Shaquille OíNeal exploded on the scene back in 1992 and averaged a whopping 13.9 rebounds per game. Pretty incredible.

So to find guys that beat Griffinís first year numbers, you have to go back 15 years for one of the best scorers of his generation in Iverson and go back 20 years to find one of the biggest and baddest centers to ever play the game in Shaq.

Hereís where it gets fun

Think of all the names we havenít even mentioned yet because their stats donít match up with Griffinís. Tim Duncan. Dwight Howard. Chris Webber. Hakeem Olajuwon. Patrick Ewing. Karl Malone. The list goes on and on.

Hereís the scariest thing. Remember that points/rebounds/assist combined total Iíve been tossing around? Other than Shaq, none of those players beat Griffinís combined number. David Robinson comes close, but Griffin just barely edges him out 38.4 to 38.3.

To find a rookie other than Shaq with a better number, you have to go all the way back to 1984. You might have heard of the guy who won the Rookie of the Year award that season. Does the name Michael Jordan ring a bell?

Jordanís combined total that season checks in at 40.6 Ė a ridiculous number for a rookie. But whatís more ridiculous is that we had to invoke the name of Michael Jeffrey Jordan in a search for players who could best Griffin statistically.

Hereís the kicker. Itís not a stretch to say that outside of Shaq, Griffin is the best rookie basketball has seen in 27 years. 27 years!

Bring it back in

Now that weíve explored Blake Griffinís place in history with the other Rookie of the Year winners, letís focus on his place in the franchise. Griffin becomes the fourth rookie in the franchiseís history to win the award, joining Terry Cummings (1982-83 San Diego), Ernie DiGregorio (1973-74 Buffalo) and the legendary Bob McAdoo (1972-73 Buffalo). Griffin is the franchiseís first winner since the Clippers moved to Los Angeles back in 1984.

So congratulations are in order to Blake Griffin, the official 2010-2011 Rookie of the Year. But as Iíve hopefully shown, Griffin was much, much more than just that this year.

Save some room on that mantle, Blake. Thereís plenty more where that came from.