This is the slow time in the NBA off-season, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start looking ahead to the 2010-11 season and which players might surprise us. The Slept-on Files will feature some of the players you might have overlooked or written off — and give you reasons why you shouldn’t.
Blake Griffin’s File — Empty (2010-11 will be his rookie season)
Why he’s being slept on: Blake Griffin was the consensus choice to be the number one pick in the 2009 draft, so when the Clippers won the draft lottery on May 20, 2009, NBA fans and commentators everywhere exclaimed, “Uh-oh, here comes the Clippers curse.” Oh, how prophetic those people were…
Griffin fractured his left patella on that dunk in the Clippers’ final 2009 pre-season game. He missed the entire 2009-10 season and Tyreke Evans went on to become the cream of that draft class and win the Rookie of the Year award that many people assumed was Griffin’s to lose.
With all the hype around this year’s crop of stud rookies from the 2010 draft class — including John Wall, Evan Turner and DeMarcus Cousins — it’s likely that Griffin’s name doesn’t pop into many minds when considering the candidates for the 2010-11 Rookie of the Year award winner. But should it?
Why he shouldn’t be slept on: If he recovers 100 percent from his knee injury, you can look forward to some of the fiercest dunks from a big man since pre-injury Amare Stoudemire. Griffin can get up (he measured at a maximum vertical reach of 11 feet, 8.5 inches in the 2009 pre-draft combine) and he obviously relishes opportunities to throw down on his opponents with furious vengeance. Just ask D.J. Mbenga.
He’s not just a great dunker, of course, or else he wouldn’t have been the first overall pick. He’s also a highly productive rebounder, he’s a very good ballhandler for his size, and everybody who knows him claims he has a great attitude and work ethic. Plus, he’s had a full season to study the pro game from the sidelines so he should be prepared for the speed and flow of the NBA when he returns to the court.
When the Clippers traded Marcus Camby to Portland in February, they essentially cleared the way for a starting frontcourt of Griffin and Chris Kaman in 2010-11. That frontcourt could combine for 35 points and 18 rebounds per game next season. It’s easy to sleep on the Clippers when they’re so terrible virtually every season, but if Griffin’s thunderous dunks don’t wake people up next season, maybe Kaman should sneak bring some of his fireworks into the Staples Center.