Blake Griffin vs. LeBron James - one of the best personal matchups in the NBA.
The L.A Clippers face off against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night in a star-filled contest which will truly be a spectacle.
Cleveland come into the game on an 11-game win streak - the longest active win streak in the league today due to the Atlanta Hawks falling to New Orleans on Monday, and the Clippers will be looking to bounce back after a defeat in the last second against Brooklyn.
The art of passing
Griffin comes into the clash in fine form and he will need it if he is to have a chance against ‘the King’. The 25-year-old is averaging 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game - very impressive numbers for a power forward.
We all know Blake can score and get boards but the impressive statistic is his assist tally for the season. For a big man, he has exceptional ball handling and court vision - similar to that of Andrew Bogut, the Gasol brothers and of course, James.
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“When you have Chris Paul, who’s probably the best passer in the league, then you have Blake, who I think is the best passing big in the league, when they’re both passing the ball and moving the ball, we’re pretty good on offense” - Clippers coach Doc Rivers
The All-Star has also been working on his jump shot for the past couple of years and the improvements are drastic. Griffin claims he has taken over 250,000 jump shots over that time in order to improve his game and his shot chart shows just that.
However, one problem Blake has had is his decision making in whether to drive to the hoop or shoot the mid-range jump shot. He's almost using his jump shot too much, like when a child has a new toy - all they want to do is use it and play with it. When Griffin drives to the basket and finds himself in the paint, he really shows off his ability.
“So you were correct, haters. You became, as the kids say, my motivators. I needed to work on my mid-range game” - Blake Griffin
The 6ft 10in forward can either go up for the slam - which we know he can do, we’ve all seen him throw down some monster jams - or dish the ball to his teammates. In DeAndre Jordan, Blake has an outlet pass he can hit almost every break for an unreal alley-oop dunk.
Griffin also has the vision to pass it out to the three point line and J.J Reddick and Jamal Crawford are perfect targets. No wonder the Clippers are in the top three for shooting outside the arc this season.
Blake relied on his athleticism to get by in the early stages of his career but it must be said that he is still only 25-years-old and as time progresses, his basketball I.Q is rising all the time.
Where do you start with LeBron? The 30-year-old has won almost every award possible and does not have any weaknesses in his game.
When he announced to Sports Illustrated that he was ‘coming home’, the Cavaliers’ stock instantly rose as a franchise. Not only did they acquire the best player on the planet who has averaged 27.5 points, 7.1 and 6.9 assists over his incredible career, they also added Kevin Love in a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves for Andrew Wiggins.
The Cavs had serious problems gelling their team together in the early stages of the season. However, with the additions of J.R Smith, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov in January, they have offered David Blatt some stability in a fluctuating season.
However, if LeBron feels things are better without him on the floor, he is willing to put his ego aside and do what it takes to win a championship with his hometown side.
“Whatever this team needs in order for us to win, I’ll come off the bench. I’m serious” - LeBron James on Wednesday
The ex-Miami star is a monster on both the offensive and defensive end of the floor, making him a nightmare to play against. Like Griffin, James has unbelievable court vision and sees things on the court before they have even developed.
James currently sits eight in the assist league leaders behind a list of high calibre point-guards, thus proving his basketball I.Q is impecable. His rebounds are slightly down but that is due to Mozgov and Love crashing the boards meaning James does not have to.
The contest does not just host LeBron and Blake. Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love are just a few of the names who will be on the court filled with All-Stars.
By no means is Griffin as good as LeBron and it is unfair to compare the Clippers star to the world's best player as obviously no one can match him. However, Blake is making great steps to progress into the player that the King is.
Both have freakish athleticism but are also very smart on the floor, putting them in the elite bracket of players in the game.
The match up should be admired for the next few years to come before LeBron decides to call it a day. We are truly watching two greats go at each other and their strengh, skill and class should be admired.