nine All-Star selections and one MVP title to his name.This season, Nowitzki has put himself in the conversation for another MVP award, averaging 23 points a gamewhile shooting 52 percent from the field, nearly 40 percent from 3-point range and almost 87 percent at thefree-throw line. That amounts to an astoundingly efficient 61 true shooting percentage, a career-best. To further strengthen Nowitzki's case, the Mavericks started the season 24-5 before he went down with a knee injury,went 2-7 in the nine games he missed, and have gone 5-3 since his return.No matter how gaudy Griffin's statistics may be or how spectacular his highlights are, the hefty résumé of Nowitzki remains impossible to ignore. If it were to come down to Griffin and Nowitzki, most coaches would behard-pressed to choose the rookie, and rightfully so.
Edge: NowitzkiGriffin vs. Love
This one might present the most intriguing dilemma. Both youngsters are having seasons for the ages. Griffinis putting together one of the best rookie campaigns of all time while Love is on pace to become the firstplayer to finish with averages of 20 points and 15 rebounds since Hall of Famer Moses Malone.Love does have a few advantages: he's had two more years of playing experience, those rebounding totals aresimply incredible and that 31-31 game he unleashed might be the performance of the season.But Griffin counters with a formidable arsenal of his own. To begin with, he actually isn't that far behind inrebounding, as he's fourth in the NBA at nearly 13 boards a game and just four double-doubles behind Love,with 38. The rookie power forward has led the Clippers to a 18-28 record, not a pretty mark but respectableconsidering they started the season 1-13 and have since defeated Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Chicago,Miami and the Lakers. Meanwhile, Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves are second to last in the league, at11-36. Then there are the NBA season-best 47 points on 19-for-24 shooting Griffin dropped on the IndianaPacers less than 24 hours after the Clippers' victory over the Lakers.Perhaps most important, the Clippers are 2-1 this season against the Timberwolves, avenging a close losswith two resounding blowouts. In the Clippers' two wins, Griffin clearly outplayed Love, and you could arguethat the latter didn't play much better in Minnesota's lone victory. The results of these head-to-head matchupsshould factor into the coaches' decisions, giving Griffin the slight nod in this discussion.
Griffin may not have the upper hand on a perennial All-Star of Nowitzki's caliber, but that may represent hisbiggest obstacle to playing at Staples Center on Feb. 20. If the coaches collectively put Griffin ahead of Love,probably his next toughest competition, he should be a lock to join the roster.This is not to dismiss Aldridge, Randolph and the rest of the Western Conference's contending forwards. Theymay be having fine seasons of their own, but none of them can boast the cachet of Nowitzki or the purenumbers of Love. And though rookies have historically had a difficult time getting into the All-Star game – even LeBron Jamesdidn't make the cut in 2004 – Griffin has truly been good enough to break the mold, a la Tim Duncan, whoaveraged 21.1 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists and was an All-Star as a first-year player in 1997-98.Griffin has actually been even more impressive statistically – 22.6 points, 12.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists anight – to complement a flair for the game tailor-made for an audience with the league's brightest stars.Related Articles:
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