John Wall always felt that if he had not injured his left foot in November, which led to him later suffering a bone bruise in his right knee, he would’ve received more consideration for rookie of the year this season. But Coach Flip Saunders believed that another factor -- a 6-foot-10, slam-dunking, nightly-highlight-producing factor -- played a more significant role in Wall’s s rookie campaign being overshadowed.
“If Blake Griffin wasn’t a rookie this year and was a rookie last year, the accolades John would be getting would be off the charts,” Saunders said late in the season.
This season, though, Wall had to settle for a distance second place. Griffin became the first unanimous recipient of the rookie of the year award since David Robinson in 1990 as he received all 118 first-place votes. Wall received 91 second-place votes and 22 third-place votes to accumulate 295 total points -- well behind Griffin, who had 595 points to become the third unanimous selection for the award. Former Virginia star Ralph Sampson was the other, for Houston in 1984. Portland’s Brandon Roy and New Orleans’ Chris Paul both recently came close, receiving all but one first-place vote in 2006 and 2005, respectively.
The No. 1 overall pick of the Los Angeles Clippers in 2009, Griffin missed all of last season after suffering a fracture right kneecap, but returned to average 22.5 points and 12.1 rebounds a game, was named an All-Star and even received a third-place vote for league’s most valuable player. Griffin is the fourth rookie in NBA history to total 1,600 points, 900 rebounds and 250 assists in his first season, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1969-70), Elgin Baylor (1958-59) and Sidney Wicks (1971-72).
“Congrats to him,” Wall wrote about Griffin in a text message on Wednesday, “he deserved it.”
Wall joined Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, Mark Jackson, Allen Iverson, Tim Hardaway and Paul as the only rookies in NBA history to have atleast 1100 points, 550 assists and 300 rebounds as rookies. He is the only player to reach those totals in less than 70 games.
He had a season that compared favorably with the past four point guards to win rookie of the year, but unfortunately, it didn’t come close to Griffin, who is the first rookie since Elton Brand in 1999 to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in his first season. Had he put up similar numbers in what should’ve been his first season, last year’s rookie of the year, Tyreke Evans, wouldn’t have topped Griffin.
Wall never had a problem with Griffin being considered a rookie though he was drafted a year before. “It’s just like being a red-shirt freshman; I can’t control it,” Wall said earlier this season.
Even if he had he stayed healthy, Wall would’ve had a hard time keeping up with Griffin. But when Wall sprained his left foot in Chicago on Nov. 13, he had been averaging 18.1 points and 8.8 assists and had recorded a triple double in his first eight games. At the same time, Griffin averaged 16.6 points and 10.8 rebounds. Nearly a week later, Griffin scored 44 points with 15 rebounds and seven assists against the New York Knicks and it was practically a one-man race after that.
Griffin is the first Clipper to win rookie of the year since the team moved to Los Angeles in 1984. He is the fifth in the history of the franchise, joining Terry Cummings of the San Diego Clippers (1983), and Adrian Dantley (1977), Ernie DiGregorio (1974) and Bob McAdoo (1973), who won it as members of the Buffalo Braves.
The Wizards franchise hasn’t had a rookie of the year winner since the Baltimore Bullets had back-to-back winners with Wes Unseld and Earl Monroe claiming the honors in 1969 and 1968, respectively.