A hot NBA debate was sparked on Thursday, when First Take analysts Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman were discussing what players they would prefer if they were going into the NBA playoffs. When Kellerman voiced that he’d prefer Los Angeles Clippers big man Blake Griffin over New York Knicks superstar forward Carmelo Anthony, Smith absolutely went bananas:

The big question here is whether or not Smith was right to lose it so quickly. The even bigger question is if Kellerman might actually be right. This, like most NBA debates, can take on several forms. It can go through paradigms you never imagined and on our way to the finish line, we might lose the reason that ever set us forth on this journey.

To avoid that, we’ll make it simple: Stephen A. Smith always loses it. About anything and everything. Ever.

So, it’s not shocking he loses his mind and doesn’t know how to respond when a player he loves – Melo – is slammed a bit by Kellerman. Is it called for? Probably not, but it’s a fairly close NBA debate and Smith doesn’t get paid to be controlled and predictable on television. He gets paid to be a borderline lunatic who screams and blabbers whatever his point is.

Make of that what you will, but we’d say he overreacted and instead of actually providing any kind of argument against Kellerman’s choice, he simply didn’t provide much of anything and looked disgusted. To each their own.

Blake Griffin vs. Carmelo Anthony

But what about the argument on hand? If you’re an NBA team and you need one superstar to ride into the playoffs with and your two choices are Melo or Blake Griffin, who is the pick?

We’d have to agree it has to be Griffin. That probably rings true now and it has to ring true always. Unlike Melo, Griffin has constantly evolved his game, he elevates his teammates, he’s gotten better on a yearly basis and he’s been successful in a tougher conference.

In Melo’s early years with the Denver Nuggets, he could never muster a single playoff series win. He was constantly one and done and ultimately forced his way out of Colorado. Once in New York, nothing really changed, as the Knicks were bounced in the first round during Melo’s first two years in town. In year three, Melo helped the Knicks get to round two, but again got bounced, never to return to the playoffs again.

Carmelo Anthony isn’t the athlete or versatile talent Blake Griffin has been and continues to be. He’s a scorer, plain and simple.

Melo’s scoring often was looked at as selfish during his career and while you could argue he often didn’t have the help he needed to succeed at a high level, there is something to be said for how you help the rest of your team perform. Anthony is a guy who constantly has had the ball in his hands throughout his career. Even in his rookie season he launched nearly 18 shots per game, and ever since then, he’s topped 20 shot attempts per game five different times, while never dropping below 16 attempts per game (that even only happened once).

The simple fact is, Melo shot the ball a ton and yes, he scored the ball a ton. However, despite providing major value as a pure scorer (20+ points per game every single year in the league) he was never a major factor as a playmaker (under 3 assists per game five different years) and actually topped four assists per game for the first time ever just last year.

The numbers don’t lie. Melo didn’t trust his teammates enough to get them more involved for the majority of his career, and instead took more shots. That led to points and it still undoubtedly helped his teams win when they did, but it also didn’t exactly help his teams improve.

Blake Griffin, on the other hand, has posted 3+ dimes per game every year he’s been in the league and his play-making ability has only improved as time has gone on. With his skill-set improving and the Clippers giving him more responsibility, he’s been able to average 5.3 and 4.9 assists per game in each of the last two seasons.

Melo still has five years on Griffin, yet the Clippers star forward has already proven to be the more versatile talent, better play-maker and really has provided a similar impact in scoring (21+ points per game in 5 of 6 NBA seasons).

Griffin has found a way to enjoy about as much success in the NBA playoffs as Melo during a much shorter career, as well. Despite being drafted by a horrendous franchise, Griffin helped build what is known as Lob City and has helped the Clippers get to the playoffs each year, except for his official rookie season in 2010. In those seasons, Griffin and the Clippers reached the second round of the NBA playoffs three years in a row and last year bowed out in round one due to a slew of injuries.

Melo might be the bigger name that has been around longer. Perhaps more was initially expected of him. You could say he might be the better natural shooter and better pure scorer. I would agree with all of those things. But assuming he’s the better overall player is dangerous and it absolutely has been proven that Griffin has been more crucial to his team’s success.

If you take Melo away, what are his teams missing out on? Not getting to the playoffs? Still getting to the playoffs and losing right away?

Oh, wait, we already know the answer to Melo’s true impact. Once traded out of Denver, the Nuggets kept things together long enough to reach the playoffs in four straight seasons. Just like when Melo was there, they got bounced in round one every single time.

The reality is Melo’s presence didn’t make much of a difference in the end and his main skill-set can be divided up throughout a team.

This isn’t to say Melo is’t good (or even great). It’s not to say he’s not an elite scorer (he most certainly is) or that he hasn’t been somewhat successful.

But Blake Griffin is the better overall player, he’s had more success and quite honestly, he’s just scratching the surface of what he actually is capable of. That’s hard for Melo defenders to swallow, but it’s the truth.

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