Chris Paul was pretty blunt about it — he thinks the Clippers can go as far as Blake Griffin takes them.
That’s a lot of weight on Griffin’s shoulders, but he told Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com that Paul was right.
“[Paul] has a huge role on this team,” Griffin said Thursday in an interview with ESPNLosAngeles.com. “He’s been the guy who has closed out a lot of games late for us.
“But in my mind, this is the year I need to step into that role and really help him shoulder that load. I’ll be right there with him at the end of games, being the guy that he can always count on.”
Hitting more than 66 percent of his free throws will help with that.
Griffin has critics who say all he can do is dunk, but they miss the point. First off, the guy is 24 and his game is still evolving and improving. Next, the dunk is the most efficient shot in basketball and if you can get it you should take it — and Griffin can get it. That is a great skill that is more than highlights, it’s sure points. Critics also miss that he has other parts of his game: Improved post moves, good passing out of the post, and his handles are much better when he faces up.
As for the midrange jumper, it’s improved but still needs work. Get him on his more comfortable left side of the court and he hit 39 percent from the midrange last season — not great but improved and good enough you need to respect the shot. Griffin knows what he needs to work on. (The right side and the rest of the midrange he struggled with last year.)
Griffin said he knows what he needs to work on.
“To be honest, I’m more excited about this upcoming season than I’ve ever been,” Griffin said. “My workouts with [shooting coach] Bob Thate and our coaches have been geared around figuring out how I’m going to be used this season.
“I’m doing a lot of stuff at the elbow, a lot of shooting. One of the things [new coach Doc Rivers] said to me was, ‘I don’t want you to be afraid to go 0-for-15.’ In other words, just have the mindset of a shooter. And with the work I’ve done this summer, I’m starting to get that confidence, and think like a shooter.”
If Griffin takes a step forward, it’s that much better for the Clippers. With the additions of J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley (two good three point shooters) the Clippers likely will have a top three NBA offense next season (if not the best). Griffin will be part of that.
But that’s not the side of the court that will determine how far they go. Defense will be. Griffin needs to show improved rotations on that end, as to a lot of Clippers in Doc Rivers’ new (to the Clippers) system.