In his first season playing in the league, Blake Griffin crushed any and all expectations. Now, just a few years later, he can’t seem to get out from under the weight of them.
Without diving in too deep as to why that is, it’s probably fair to say that Griffin isn’t treated as even-handedly as some of his contemporaries. Maybe it’s the athleticism or the commercials or the persona or the rapid ascension, but Griffin can never really seem to satisfy his critics.
As a result, this has led to a few common complaints being repeated ad nauseum, even though they aren’t necessarily rooted in truth.
Blake Griffin needs to develop a post game
You hear this a lot, but rarely is actual data brought in to the conversation.
According to My Synergy Sports, a service that breaks down and tracks every play type, Griffin scored .88 points per play out of the post last year. Post-up opportunities comprised 35 percent of his offense. How does that compare to some of the league’s best post scorers?
Blake Griffin: .88 PPP, 35% post-ups
Kevin Love: .85 PPP, 24.9% post-ups
LaMarcus Aldridge: .94 PPP, 33.7% post-ups
DeMarcus Cousins: .81 PPP, 24.9% post-ups
Very rarely do you hear anyone harp on Love, Aldridge or Cousins about needing to develop their post skills, but Griffin was a more prolific and more efficient scorer than everyone except for Aldridge last season.
Does he always make it look pretty down there? Certainly not, but saying that Griffin isn’t a good post scorer flies directly in the face of the facts.
When Griffin can’t dunk and play in transition, he can’t be effective
Griffin’s mid-range game is a work in progress, for sure. Still, here’s a list of players with at least 25 made field goals that Griffin is shooting a better percentage than from 10-22 feet:
Marc Gasol, Kevin Martin, Carmelo Anthony, Bradley Beal, Gordon Hayward.
It’s a small sample size, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Griffin be right around league-average from mid-range this year.
It also seems silly that Griffin’s production in the pick-and-roll (1.2 PPP in that setting this year) can be so easily ignored. Pick-and-rolls make up the strong majority of every half-court offense in the league, and Griffin has routinely been one of the best finishers in the league as a roll man.
Let’s not discount Griffin’s passing ability, either. With the exception of Kevin Love, Josh McRoberts and the Gasol brothers, no other power forward or center ranks above Griffin in assist opportunities per game, which is tracked by SportVU and is defined as “passes by a player to a teammate in which the teammate attempts a shot, and if made, would be an assist.”
That confirms what most people who watch Griffin every night already know. Griffin is drawing the attention of multiple defenders whenever he gets the ball, and he’s routinely finding teammates open shots.
Truth be told, Griffin is already the player a lot of people want him to become. The narrative being stuck in neutral is funny, really, because there are other much more legitimate critiques of Griffin readily available. He’s a poor free throw shooter. He’s an inconsistent defender that lacks focus. He doesn’t help protect the rim or defend the pick-and-roll well.
Those are the areas of improvement that could help Griffin take his game, and maybe the Clippers, to the next level. All this other stuff is just noise.
We’ve got two for the price of one. First is an Instagram of the final seconds of the Thunder win, when rookie Steven Adams tries to shake the hand of former Thunder player Byron Mullens, gets left to dry, so he shakes his own hand (hat tip to Royce Young at Daily Thunder).
Next, watch Shaq take a fall during “Inside the NBA” on TNT:
Thunder 105, Clippers 91: Oklahoma City raced out to a 13-3 lead and never felt really threatened again (the Clippers never made it a one possession game the rest of the way). Kevin Durant had 12 of his 28 in the first quarter to spark that early run, but it was really a strong game from Serge Ibaka (17 points on 8-of-10 shooting) that was the difference, he played well against Blake Griffin. The Thunder bench also completely outplayed the Clippers bench. Blake Griffin had 27 points and 10 rebounds but he couldn’t pull the Clippers out of their early hole.
Nuggets 97, Bulls 87: The real difference in this game was the benches — Chicago’s starting five was -1 in 15 minutes on the court, but the Denver bench outscored the Bulls bench 48-19. That was what decided it, like when the Denver bench went on a 13-0 run to open the fourth quarter and blew the game open. Nate Robinson had a couple of threes in that stretch but the real star off the bench was Jordan Hamilton who had 17 and was one of six Nuggets in double figures. Derrick Rose had 19 points for Chicago but needed 20 shots to get there.