Blake Griffin shoots better, dribbles better and passes better.
Without question, the Clippers forward is more skilled than his first few NBA seasons.
But I’m not sure he’s more productive.
Griffin’s ability to get dunks – the highest-percentage shot in basketball – should not be underappreciated. Though many put more stock in a player having a wider arsenal of skills, there’s much to be said for perfecting the fewer skills that matter most. Every time Griffin shoots a mid-range jumper or drives and kicks to a teammate, he’s bypassing a potential dunk opportunity.
Sure, sometimes dunks aren’t available, and Griffin’s ability to make other plays is helpful. But has he gone too far with those other plays? His dunks are way down this season:
This trend is not because defenses are taking away his dunks. Griffin has chose to play a different style.
My first few years in the league, I was relying on my athleticism to get me by, because that’s what got me to the NBA. The problem with that is, you end up getting really, really tired by February. My rookie year I tried to get out of bed on a road trip near the end of the season and I was like, Am I physically able to walk right now? I went out on the floor that night and ran up and down just trying to look like a real NBA human.
To Griffin’s credit, he worked hard to adjust after that realization – and it’s paying off. He’s making 41 percent of his 2-pointers beyond 16 feet and 38 percent of his 3-pointers, both career highs.
When I got home from the game that night after hitting the buzzer-beater, I was pacing around my house like a crazy person. I tried to go to sleep around 1:30 in the morning and I spent 20 minutes laying there staring at the ceiling before I was like, Welp, this is not happening. My adrenaline was still jacked. I watched TV for a while and I don’t think I nodded off completely until around around 5 a.m.
When I was staring up at the ceiling, my mind kept switching between sinking the shot and something else. Something more painful. Something that happened three years ago in Golden State.
This is the story of a player motivated by his critics to improve his shortcomings. It might be the best Players Tribune article yet and is worth a read.
I still question whether these changes actually help the Clippers or whether they just divert Griffin from his best skills, but that question might not matter. If Griffin plays better late in the season because he’s less tired, that could justify the change.
If he plays better in the playoffs – maybe even dunking more after a season of saving his legs – and leads the Clippers deep into the postseason, there’d be no question.