Let us take a look at the good and the bad concerning the enigmatic Blake Griffin. I’ll restrain from revealing my opinion until the end. I think most would already know about the back story on Griffin. He left Oklahoma after his sophomore year. He racked up several awards during his two years of college ball and was the consensus number one pick on all draft boards after his second year of college. The Clippers had the good fortune of landing the number one overall draft pick in the lottery and selected him. Griffin ripped through the summer league, winning the MVP. He continued to play well into the Clippers’ preseason. In their final preseason game, Griffin dunked the ball and fell, injuring his kneecap.
I must stop and point out, this had shades of Antonio McDyess all over it from when he dunked very early in his first season with my Knicks, and fell, breaking his kneecap and missing the rest of the season. He was never the same.
Anyway, Griffin was proclaimed to have a stress fracture. He rested it for a while until finally having surgery in 2010 and thus ending his “rookie” campaign. He followed this up with a sensational “second” season in which he won Rookie of the Year, was named an All-Star, and won the dunk contest by (as I’m sure we’ve all seen) jumping over the Kia at All Star Saturday Night. Griffin played his second year and became an All-Star Starter. (Continue to remember this is actually his third year in the league, hence my next statement.) In 2012-2013, Griffin—fresh off of a 5 year, $95 million extension—continued to impress with his highlight reel dunks and athletic plays. As a big man who can run up and down the floor, Griffin has excelled playing with the likes of Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Eric Bledsoe, and Jamal Crawford. Griffin will be entering his fourth year (5th in the league, 4th actually playing) and has stated publicly—along with Paul—that he must become more of the franchise type player he should be.
Before beginning, I want to preface the following comments by saying Griffin is just 24 years old. However, due to missing his initial first season, he is already (this year) starting on his max contract. Take those statements and the following for what it’s worth.
This may be an odd way to start things, but Griffin essentially tore up his knee before the 2009-2010 season. He missed all 82 games. However, he followed that up by playing in all 82 the following year. Indications are that he suffered little effect from that knee injury. Out of a potential 246 regular season games, Griffin has played in 228. That’s 92.7% of the regular season. I think that’s a great average for a franchise player.
Griffin shoots for a high field goal percentage. His shots may include a lot of dunks, put backs, and/or layups. But the point is he scores the basketball without a lot of misses. If a franchise’s players at the 4/5 positions aren’t scoring the basketball at a clip over 50%, then two things need to be certain: 1. They need to be CLOSE to 50%. 2. They are hopefully a stretch 4 type player.
Griffin has been a plus-8-per-game rebounder since entering the league. He reached double figures in rebounds in 64 contests in his rookie year and even had a 23 consecutive double-doubles.
He has also been described as an above average playmaker, averaging over three assists in each of his three seasons so far. Since entering the league, Griffin has also had multiple triple doubles in points, rebounds, and assists. His ball handling skills are above and beyond most big men in the league.
Since Griffin has come to the Clippers, the culture of the team has changed. The ownership never really wanted to spend money to win. Griffin’s time with the Clippers has changed that, as the Clippers have made several trades (most recently for JJ Redick and Jared Dudley), resigned their own free agents, and signed other teams’ free agents, as well as hiring a high paid, marquee coach in Doc Rivers. The team was always known as a team that didn’t spend. Since Griffin came to LA, they have traded for Chris Paul and resigned him to a max deal, as well as handed out decent sized deals to Griffin and DeAndre Jordan as well as a mid-level exception to Jamal Crawford, just to name a few. They are built in a win now mode, whereas before no one seemed to care about winning. The Clippers are now considered a perennial playoff team.
It was mentioned that Griffin shoots for a high percentage. It was also mentioned that he dunks a lot and has a lot of easy baskets. This is due to his athleticism and playing alongside of Chris Paul. However, he has very little of anything resembling a post game and his jump shot is not altogether effective. The problem here? He’s not shooting as soon as he catches the ball. Often he seems unsure of what he wants to do, which results in one or two dribbles and a contested jumper. If he became more of a catch-and-shoot guy, he would average a few more points per game.
Griffin has been an effective rebounder in his career, but has dropped by roughly 2 rebounds per game in each season. One would argue this could be due to DeAndre Jordan, but for Griffin to go from over 12 rpg as a rookie to 8 in his third year seems a bit extreme. Jordan cannot be affecting Griffin’s rebounding that much, as Jordan barely averages over 24 minutes per game.
He is not an effective shot blocker given his size and athleticism. To average less than a block per game when you possess the size and athleticism that most teams crave in Griffin is not good enough.
Finally, the biggest criticism I can find for Griffin is that he has disappeared in the playoffs. I averaged some of his stats for the 17 games he has appeared in during the past two playoff years. These numbers may surprise you. First of all, he averaged less playing time in both playoff years than during the regular season. I’m far from an expert, but every other star player I’ve ever heard of plays more during the playoffs than the regular season. Last year he played drastically less—six minutes per game. His averages of 17 points, 6.4 rebounds, and less than a block per game are underwhelming. His free throw shooting percentage remained well under 70%. Where most players step up their game, Griffin seems to disappear.
My opinion of Griffin is this. Many “pundits” seem to consider him the marquee power forward in the league. Personally, I like Griffin and would have him on my team for a variety of reasons. But he is not the best power forward in the league. I cannot put him definitively and solidly ahead of the likes of Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Bosh, Al Horford, David West, Kevin Love, and Al Jefferson. I will grant that he is younger than those players, but can we currently say he is, without doubt, better than all of them? I cannot say he is the best power forward in the league, but I can easily position him in the top five. His disappearing act in the playoffs has created my negativity towards him. For a number one pick who has averaged 22 and 12 as a rookie, 17 and 6 in the playoffs is very disappointing.
Agree? Disagree? Want to compliment me on ANYthing? Twitter is @Keysnotes