Blake Griffin, 6-10, PF/C, Los Angeles Clippers, 1989
20.9 points, 12.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.7 turnovers, 51% FG, 58% FT
After sitting out his first year in the NBA due to injury, Blake Griffin finally set foot on the court for the Clippers this season and a third of the way through is the early favorite for rookie of the year behind his great production and endless array of spectacular plays. Leading the NBA in dunks and probably having seven or eight of the top ten highlight reel plays in the league thus far, Griffin has proven himself nothing short of a truly elite athlete, quite possibly being the best at the power forward position in the entire league.
While it's still early in his development, he's already done a great job applying these athletic tools in a variety of areas on both ends of the floor.
Part One: Post-Up Offense
ďOffensively, Griffin gets most of his points as a post-up threat, although he can also make his presence felt by running the floor in transition and crashing the offensive glass. He establishes deep position in the paint thanks to his strength and toughness, and can finish with nice touch and even a little baby hook shot. With that said, his best option offensively is clearly the dunk, which he performs emphatically and appears to enjoy doing, especially in two-handed fashion.
He does not have many moves in his arsenal at this point, lacking some footwork, balance, a reliable left hand and counter-moves, which becomes more obvious when he's matched up with a more serious post-defender. Sometimes he'll struggle to get himself going offensively if he can't just overpower players on his way to the rim, looking out of control and overdoing things at times, just throwing up a shot on the rim from a bad angle hoping it falls. He needs to get smarter and more polished on this end of the floor, and especially improve his decision making, something that will only come with time and experience.Ē
-NCAA Weekly Performers, January 4, 2008
The first thing to note with Griffin's post game is how well his brute strength and ability to outmuscle the opposition has translated from college to the pros, with him still being able to physically overpower most of the opponents he faces, especially with how well he's improved his already impressive frame. Having a good understanding of leverage and having no problem throwing his body around to back his man down and establish deep position, Griffin does an excellent job carving out space low on the block, and will also move around the floor constantly to open up in the post on either side of the lane.
Once he gets the ball, Griffin's strength and weakness profile is fairly similar to where it was two years ago. He prefers power moves like drop-steps to the rim where he can power up with a dunk, though his finesse game has come along some over that time. He is very much reliant on spin moves in the post, both of the power and finesse variety, frequently taking advantage of his outstanding ability to change directions quickly, getting separation as well as any big man in the league in this regard.
When Griffin does manage to get separation for finesse moves in the post, he shows flashes of nice right-handed hook shots and turnaround jumpers, though his consistency is still coming along, and putting in more practice to hone his accuracy should be among his priorities. He seems to be getting by in this area mostly with a combination of great touch and the ability to separate so well, as his skill level is still lagging behind his other attributes. To his credit, he appears to be putting in the work trying to expand his game, however, also flashing a Tim Duncan-esque bank shot from the 5-10 foot range often, though this, too, is nowhere near consistent yet.
All things considered, with Griffin seeing the majority of his possessions in this area, he's already a quite effective post player in spite of his still developing polish. His ability to get dominant position, finish with power, and get outstanding separation by virtue of his elite quickness are attributes that could only become more pronounced if his skill level catches up with the rest of his game.
Part Two: Finishing at the Rim
ďNot only did Griffin garner the most possessions of any PF in the draft at finishing around the basket per game (7.9), but he's also the #1 finisher as well, connecting on an outrageous 75.5% of his short range attempts, not including post ups. While his overall points per possession (PPP) of 1.08 ranks fourth, thanks to the fact that he's fouled on 18.5% of his possessions, has finished 51 of his 61 attempts in transition, and ranks amongst the best finishers when cutting to the rim at 1.52 PPP. Athleticism, strength, and tenacity aside, those numbers alone go a long way towards explaining why he's such a coveted prospect considering he's managed to generate 20.2 total possessions per game (good for 3rd on our list) while still getting the job done in the post (53% on 7.9 Pos/G).Ē
-Situational Statistics: This Year's Power Forward Crop, April 23, 2009
Once again, this is another area that has translated quite well for Griffin, as he is one of the NBA's elite finishers at the basket both in terms of how many attempts he gets there and his ability to convert them. Of Griffin's 15.7 field goal attempts per game, 6.5 of them come at the rim according to Hoopdata.com, with only two players in the league (Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook) having more attempts there per game. Griffin also is converting at an outstanding 67.6 FG% on those attempts, a higher efficiency than all but one of the top-15 attempt-getters in the league.
Griffin's ability to finish around the rim is derived from a combination of his raw strength, his large and soft hands, and his ability to effortlessly elevate from a variety of situations. While Griffin's full strength vertical leap is among the best for players his size, what really separates him is his reactive leaping, namely his ability to still reach such great heights from his second and third bounce. Griffin gets plenty of his scoring opportunities making cuts off the ball, dipping back door for alley oops, crashing the offensive glass, finishing on pick-and-rolls, and getting out in transition, all areas where his elite athleticism make things quite easy for him.
This is not to discount the importance of his other attributes, however, as his ability to adjust on the move and change direction also are of great use to him in scoring at the rim, something that shows up most in the pick-and-roll game, where Griffin is already one of the league's biggest threats as a finisher. This is a part of his game that he wasn't really able to show in college, as his team just did not use him in this fashion. 13.6% of his offense comes in this fashion currently according to Synergy Sports Technology, compared with 3.3% in his last year at Oklahoma.
Part Three: Face-Up Offense
ďGriffin's ball-handling skills look much improved, as you'll often see him grab a defensive rebound and begin to dribble the ball up-court himself, adding some nifty spin-moves in for good measure along the way. This isn't always the best idea in the world considering that he's 6-10, but it's nice to see the versatility he displays, and he does a good job showing off his terrific coordination and body control at the same time.
We're still yet to see the dribble-drive become a real staple of his half-court repertoire, but it's not very hard to envision that happening down the road considering his terrific tools. Facing up from the mid-post, Griffin's quickness and fluidity makes him an absolute nightmare to try and stay in front of.Ē
-NCAA Weekly Performers, December 11, 2008
Still a work in progress, Griffin's conventional face-up offense has not been among his strengths thus far, with him averaging just 0.573 points per possession on isolation attempts according to Synergy Sports Technology. In the half-court setting, Griffin doesn't protect the ball very well when facing his man, while his handle in and of itself isn't very tight to begin with. He still is capable of getting off a phenomenal spin move at times, and his first step is exceptional for his size, but he hasn't found a way to put these things together in a conventional sense yet, rarely being able to take the ball to the rim for a power move from the perimeter.
While Griffin's conventional face-up offense hasn't been too impressive yet, he has found a way to contribute with the ball when he gets it farther than 10 feet away from the basket, doing so in a crafty way that takes advantage of his other strengths. When he is put in face-up situations, more often than not Griffin will use his highly adept spin move to get closer to the rim, at which point he'll seamlessly transition from a face-up drive into a back-to-the-basket situation, actually using these opportunities to get fairly good post position and then being able to work into his post-up game, where he can excel.
Griffin's recognition of how to use his strengths to his advantage in this area, while not forcing the issue in ways he doesn't excel, is quite encouraging for a player at his stage of development, though it would still obviously help in the long run if he could find a way to take advantage of his true face-up game rather than using it just to set up his post ups. Playing in more important games and for a team that is not amongst the league's bottom-feeders, it's likely that opponents will elect to double-team him more and more in the post.
Part Four: Perimeter Shooting
ďAnother area of improvement revolves around his perimeter jump-shot, which appears to have made significant strides. His mechanics look solid, with a nice release and follow-through, and the ability to use the glass in Duncan-esqe fashion. As noted, he's already hit two 3-pointers this season (his lone attempts), which is pretty impressive despite the limited sample size. He hasn't really attempted enough jumpers from any range to draw any definitive conclusions just yet, but the progress he's made is encouraging.
It would be nice to see Griffin improve his free throw shooting, thoughóstill very mediocre at just 60% (up from 59% last season). He's leaving at least 2-3 points on the board every single night when considering how often he gets there, which may come back to haunt him as Oklahoma approaches the post-season.Ē
-NCAA Weekly Performers, December 11, 2008
While it appeared Griffin was making strides with his shot towards the end of his college career, and had plenty of time to work further on it sitting out last season, he seems to have plateaued in that area for now, not being anything more than a respectable spot-up shooter from mid-range. While his mechanics are solid and he's capable of knocking down open shots from time to time, on the whole this is not an area he's excelled in, being pretty inefficient with all his jumpers this season.
According to Hoopdata.com, Griffin is knocking down just 34.1% of his shots from the 10-15 foot range and 33.0% from 16-23 feet, not good numbers by any means especially when you consider most of his shots are of the catch-and-shoot variety coming off pick-and-pops. While Griffin doesn't force the issue here, usually only taking his shots when wide open or with the shot clock winding down, he is taking a total of 4.5 attempts per game from 10 feet and beyond, so this is definitely an area where improvement could pay dividends.
Even more so, improving his shooting ability would help even more from the free-throw line, where Griffin is attempting 7.9 shots per game, 10th best in the league. His FT% is just 57.2% thus far, which is pretty much the same as he shot his two seasons in college.
Part Five: Defense and Rebounding
ďDefensively, Griffin still appears to rely too much on his physical tools, even if his intensity looks a bit better than it did last season. He has a tendency to gamble for steals excessively (his quickness makes it quite easy for him to jump in front of post-entry passes) and seems to give up position too easily on the block (possibly to avoid cheap fouls), but there is regardless no doubt whatsoever that he should be able to develop into an excellent defender in time if he wants to thanks to his terrific physical tools, smarts and intensity.
Griffin has been an absolute monster on the glass, leading the NCAA by a wide margin in rebounds per game for all the many reasons already mentioned.Ē
-NCAA Weekly Performers, December 11, 2008
Griffin's ability to defend the post is largely the same from what we saw in college, with him not using his great strength to take advantage of leverage nearly the same way he does on the offensive end. While his fundamentals aren't bad, he just needs to be more assertive in utilizing them, not making nearly enough use of his base strength as he could.
In Griffin's defense, his post defense hasn't been helped much by his team's situation, as the Clippers often leave him on an island defending the post, and with Chris Kaman hurt much of the year, Griffin has been forced to play 26% of his minutes at the center position according to 82games.com, with the power forwards playing alongside him in those instances usually being Ryan Gomes, Craig Smith, or Brian Cook, no one capable of helping much with weak-side shot-blocking.
While Griffin's post defense hasn't been much of a bright spot, one area where he has excelled is defending the perimeter, something we rarely were able to see in his time at Oklahoma. According to Synergy, Griffin is allowing just 0.5 points per possession scored against him on isolation attempts, which puts him in the 94th percentile of the entire league in that category.
On the perimeter, Griffin has absurdly quick feet for a player his size, while his fundamentals and reaction speed are also both quite solid. His level of attentiveness is likewise high, and he does a good job moving laterally and staying in front of his man. As the season as gone on, despite him often playing pretty aggressively, up on his man, he's been forcing players to try and shoot over him from the perimeter as opposed to taking him off the dribble, a sign of the respect he's earning in this area.
Griffin likewise is doing well defending pick-and-rolls, doing a good job hedging with his athleticism and length, while also being well suited to handle switches against wings and even point guards, looking fairly comfortable and doing an adequate job in those situations.
On the glass, Griffin is still as prolific as he was in college, ranking 10th in the league in pace-adjusted rebounds according to our database, and ranking 4th in rebounds per game at 12.4. His ability to pursue caroms outside his area remains his greatest attribute, though he also does a good job turning to face the rim whenever a shot goes up, opening up his body and getting into box out position. And on the offensive end, his outstanding reactive ability plays a big part in his pension for grabbing second and third chances.
While it's still only 30 games into a 21-year-old's career, a few things have already been made abundantly clear about Blake Griffin's ability to perform in the NBA, where he ranks among the very best elite athletes in the league, if not being the single-most athletic player at his position. While he's mostly gotten attention for his highlight reel dunks from casual fans thus far, looking closer reveals a versatile game with developing skill sets in all areas, while his year-to-year improvement since his freshman season in college suggests a great work ethic and learning curve. How those things apply to his game from here on out will shape whether Griffin is able to become one of the NBA's truly elite players in addition to elite athletes, but he's obviously off to a great start, and it will be interesting (and certainly exciting) to watch him develop further. [Read Full Article]
Blake Griffin: I'm going to work to be a complete player on both ends
May 22, 2009
Jonathan Givony: How have the last few weeks been for you?
Blake Griffin: Theyíve been pretty crazy. Mostly Iíve just been training, been down in California training and getting ready, and then just kind of doing stuff like this, Iíll in New York for some different stuff for a few days, then head back to California.
Jonathan Givony: Letís rewind the clock back two years, to 2007. You were ranked as the #17 overall recruit according to the Recruiting Service Consensus Index. Scout.com had you at 16 and Rivals had you at 23. Now youíre on the verge of being the #1 pick. What do you think happened there?
Blake Griffin: I feel like I really improved. Obviously, I really dedicated myself to the game, I really dedicated myself to getting better, and taking my game to another level. In my class there are so many great players. I mean, you look at the top four picks last year- Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, O.J. Mayo, those guys were all in my class. I donít think I got overlooked, I just had my own time. I just try to make the most out of it.
Jonathan Givony: I was talking to one of the high school recruiting guys in fact not too long ago, and they were saying that one of the knocks against you at some point was that you didnít always play hard in AAU. Now obviously we all know how ridiculous that sounds considering the way you played at Oklahoma, but did you ever hear that before?
Blake Griffin: Iíd heard that I didnít always play hard in high school, which maybe I didnít play as hard as I did in college. You gotta understand that the level of competition is a little bit different. Iím not saying that I shouldnít have played hard all the time, but itís one of those things where they have their own opinion of me. Thatís what they saw. I tried to change that when I came to college. I tried to show people that I was gonna play hard and work hard.
Jonathan Givony: Speaking of playing hard, I was wondering if you could talk about the technical aspects of being a great rebounder. I think thatís probably one of the first things that made people notice you.
Blake Griffin: I think some guys just have a niche for it. They feel where the ball is coming off the rim. Some guys are just big. I try to use a little bit of both. I try to use my strength to get great position but also to read where the ball is coming off. A lot about rebounding is wanting it more. A lot of guys in the NBA werenít that big, Charles Barkley, Dennis Rodman, they just wanted it more, so hopefully I can carry that over.
Jonathan Givony: How equipped do you think you are to deal with the incredible amount of scrutiny that comes along with being the #1 pick?
Blake Griffin: Thatís what Iím working on right now. Itís a never ending process, for me trying to get better and try to make myself more skilled so I can become the player that I want to be. Iím not going to worry about itóthere have been guys before me that have handled it just fine. Those are the guys that I want to emulate, the guys I want to learn from.
Jonathan Givony: Weíve seen that #1 tag be a real burden on some guys over the yearsófor example a lot of people think Greg Oden has really gone into a shell with the pressure thatís on him. Is that something youíre concerned about at all?
Blake Griffin: In my mind, whether I go #1 or I go #60, Iím still the same player. It doesnít matter. Going #1 doesnít make me a better player. Itís all about what I do with it, how I handle it. How I handle my business. Iím not going to let anything that people are saying affect me or affect my game.
Jonathan Givony: Is it almost better in some regards to be the #2 pick? Especially if you can go to a better situation as far as having better teammates and being able to win faster?
Blake Griffin: Winning is definitely a priority for me. It really just depends who is where. There could be a really good team at #2 or there could be a really good team at #1 and it just kind of depends on where it falls and itís all about having a good fit and trying to fit into the system, wherever that system may be.
Jonathan Givony: One of the things youíve been criticized for is your defense. What kind of defender do you think youíre going to be in the NBA?
Blake Griffin: I think Iím going to be a good defender. Iíve always really liked defense. My dad, he was my coach and he was big on defense. I kind of got away from that in college for whatever reason it was, I was a little tentative of picking up fouls and playing aggressively, which is really my style. Iím going to work a lot harder to pick that up, and really be a more complete player on both the offensive and defensive ends.
Jonathan Givony: Do you think the 18-foot jumper will ever be a major part of your repertoire?
Blake Griffin: Definitely, thatís something Iíve been working on for the past two years. Iím really dedicating myself to it. A lot of people say they havenít seen me shoot outside of two feet, or dunking the ball, but itís there, and Iím going to use it, and Iím going to keep working on it until itís one of my main weapons.
Jonathan Givony: How tall are you going to measure without shoes?
Jonathan Givony: What about your wingspan? Have you ever had that measured?
Blake Griffin: I think seven foot, maybe 7í 1Ē. I was, I think in high school.
Jonathan Givony: Everybody has an opinion on what you do well and what you donít. Iím curious about your own scouting report. If youíre trying to sell yourself to a GM, what are the things that you do best?
Blake Griffin: I think the things I do best are obviously, I love to rebound, I think thatís one of my strengths, but at the same time I think one of my biggest weapons is versatility, I try to be a big guy that can dribble, a big guy that can pass, that can shoot, that can post up, that can do a lot of things, and I think thatís going to be my biggest strength is being able to do more than just one thing, doing more than just dunk and things like that.
Jonathan Givony: So that freedom to take a rebound and go coast to coast, is that important for you to have, that kind of freedom?
Blake Griffin: Yeah, thatís something that I love doing, I love to see guys do that because I think it just puts more pressure on the other team.
Jonathan Givony: So if youíre with a really old-school coach, like a Jerry Sloan or something like that says, no way, end of the bench the second you do that, would that be a problem for you?
Blake Griffin: No, whatever he says, whoever Iím playing for, Iím gonna do it how he runs it, Iím not gonna try do my own thing, especially with a coach like that, that has been here for so long and has proven to be a good coach. No I donít have a problem with it, just being able to adapt, like I said earlier, to whatever style.
Jonathan Givony: One of the things we struggled with when writing your scouting report was the NBA comparison part. I donít really know if there is a legit one that is accurate in todayís NBA. Do you have any suggestions on guys you think you might play like, or that you emulate- someone that you might end up being like in the pros?
Blake Griffin: Thatís a good question. Iíve heard so many people say things to me. There hasnít been one guy that Iíve been like, yeah I think thatís it. A guy like early-on Amare Stoudemire. He came into the league and he was just athletic and always dunking and stuff like that, and in time he developed his jump shot, and heís gotten better, and thatís someone who I see myself kind of playing like. He can get out and run, and do all those things, but Iím really not sure.
Jonathan Givony: A lot of players are really athletic. They can block shots, they can shoot, they can dribble, but they donít have that ďitĒ factor that is so instrumental in helping a team win games. Where does your energy, your passion, your love for the game come from?
Blake Griffin: It comes from my dad and my brother always being around the game. My dad has been a basketball coach for thirty-five plus years, so for as long as I can remember Iíve been around it. Being a coachís son, I feel like I understand, through his eyes, through a coachís eyes, what they want from a player. Itís not all about how many points you can score, itís about helping make your teammates better, and helping, almost kind of control the game in a sense, where you have a large part in the outcome.
Jonathan Givony: Any goals heading into your rookie season, in the NBA, things youíd like to accomplish?
Blake Griffin: Obviously just to do well and help turn the team around and improve upon their winning total and also have a good year personally and be in the running for the Rookie of the Year.
Jonathan Givony: What are some things that you learned from playing under Coach Capel for two years?
Blake Griffin: Really I just learned a lot about the game through his eyes, and a lot about leadership. He was big into that, big into leadership. He would always tell me stories about guys like Grant Hill, guys that he played with, and things they did and I think he helped me become a little bit more mentally strong. I understand what I had to do to really help the team win and the kind of leader you have to be. You have to be a guy that is always willing to put in the extra time and be willing to be the one to step up and say if something is not going right and encourage guys when they arenít doing something right.
Jonathan Givony: Were you happy with the year you had individually and from a team perspective?
Blake Griffin: Obviously, as a team everybody wants to play until that last game, and unfortunately, every team but one doesnít get the outcome that they want, but looking back at the year I think we had a great year. By no means was it a failure, we did a lot of great things, we made some great strides as a team and personally, I felt like I did all right. There are always things that I feel like I can improve on, but my teammates and everyone did a great job of helping me out and making it a little bit easier on me.
Jonathan Givony: Does it bother you at all that people are saying this is a weak draft, with you probably being one of the top prospects, if not the top one?
Blake Griffin: It doesnít bother me at all really, like I said earlier with the whole pick, number, and all that, just because this is a weak draft doesnít make me a worse player, it doesnít make a better player or anything like that. Iím still the same player and Iím still going to try and do the same things, so whatever anyone says, itís their opinion and Iím going to roll with it.
Jonathan Givony: Your father is black and your mother is white, that sounds eerily similar to another guy that got a little bit of press right around the beginning of the college basketball seasonóPresident Obama. Is that something you ever thought about?
Blake Griffin: Yeah Iíve thought about it. Itís crazy to have a biracial president, being biracial, itís great to see, and Iím obviously proud of that.
Jonathan Givony: What part does that play in the person you are today?
Blake Griffin: Just having a little bit of everything, seeing what itís like from both sides really. I think has given me a better perspective on a lot of different things.
Jonathan Givony: Is Obama, is that someone youíd like to meet at some point?
Jonathan Givony: Considering how things have worked out for you, do you feel like the age limit, is that a good thing?
Blake Griffin: Yeah I think itís a good thing, just because it kind of makes guys realize and gives them a year to understand what all goes into going into the next level, into the highest level. I think thereís guys that wouldíve gone out of high school in my class that ended up staying more than one year in college, so I think itís a good thing overall.
Jonathan Givony: Thereís some talk about even extending that to even two or three years. You spent two years; do you think they should do that? Is that a good idea?
Blake Griffin: Some guys are ready right out of the chute. There are some guys that are doing really well from day one. The one year rule is great because it makes guys try it out, and if they pass the test, so to speak, they should be able to move on.
Jonathan Givony: How tired are you of getting the same questions from reporters? Are we kind of giving you the same questions over and over again?
Blake Griffin: Itís not too bad. Every interview is a little bit different.
Jonathan Givony: It has been great talking to you Blake, thanks so much and good luck in the future.
Jonathan Givony: How anxious are you about tomorrow night, the lottery?
Blake Griffin: ďIím anxious, but at the same time, nothing is set in stone. Just because you have the teams in order doesnít mean you are going here or there. Itís definitely exciting to see about the possible places.
Jonathan Givony: A lot of top picks in past years have said that draft night is exciting, but lottery night is nerve-wracking. Does it feel the same way for you?
Blake Griffin: ďTomorrow night kind of holds the excitement away, you donít know whatís happening. I donít know where I am going to be over the next few years, or however long. Tomorrow night is a nervous kind of thing. ď
Jonathan Givony: Do you think the results will make a difference in how your career shapes up?
Blake Griffin: ďIt might change a few things, but hopefully wherever I go weíll be successful as a team, hopefully Iíll have a long great career.
Jonathan Givony: Is it more attractive for you to land in a bigger market like New York or LA?
Blake Griffin: ďDefinitely. I would love to play in a big city like that, the market is great and all that, but besides that there are a lot of other great cities besides New York and L.A. There are a lot of great opportunities with teams that could possibly get it.
Jonathan Givony: How nice would it be to be able to stay close to home in Oklahoma City?
Blake Griffin: ďI think it would be a good situation, but at the same time, Iíve been in Oklahoma my entire life. I have a spot in my heart for Oklahoma obviously growing up there and living there my entire life, but I wouldnít mind getting out and seeing different stuff.
Jonathan Givony: Any thoughts on Sacramento?
Blake Griffin: ďObviously they had a down year. They have players. They have players that are good. Itís all about me fitting into the system and help make the team better.
Jonathan Givony: And what about Washington?
Blake Griffin: ďObviously they have a lot of talent for their record. Last year they had so much talent. Not having Gilbert Arenas pretty much all season. Obviously that hurt them a lot. They are a great team and they can be a great team next year just by getting their guys back. [Read Full Article]
Situational Statistics: This Year's Power Forward Crop
April 23, 2009
ē Blake Griffin's spot at the top of draft is more than justified by breaking down his advanced statistics, as it truly emphasizes just how impressive a prospect he is from a physical standpoint.
Not only did Griffin garner the most possessions of any PF in the draft at finishing around the basket per game (7.9), but he's also the #1 finisher as well, connecting on an outrageous 75.5% of his short range attempts, not including post ups. While his overall points per possession (PPP) of 1.08 ranks fourth, thanks to the fact that he's fouled on 18.5% of his possessions, has finished 51 of his 61 attempts in transition, and ranks amongst the best finishers when cutting to the rim at 1.52 PPP. Athleticism, strength, and tenacity aside, those numbers alone go a long way towards explaining why he's such a coveted prospect considering he's managed to generate 20.2 total possessions per game (good for 3rd on our list) while still getting the job done in the post (53% on 7.9 Pos/G).
Although weíre always reluctant to read too much into the early results of the often mediocre out of conference schedules, itís become increasingly difficult to ignore the outrageous production of Oklahoma sophomore Blake Griffin.
25 points per game, 16 reboundsóshooting 67% from the field and getting to the free throw line nearly 12 times per game, Griffin is putting up amazing numbers against a couple of decent opponents (namely Purdue, Southern Cal, Davidson, and to a lesser extent Tulsa and UAB)óeven hitting a pair of 3-pointers along the way.
Even though NBA scouts will continue to nitpick every possession he plays from here on out, itís pretty obvious that Griffin has taken a big step forward in his progress as a player, and is clearly living up to expectations-- if not far surpassing them.
We heard quite a bit about the amount of work that Griffin put in this summer, and the results have not been difficult to discern.
Griffinís ball-handling skills look much improved, as youíll often see him grab a defensive rebound and begin to dribble the ball up-court himself, adding some nifty spin-moves in for good measure along the way. This isnít always the best idea in the world considering that heís 6-10, but itís nice to see the versatility he displays, and he does a good job showing off his terrific coordination and body control at the same time.
Weíre still yet to see the dribble-drive become a real staple of his half-court repertoire, but itís not very hard to envision that happening down the road considering his terrific tools. Facing up from the mid-post, Griffinís quickness and fluidity makes him an absolute nightmare to try and stay in front ofówhich is one of the main reasons he ranks #1 amongst all prospects in our database in free throw attempts.
His unreal combination of strength, explosiveness and aggressiveness contributes heavily in this area as well, making him a near automatic finisher when put in a position to score around the basket. Even when he gets fouled around the rim, or is unable to simply throw down a powerful dunk, heís often able to convert regardless thanks to his excellent touch and massive hands.
Another area of improvement revolves around his perimeter jump-shot, which appears to have made significant strides. His mechanics look solid, with a nice release and follow-through, and the ability to use the glass in Duncan-esqe fashion. As noted, heís already hit two 3-pointers this season (his lone attempts), which is pretty impressive despite the limited sample size. He hasnít really attempted enough jumpers from any range to draw any definitive conclusions just yet, but the progress heís made is encouraging.
It would be nice to see Griffin improve his free throw shooting, thoughóstill very mediocre at just 60% (up from 59% last season). Heís leaving at least 2-3 points on the board every single night when considering how often he gets there, which may come back to haunt him as Oklahoma approaches the post-season.
Defensively, Griffin still appears to rely too much on his physical tools, even if his intensity looks a bit better than it did last season. He has a tendency to gamble for steals excessively (his quickness makes it quite easy for him to jump in front of post-entry passes) and seems to give up position too easily on the block (possibly to avoid cheap fouls), but there is regardless no doubt whatsoever that he should be able to develop into an excellent defender in time if he wants to thanks to his terrific physical tools, smarts and intensity.
Griffin has been an absolute monster on the glass, leading the NCAA by a wide margin in rebounds per game for all the many reasons already mentioned.
Griffin looks the part of a potential #1 pick, not just because of his production or athleticism, but because of the intangibles he appears to possess. He looks like an excellent teammate-- unselfish, intelligent, and showing the competitiveness of a real winner, which should make teams comfortable about making the significant investment involved in picking him so high.
Whatís scary is that he looks nowhere near a finished product at this point. His back to the basket skills could still use work, his decision making lapses on occasion, and heís a little bit turnover prone. Still only 19 years old, there is plenty of time to work on his all-around polish.
Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 12 (Part One: #1-5)
September 2, 2008
Blake Griffin definitely exceeded expectations in his initial college season, going from borderline McDonaldís All-American to one of the top freshmen in the NCAA in a very short span, reaching the point that it was a bit of a surprise that he even decided to return for his sophomore campaign. Very few could have faulted him if he did actually, as itís widely accepted that he would have been a top-10 pick (possibly even top-5) had he decided to come out. Considering the repeated knee problems that he suffered from as a freshman, the jury is still out on whether or not he made the right call as far as his long-term future is concerned.
The fact of the matter is that Griffin is back, though, and college basketball is definitely better because of that decision. With his return come a great deal of expectations, and we heard all summer about the rigid training regimen Griffin is putting himself through to prepare for whatís ahead of him. Being cited for public urination this past week was likely not a part of those plans.
The upside of returning to school? Besides gaining experience, improving his overall skill-level and entering the NBA far more ready to contribute from day one-- Griffin has as good a chance as anyone right now to be considered for the #1 overall pick in the 2009 draft. His combination of strength, size, fluidity and skills put him in a class of his own in the NCAA, and he still has a great deal of room left to improve, which makes him all the more an impressive prospect.
Scouts will be keeping tabs on how much his overall skill-level improves from his freshman to sophomore campaign, particularly his ability to face the basket and do the things that modern-day NBA power forwards are expected to do, especially in regards to his mid-range jumper. Improving his free throw shooting (just 59% as a freshman) wouldnít hurt either. Defensively, Griffin doesnít make anywhere near enough use of his excellent physical tools, as he doesnít always appear to be as intense on this end as he is offensively. These are all things that could use work.
Most importantly for Griffin will be to win and take his team as far as possible in the NCAA tournament. The Big 12 is wide open this year, and Oklahoma should be right in the mix at the top of the table. The Sooners will need Griffin to shoulder quite a heavy load, but he should be ready for that burden.
Bad News for Those Who Didnít Do Their Homework Early...
March 26, 2008
Griffin and #6 seed Oklahoma were blown out in the second round by #3 seed Louisville, but they did a nice job regardless advancing past St. Joeís and donít have anything to be ashamed of. Griffin did not get a great deal of opportunities to showcase his skill-set, as he struggled for touches in both games and ended up only getting 13 shots combined, but he made the most of his opportunities, converting on 10 of those. He saw a steady diet of double teams in both contests, but there is really no excuse for how poor of a job his teammates did in finding him in the post.
Griffin exhibited his typical combination of outstanding athleticism and terrific body control with his back to the basket and finishing around the paint, which is a cinch for him considering his huge hands, explosive leaping ability, great strength and extremely soft touch. He has excellent footwork and is very creative with the type of pivot moves he likes to use, often finishing with a sweet finesse move, a mix of scoop/flip shots and turnaround jumpers. If his first shot didnít fall, he was extremely quick off his feet and tenacious as always looking for the offensive rebound. He looks a lot more patient than he did earlier in the season, and has definitely adapted himself nicely to college basketball, even if he may not be around for too much longer.
Defensively, Griffin still doesnít seem to play with a great sense of urgency, either denying space in the post or closing out on shooters on the perimeter. This isnít anything shocking considering his youth, but when you look at how hard he plays offensively, you have to wonder why that doesnít translate as well to the other end of the floor. His skill-level also isnít incredibly high at this point, as he struggles finishing with his left hand and doesnít have much ability to face the basket, which he doesnít really need to quite yet.
Griffin has a lot of room to improve on his all-around game, but also has a great deal of talent to help accomplish that. Once considered a lock to return for his sophomore season, a sprained MCL in one knee and a partially torn meniscus in another has at least given him cause for pause in regard to that final decision. Recent rumors since Oklahoma was eliminated indicate that he is a lot more likely to enter the draft than once thought, especially if his head coach Jeff Capel decides to leave for greener pastures (South Carolina?), which is looking more and more likely by the day apparently.
Marquee Matchup: Michael Beasley vs. Blake Griffin
January 13, 2008
Looking at Griffin, he has some notable questions surrounding his game as well, primarily because heís not as far along in skill development as Beasley is. On the offensive end, Griffin shows little outside of 10 feet, not possessing a reliable mid-range jumper and shooting a less-than-impressive 59% from the free-throw line, though his form doesnít look terrible. This is certainly something Griffin will need to add to his game, and because heís missing a few important ripples such as this, many believe heíd be best served spending an extra year in college developing these things.
To Griffinís credit, he does bring some excellent attributes to the table, and thereís little reason to think he wonít be a successful pro in time. If he can add that mid-range jumper to his repertoire, and continue developing the rest of his game, he compares pretty favorably to Carlos Boozer in terms of what he should be capable of doing on the floor. Adding that mid-range jumper is absolutely crucial for him to project into that kind of role, though.
Griffinís post game is extremely intriguing, and thereís a chance he develops into a better post player than Beasley in the long-term. While Griffin doesnít possess a heavy arsenal of moves in the post, his game has a deceptive quality to it that makes it look like he does. He mostly relies on spins and counter-spins down low, but he shows very good footwork and awareness, along with outstanding speed going from fakes into his counter-moves for a player his size, looking very fluid in the process as well. This ability to transition from move to move very quickly will be a huge asset as he adds more ripples to his post game, especially when combined with his strength, length, athleticism, and touch. Speaking of touch, Griffinís ability to finish with both power and finesse is another aspect of his game that should help him at the next level.
Another aspect of Griffinís game that is intriguing is his ability to adjust around the basket. Whether heís maneuvering from strange positions under the rim, showing off his best Antawn Jamison impression with an unorthodox scoop shot, or going to the basket on one power dribble, only to deftly turn his body to adjust around a defender in mid-air, Griffin shows a body control thatís occasionally more reminiscent of a guard than a big man.
Speaking of guards, Griffin also has some cute ball-handling ability, which heíll show off at times, dribbling through his legs or going being his back, though he really doesnít do much constructive with it at this stage. His face-up game needs a lot more work, but he shows flashes here and there, as he does with most areas of his offensive game.
On the defensive end, as mentioned in our previous report on Griffinís development, Griffin doesnít show nearly the same motor as he does on offense or in attacking the boards. This will be important to his development, and it would help him considerably if he can apply this same motor to this end of the court.
As mentioned earlier, itís obviously still early in the development of both of these players, and thereís a lot more basketball between now and July, but thereís a lot to be excited about in watching the early returns, and itís something weíll continue to track here at DraftExpress for the remainder of the season. [Read Full Article]
NCAA Weekly Performers, 1/3/08-- Part One
January 4, 2008
Quietly having an excellent freshman season so far has been Oklahoma big man Blake Griffin. The McDonaldís All-American has already established himself as one of the more productive low post players in the Big 12 conference, and is fresh off an outstanding game (18 points, 16 rebounds) helping his team beat 10-1 and nationally ranked West Virginia on the road in double overtime.
Griffin is an appealing prospect for the next level for a number of reasons, with the most immediate being because of his physical tools. He has solid size at 6-9 or 6-10 with a nice wingspan and an outstanding frame, already being a mature player physically despite only his age. Griffin is also a fairly athletic big man, looking fluid and coordinated out on the court, being quick to get up off his feet and react to things around him, possessing a nice second bounce, and running the court extremely well for a player his size. Heís not a freakish athlete by any stretch, but his athleticism surely wonít be what holds him back from making it.
Not being an extremely polished player as you might expect from an 18-year old big man, Griffin makes up for any shortcomings he might possess skill wise with the sheer tenacity in which he plays the game. He has a terrific motor, being extremely physical and aggressive with everything that has to do with his inside play. Heís a no-nonsense type who takes contact inside the post and does not let his matchup rest for even a moment, playing with a reckless abandon that is extremely enjoyable to watch.
Offensively, Griffin gets most of his points as a post-up threat, although he can also make his presence felt by running the floor in transition and crashing the offensive glass. He establishes deep position in the paint thanks to his strength and toughness, and can finish with nice touch and even a little baby hook shot. With that said, his best option offensively is clearly the dunk, which he performs emphatically and appears to enjoy doing, especially in two-handed fashion.
He does not have many moves in his arsenal at this point, lacking some footwork, balance, a reliable left hand and counter-moves, which becomes more obvious when heís matched up with a more serious post-defender. Sometimes heíll struggle to get himself going offensively if he canít just overpower players on his way to the rim, looking out of control and overdoing things at times, just throwing up a shot on the rim from a bad angle hoping it falls. He needs to get smarter and more polished on this end of the floor, and especially improve his decision making, something that will only come with time and experience.
Facing the basket, Griffin is far away from being considered a great threat at this point. He has poor shooting mechanics on his jumper, rushing his shot badly in the handful of times heís attempted anything outside of 12 feet. His ball-handling skills are very unpolished as well when facing any type of real competition, nullifying what would otherwise be a very nice first step. He has really nice potential here, so it will be interesting to see how he can develop this part of his game over the next few years. It will probably be essential since he wonít be able to make the same type of living in the paint in the NBA at his size that he does at the collegiate level.
Defensively, Griffin has good coordination and quick reaction-time, showing nice lateral quickness, but average fundamentals on this end of the floor. His positioning is poor, giving up too much space defending the post, and relying excessively on his physical tools (strength+athleticism), thinking heíll be able to simply outquick, outjump or outmuscle the competition, like he usually was able to do in high school. He doesnít always seem to bring that same passion and energy on the defensive end that he brings to his rebounding and offensive efforts, not always getting back on defense and closing out shooters as well as you might hope, partially due to conditioning issues, which is somewhat normal for a college freshman.
All in all, there is a lot to like early on in Blake Griffinís career. His physical tools combined with his toughness and tenacity give him a nice platform of which to build off of, and he already has some budding skills that should develop into excellent weapons if he continues to work hard and polish up his all-around game. Griffin is getting some early hype to come out already this year, but that would be a major mistake since he is clearly nowhere near ready to compete skill-wise with NBA-level big men. Heís in a great situation to develop at Oklahoma against solid competition and with plenty of playing time, and should be in no rush to go anywhere just yet.
Nike Jordan All-American Classic: Main Event Recap Ė Yellow Team
May 1, 2007
Blake Griffin had a decent game, making do with the opportunities he had, but this isnít the best setting for an interior-scoring big man, and Griffin didnít really manage to stand out. He did score on one very impressive spinning scoop shot in the post, but aside from that he just score on easy dunks and lay-ups around the rim, one off a putback, one off a pick-and-roll, and another uncontested in transition. Heís got a strong frame, decent athleticism, and a nice touch around the rim, so he should be a very solid contributor for Oklahoma next year, where he can try to develop into more of a go-to scorer, and work on more consistently finishing strong at the hoop.
Griffin had a strong game here, making his presence known on the defensive end with some weakside shot blocks and showing off his unorthodox post game on the offensive end. Griffin has an Antawn Jamison-like repertoire in the post, not to compare him with the Washington Wizards combo forward, but just to give you an idea of the style of post game he plays. He uses his body to get position down low, but rather than going strong into the hoop to finish, he relies on some interesting scoop shots, runners, and reverse lay-ups, also using the glass to his advantage when necessary. We saw a lot more of this in yesterdayís practice, but here he had some nice scoop lay-ups and reverses, finishing on a few occasions around the rim. Griffin tried his luck from the outside in this game as well, though he air-balled his long three-point attempt pretty severely. On the defensive end, Griffin had some very nice shot blocks in the halfcourt transition, showing good weakside awareness and timing with his blocking. He even blocked the 7í0 Kosta Koufos in transition on one occasion, doing so fairly easily.
Griffin used his absolutely remarkable body to give Michael Beasley and Kevin Love fits during the West scrimmage. He is every inch as tall as Beasley and Love, and did not back down to his more heralded counterparts. Blakeís game is somewhat reminiscent of former Minnesota star Kris Humphries, in that itís totally dependent upon his strength and athleticism, although he did show surprising ball handling skills today in the open court. Fans will see the Oklahoma recruitís athleticism on display during the dunk contest, where he shocked many with his powerful leaping ability.