Blake Griffin is an underrated player. There, I said it! Since the beginning of his professional career, I, along with other basketball enthusiasts, have said Griffin’s too one-dimensional to become an effective superstar and only lives for the lobs his Clipper pals toss up for him.
The number one pick in the 2009 Draft became notorious with his ridiculous in-game posters and created new verbs such as “The Mozgov” and “The Perkins”. Every time a toss was made near the rim, fans would creep forward in anticipation of a ferocious jam by the power forward. But that’s all we looked forward to: his high flying athleticism.
Fast forward to this season and a moment of misfortune for the Clippers turned into the perfect stage for the Oklahoma native to showcase a new skill set that has people comparing Griffin’s game to that of NBA Hall of Famer and keen fisherman “The Mailman” Karl Malone.
Griffin has transformed himself into a post-proficient player. He has combined highlight reels above the rim with pretty moves under the basket. His footwork in the paint has improved greatly and he has been consistently drawing contact this season, having been fouled over 300 times. The fouls he’s drawing are not soft either. Griffin is constantly hacked by opposing players while attempting dunks and is yet to miss a single game this season.
Free throws are where Griffin’s improvement is most visible as he is shooting a career-high seventy percent from the charity stripe. Griffin is fifth in the NBA in free throws attempted per game, and third in free throws attempted overall this season which makes this increase in production even more impressive.
He has also added a mid-range game making it difficult for defenders. Griffin may catch the ball 15 feet from the basket and have a jump shot, a quick pass, or a driving lane to beat his man.
What some basketball fans are not aware of is Griffin’s ability to catch lobs from teammates requires diligent movement off the ball. He doesn’t just stand in one place, jump straight up and finish the play but, rather, runs rings around his opponent until he is able to get free and make the catch.
Defenders can’t just double team him either because he is a gifted passer surrounded by three-point shooters such as perennial Sixth Man of the Year candidate Jamal Crawford and sharpshooter JJ Redick. Griffin is third among all power forwards in assists per game this season behind Josh McRoberts and Kevin Love.
The Clippers were 12-6 without their star point guard Chris Paul, a far cry from what was expected when Paul was ruled out with a separated shoulder.
Performances like Griffin’s recent 43 point and 15 rebound display against the two-time defending champion Miami Heat gives fans just a glimpse of what he is capable of achieving on the big stage.
Not only was he catching lobs from teammates, he was using his post moves such as a graceful up-and-under lay in and around Miami’s interior defense late in the first half – a kind of patience in the low-post we aren’t used to seeing from Blake.
Griffin was able to penetrate the paint several times, whether it was from collecting a pass or off an offensive rebound. Basically, Miami could not stop him. Although the Heat came away with the W, it was clear that Griffin’s intent was to attack the paint and draw contact, taking 17 free throws throughout the game.
It will be interesting to see how he improves himself even further and if he, fellow All-Star Paul and coach Doc Rivers are able to make a deep playoff run with a club that was once the punch line of the NBA.