Friday, January 21, 2011

First Impressions: Blake Griffin

Let me preface this article by saying, unfortunately, I got tired last night and was not able to watch the whole Clippers-Blazers game. Therefore, there are aspects of Griffin's game (especially his ability to finish with a jam) that I was not able to observe.

The first thing I noticed is Griffin does not leap for rebounds. You might think this is a weakness for someone with Griffin's leaping ability. It is actually a strength.

Griffin does a good job boxing out and expanding his rebounding area. While some leapers may go up and get high to grab rebounds, often they are leaving their man and just taking away from their teammates', who are boxing out, rebounds. While this may help the rebounder pad his stats, it takes away from team rebounds. Griffin does not fall into this category, and his maturity and basketball sense at his age in this regard is commendable.

What I did notice as a weakness was his ability to finish in the basket area (minus his dunks, which I did not have the pleasure to see.) This is not, however, a mistake of the mind and more a mistake of the body. Griffin does not yet have the repititions to score consisently off the glass, though he is a smart enough player to use it. He does have the knowhow of when to use the glass, which is half the battle and a very underrated skill in modern basketball, with many even more experienced and All Star players not using the glass to their advantage. (Duncan's main strength is this ability.)

What he needs more work on is his hook shot. While his banking abilities are almost there, and just seemed to be a tiny bit off, his hook shot needs A LOT of work. Again, Griffin knows the right time to use the hook: when he is being forced to the middle 5 to 10 feet from the basket. The shot is TERRIBLE though, and is lucky to catch rim. He does get fouled on these shots, so they are not completely useless in the short-term.

I expect Griffin to be able to knock down the bank shots by the end of the season. His hook shots will fall probably in two seasons, though they likely will never be a strength of his.

On the defensive end, he was barely noticeable. For such a young player, this is a strength. Many young players foul a lot and gamble too much on plays. This is not a problem for Griffin, who only picks up 2.9 fouls a game in 37.4 minutes. (This is a great rate for even a veteran. It shows he is not gambling too much and being too aggressive, while he is not playing soft defense, being afraid to pick up fouls, and he is probably not allowing easy buckets around the basket.)

Overall, Griffin is very far along. I would put him behind Amar'e, KG, Nowitzki, Bosh and Gasol at the PF position. He should catch Nowitzki and Bosh by the end of the season, and may even be at Amar'e's level. KG remains too good a defensive player to catch, and Griffin will either need to improve greatly on defense, become the most dominant offensive player in the game (this is not out-of-question within the next couple years, although Kevin Durant, Lebron James and Derrick Rose are going to have a lot to say about this) or have KG show his age more (despite KG's revitilization this season, I expect his age to show by next season.)

Gasol remains the gold standard at power forward, and it will be awhile before Griffin catches him.