Blake Griffin: Evolving Big Man

LOS ANGELES, USA - DECEMBER 12: Blake Griffin (32) of LA Clippers is seen during NBA between Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center in Los Angeles, USA on December 12, 2016. (Photo by Mintaha Neslihan Eroglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The 2011 NBA Draft class is utterly fantastic. With the likes of Stephen Curry, James Harden, DeMar DeRozan and Jrue Holiday, it is arguably one of the greatest draft classes in the history of the League. Out of all those standouts, though, the most anticipated draftee that year was actually Blake Griffin.

The Evolution of Blake Griffin

Early Days

Back then, it was not hard to see why the Los Angeles Clippers drafted him first overall. He had a stellar two-year stint with the Oklahoma Sooners and even took home all six national Player of the Year awards in his sophomore season. During the same season, he averaged 22.7 points, 14.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. He led the Sooners to NCAA South Regional Final that year. After two seasons, he announced that he would turn pro. Unfortunately, an accident in a preseason game caused him to miss the entire 2009–10 season. The next season was wonderful though; he won the Rookie of the Year, notched an All-Star appearance and even won the Slam Dunk Contest.

It would be very hard to talk about Griffin without mentioning the impressive dunks he delivered. An extremely athletic and explosive player, young Blake modeled his playing style after Shawn Kemp, a notorious dunker back in his heyday. Like the Reign Man, Blake used to posterize his opponents with vicious dunks; victims include Kendrick Perkins, Pau Gasol (twice!), Kris Humphries and Timofey Mozgov. The addition of Chris Paul in 2011 was also instrumental in the development of Blake’s style of play. Chris Paul would set up tons of alley-oops for both Blake and DeAndre Jordan.

In his first six seasons, Griffin relied on his post moves and few mid-range shots to score the basket. He never attempted more than 0.6 three-point shots per game during this period. This is what most basketball pundits refer to as a traditional big man’s style. Even without treys in his bag, he was still a top-notch scorer as he averaged 18+ points per game in those seasons.

Shooting Treys

But a year before he was traded to Detroit Pistons, Griffin realized he was playing in a modern, fast-paced basketball league. The NBA underwent the three-point revolution led by Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors; today’s basketball seems to be a positionless sport where players try to drop a lot of bombs outside the arc instead of counting on back-to-basket plays. Griffin knew he would soon be out of the league if he did nothing in the midst of this revolution.

Obviously, he added three-pointer to his arsenal. In the 2016-17 season as he made 1.9 three-point field goal attempts per game which was roughly four times that of in the previous season. That number continues to increase until he reaches a career-high in three-point shots attempted in the 2018-19 season. While it hurts his field goal percentage along the process, his much-improved shooting helps the Pistons to spread the floor, something they struggled to do before Griffin’s arrival. To put things in perspective, the Pistons were the fourth-worst team in terms of three-point field goal made before the Griffin trade. Last season, they were ranked ninth in the same category.

Kudos to Griffin for morphing his game to the need for treys today. The 30-year old is an inspiration to all the traditional bigs who work very hard adapting to long-range shooting. Entering his 10th season, fans hope to see more shootings as he tries to lead the Pistons to the playoffs.

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