The Clippers took the opportunity Saturday afternoon to showcase presumptive #1 pick Blake Griffin in what was, by all accounts, a well-produced, unusually public workout for the national media and season ticket holders. The numerous published reports produced three conclusions:
- The Clippers are virtually certain to select Griffin.
- Griffin is congenial and charming.
- Griffin’s reach is about seven feet and his current shooting range is about…seven feet.
Impressions of Griffin and the workout from around the web:
Workouts like these just don’t take place. I was at Yao Ming’s single stateside workout for prospective teams back in 2002, and while the overall crowd was a little larger (no fans, but twice as much press alongside about 20 team representatives and staff), the tone was decidedly different. It just felt … proper. I don’t know how to describe Griffin’s turn (nobody was exploiting him, it wasn’t inappropriate, really, and it wasn’t too embarrassing), but it felt nothing like Yao’s workout.
Griffin himself was just what you’d expect. Essentially working 1-on-0 around 6-11 Clippers assistant coach Kim Hughes, he was solid on either block with either hand, going over either shoulder. Plenty of hops to spare, his head was right at the rim on several dunks, while he looked right at 6-9 in shoes.
He’ll have issues with his jump shot, which isn’t anywhere near Carlos Boozer’s at this point. He falls backwards on his release, and moves as he comes down, which means the ball is always fading away with a poor rotation. It also showed on his free throws, where he missed more than he made. Still, these are simple mechanics that will be taken care of within a year, probably. Jump straight up, land in the same place. Typical big man stuff.
I’m not ready to declare him a borderline All-Star in his second year, a la Kevin Durant, but he’ll be right there eventually. This guy is going to be fantastic. With his frame, he reminds me of a Terry Cummings with hops, and that description should excite Clipper fans, even without taking into consideration TC’s time in Los Angeles.
His physique and athleticism are mind boggling. There are precious few humans who can get that much body that high in the air. His jump shot, on the other hand, was incredibly ineffective today. In a one-on-zero drill, there are plenty of 40 something schlubs playing pick up ball at the local gym who would make more shots. And it’s not just that the ball wasn’t going into the hoop. He’s got a hitch in his free throw stroke, he shoots his jumper on the way down, and he tends to jump backwards. All of this can be fixed – but the fact is that it’s a little broken right now…
From BG’s presser I can tell that he’s an impressive 20 year old. He stood there, with 30 microphones and cameras in his face, after a workout where he was clearly disappointed with how he shot, and he answered questions calmly and clearly. He seems genuinely excited about the prospect of moving to the big city – the differences between Oklahoma and LA came up more than once, in a completely positive light.
Griffin, the consensus college player of the year, showed off his speed, agility, and frightening athleticism in an hour-long workout for the team that already has proclaimed it will select him with the No. 1 pick in this month’s draft. He also displayed a shaky mid-range jumper, balky stroke from the free-throw line, and maybe a little bit of nerves. Once he got past the initial jitters, Griffin said it was an environment he could handle.
“I’m not used to guys bringing me towels in between drills,” Griffin said. “That was kind of nice.”
Mike Dunleavy, the Clippers’ coach and GM who’s decided to stake his reputation on Griffin, raved about his character, athleticism, and ball-handling. Griffin’s jumper? Eh.
“There’s some things with his shot that he has to work on, and he will,” Dunleavy said. “But he shoots the ball well enough from mid-range that you have to guard him.”
On film and in live games, that may have been true. But in this workout, Griffin — by his own admission — shot the ball poorly with nobody guarding him. Dunleavy isn’t concerned, because he picked something up right away that a jump-shooting amateur like myself easily missed: If Griffin bobbles the ball on the catch, his first reaction is to lean his head back when he goes up with the shot. The result was what the 100 or so observers witnessed for most of the workout — short, flat jump shots. That, presumably, can be fixed.
What Griffin alone won’t fix is the combustible chemistry that exists on the team he will join in less than a month. He met Baron Davis during his visit — “Let’s get this thing rolling,” Baron told him — but seemed somewhat oblivious to the potential drama that awaits him.
“That is in the past,” Griffin said. “I’m not going to worry about what happened 10 year ago, five years ago. As long as we’re moving forward, if I’m here, that’s all I care about. I think we will.”
Dunleavy said other teams have been put on notice that he’s not interested in trading the pick, putting the percentage chance he’ll use it at “99.9 percent.” But there are always exceptions.
hese events were neatly paired to take advantage of the presence of the national media here for the NBA Finals, to show off the Clippers’ swank practice facility and to show off the national college player of the year from Oklahoma in front of 100-plus on- lookers, consisting of media, season-ticket holders and sponsors.
Usually, pre-draft workouts involving individual players are shrouded in mystery. Transparency had its benefits: Griffin displayed a quick first step, impressive athleticism, nifty ballhandling skills for a big man and an engaging, low-key sense of humor after his 63-minute session.
Of course, there’s the other side of transparency: Griffin’s misfiring jump shot. It was a byproduct, perhaps, of nerves but sure to be over-analyzed in this era of instant analysis.
The interesting thing about Griffin was that his displeasure with his shot happened to be among the first words he uttered once the cameras and tape recorders moved in to surround him.
“It felt all right. I wish I could have shot a little better,” he said. “I was a little tight out there. But overall it felt good. . . . I’d really like to just come in and fill a gap that they don’t have. They have a great cast of veterans and a great group of young guys. I think we can definitely turn it around and start winning.”
This was the first time Clippers General Manager and Coach Mike Dunleavy had seen Griffin play in person. Neil Olshey, Dunleavy’s assistant GM, had seen him four or five times in the last college season.
“There are certain things on his shot that he’ll need to work on to get better at, which he will do,” Dunleavy said. “Clearly, he shoots the ball well enough from the mid-range that he has be guarded.”
What was reinforced Saturday was that Griffin could also play small forward, another credible option after Al Thornton.
This last claim continues to baffle. Of Griffin’s last 46 FGMs at Oklahoma, one came from beyond 12 feet, a 15-foot jumper against Morgan State in the Sooners’ first round matchup. I spoke to one NBA executive last week about the Clippers’ persistent suggestions that Griffin could play small forward. “The question isn’t if he’s a 3. The question is whether he’s a 5,” said the source.
The small forward is the most flexible position on the floor, and it’s not unusual to see coaches cheat by playing guys at the 3 who fall to one side of the fulcrum or the other. In today’s perimeter-oriented NBA game, that generally means sliding a guard over to the forward wing spot, so long as he’s not surrendering too much on the other end. While you can’t fault Mike Dunleavy for wanting to mitigate his frontcourt logjam, wishing a problem away isn’t a blueprint for winning basketball games, to say nothing of playing a phenomenal young big man out of position when he needs to be refining his skills down on the block.