By most standards, the first half to Blake Griffin’s second season has been a great success. He was a deserving All-Star, the leading scorer and rebounder on a 1st-place team with legitimate claims to title contention.
But grading a player like Griffin is incredibly challenging. How do we put into perspective that he is already at the top of his position, yet he has such distinct areas of weakness? We have seen great scorers who struggle on defense (as he has), but he does more to impact the game than most of those types.
His part in the pick-and-roll, for instance, lacked the “roll” for a good portion of the first half. After taking three shots from 16-23 feet per game as a rookie, that number ballooned to around six for a while, despite the fact that he shot only 31% from that range.
Not surprisingly, he has become more efficient in this area as the season has gone on, now down to only four per game. But it does does bring up ongoing concerns about the jumper, whether it will improve, and the frequency with which he settles for it over more high-percentage looks in the paint.
To that end, we’ll also be looking for marked improvement from the free-throw line, the ultimate source of efficient scoring opportunities. This season he has improved his finishing at the rim to 74%, but the quickest way to being an elite scorer will be to punish opponents for fouling him. He’s at 54% on the season, but in the 10 games since he incorporated a few dribbles into his pre-shot routine, he shot nearly 65% from the stripe.
If that continues, things will be looking up for the Clippers as they head into to the playoffs. If the defensive focus improves, he could only strengthen their case as a contender.
Overall Grade: A-