Now it’s Griffin’s third season, and we’ve reached a strange place. After he was built up and tore back down, he gained a reputation that doesn’t seem to quite fit. Let’s examine.
“All he does is dunk.”
First off, this isn’t true. Secondly, if it were true, would this really be a bad thing? Until someone can show me that dunking is an inefficient way of scoring, I reject the premise of this argument.
“You know what I mean. He can’t shoot, he has no jumper at all. He has to develop a jumper to reach the next level.”
Ah, right. Here are a few names I want you to look at:
Paul Pierce, Luol Deng, Rudy Gay and Dwyane Wade.
All pretty good players, yes? Well, from 16-feet to the 3-point line, guess who had more made field goals and converted at a higher percentage than all of them did last season?
That’s right — Blake Griffin.
Griffin’s need to develop a jumper became a talking point last year that was generally accepted as truth, but while all that was being said, Griffin shot 37% from mid-range, which put his totals close to more established “shooting” power forwards like Kevin Love.
Even though Griffin’s jumper is up to 38% this year (the league average from 16-23 ft is 38% as well), the confirmation bias rages on with any misses, even if they come less frequently than others who are highly regarded as mid-range shooters.
“Look at how many of his shots are wide open, though.”
Yes. But should we reward others who make shots with a higher degree of difficulty and penalize Griffin because his athleticism creates open looks?
It’s a game Griffin can’t win. If he takes too many jumpers or tries to extend his range further, he’s Vince Carter in his last days in Toronto or he’s evil Josh Smith. Basically, the more he shoots from distance, the more he’ll be regarded as a player who doesn’t leverage his athletic ability to the fullest. But if he only uses his athletic ability, he’ll be called unskilled and unrefined. Where’s the balance? What’s the percentage of jumpers Griffin needs to hit to shake his reputation of being a bad shooter? Or is this already a LeBron James situation where the label is permanent and winning a championship is the only thing that could possibly alter the way he’s viewed?
Here’s my point: Griffin’s jumper is a weapon. Just because it’s arguably the weakest in his repertoire (excluding free throw shooting) doesn’t mean that it’s non-existent or inadequate.
If anything, it’s a testament to Griffin’s ability to score in the paint, to see the floor impeccably (only David Lee and Pau Gasol have better assist rates among starting power forwards), and to crash the offensive glass. It’s because he does those things so well — and because he makes the impossible possible with those dunks — that Griffin’s perfectly average jumper seems like a huge missing part of his game when it actually isn’t.