Over at ESPN Los Angeles, I evaluate some of Blake Griffin’s weaknesses and discuss how important he is to the Clippers’ title hopes.
Here’s an excerpt:
First, and most important, Griffin needs to improve on the defensive end. He has made tremendous strides since his rookie season, but he’s still far from an elite, or even good, defender. He has become a better pick-and-roll and help defender — and has long been an underrated post defender — but he’s often a step too late when helping or recovering back to his man and doesn’t provide much resistance at the rim.
With Doc Rivers implementing his defensive schemes from Boston, it’s reasonable to assume Griffin will progress defensively. Most of his mistakes are easily fixable through his maturation process; he just needs the right structure and guidance.
Given his 6-11.25 wingspan — a below-average figure among NBA players his height — Griffin will likely never be a dominant rim protector. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be an effective defensive cog — he has the strength and athleticism to switch onto perimeter scorers, provide timely help-side rotations and body opponents inside.
The Clippers’ defensive ineptness has been their undoing the last two postseasons. For that to change, Griffin and DeAndre Jordan must cultivate better defensive chemistry and turn the Clippers into a two-way force. With a slew of new shooters and another year for Griffin and Chris Paul to grow together, the Clippers’ offense will contend for best in the league. Their defense, however, is the wildcard that can make them the favorites to make the NBA Finals.
Outside of Paul, Griffin is the Clippers’ most important offense piece by a wide margin.
Despite the popular notion that he doesn’t have a post game, Griffin’s post scoring has improved each season, along with his overall shooting efficiency (57.2 true shooting percentage last season). He’s already one of the best passing big men in the league, equally capable of finding shooters and cutters from the block or the high post, and is also one of the few big men with the ball-handling ability to attack from beyond the arc or go coast-to-coast off a defensive rebound.
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