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August 18, 2011
Taking the Next Step
Blake Griffin

by Sebastian Pruiti

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After missing a whole season due to injury, Blake Griffin returned last season as a "rookie" and quickly made a name for himself with his powerful dunks over, and sometimes through, defenders. This past season, one that saw him win the rookie of the year award, Griffin put up some pretty impressive numbers, posting a PER of 21.8 and grabbing 18.6 percent of available rebounds, placing him seventh among all forwards.

What He Did Well?

While Griffin put up solid numbers in quite a few situations, one of the areas where he performed the best was as the roll man in pick-and-roll situations. When Griffin rolled to the rim, which is what he did 52.5 percent of the time after setting a ball screen, he scored 1.207 points per possession, placing him among the top 35 percent of all NBA players:

When Griffin rolls to the rim and there is nobody in front of him, he usually is able to finish with an exciting dunk. What's most impressive, at least in my opinion, is his ability to get shots off and finish in traffic. When Griffin is rolling to the rim, he gets the basketball and is frequently met by a few different defenders and he is able to use his athletic ability and strength to put himself in situations where he is able to finish, even through contact that came very often. When rolling to the rim, Griffin was fouled 25.6 percent of the time, which was the ninth highest percentage among players who had at least 30 "roll" possessions in pick-and-roll situations.

While Griffin was effective rolling to the rim, he was even more effective "slipping" screens. When you are slipping a screen, you are basically giving up your position and rolling to the rim early, before the ballhandler has a chance to use the screen. When Griffin did that, he posted 1.286 PPP, which put him among the top 15 percent of all NBA players who slipped screens:

What makes Griffin so successful when slipping screens is his decision making. You aren't going to be effective slipping the screen every single time. Instead, you have to read the defense and pick your spots. It seems like Griffin is very good at picking his spots, and once he gets the basketball, his athletic ability and his ability to finish in traffic take over.

What Needs To Change?

When looking at Griffin on the offensive end, the one area he seems to struggle in is in isolation. On his 212 isolation possessions, Griffin scored just 148 points for a PPP of 0.698, which puts him in the bottom quarter of the NBA. Why? Griffin settles for jumpers way too much. When Griffin shoots a jumper, which happens 34.4 percent of the time he isolates his defender one-on-one, Griffin's PPP drops all the way to 0.542 and he shoots just 27.5 percent on those shots. If there is one thing Griffin needs to work on this offseason, it is that jumper. According to Synergy, on his jump shots Griffin shot just 30.7 percent and scored 0.650 points per possession, which put him in the bottom 13 percent among all NBA players.

Another area where Griffin needs to improve upon is his ability to handle double-teams by passing out of the post. Griffin was slightly above average when playing one-on-one in the post, but when he would attempt to pass it out when the defense committed more than one defender to him, he turned it over 12.2 percent of the time:

Where Griffin gets in trouble is when he tries to do too much in the face of the double-team. Instead of letting the double-team come and then passing it out to an open teammate, Griffin usually tries to drive through or around the double-team, and this leads to turnovers. Better vision in the post and an understanding that he doesn't have to do it all himself will allow him to see the double teams sooner and make better passes. Once he starts making better decisions when faced with doubles, it will make the defense more hesitant to send one and give Griffin more one-on-one opportunities in the post, against which he is effective.

So will Griffin improve? I think so. While being able to pass out of double teams is important, I think if Griffin can improve his jump shot even slightly, it will allow him to be more of a threat offensively in isolation situations. Teams started playing off of him when he had the basketball 15-20 feet away towards the end of the year and he was unable to make them pay. If he can hit one or two of those shots a game next season, that will force the defense to step up and challenge him, and when that happens he can start driving by defenders again.

Sebastian Pruiti is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Sebastian by clicking here or click here to see Sebastian's other articles.

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Best at Recruiting (08/18)
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Premium Article Taking the Next Step (08/12)
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Premium Article Taking the Next Step (08/23)
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