Skip to content

The Extra Pass: Blake Griffin’s Undeserved Reputation

Jan 14, 2013, 9:30 AM EDT

Blake Griffin AP

The Extra Pass is a new daily column that’s designed to give you a better look at a theme, team, player or scheme. Today, we examine some of the criticism surrounding Blake Griffin.

As fans, we take on the role of production line workers when new players enter the league. We inspect them quickly, stamp our label on them, and then move them down the line so we can evaluate the next group of players. There’s no time for reassessment — we make up our minds and move on. It’s why we give out draft grades the day of the draft and never revisit them again; it’s why we call guys “busts” after two months in the league. It’s a quick process.

Blake Griffin’s story goes a little bit differently. When we saw him, we were floored. Everyone had to see this guy. We took to all the social media outlets to show him off. Sports programs set up alerts on their shows to let you know when he did something crazy.

But that extra attention? It brought about closer analysis. It is, after all, what we do. And upon closer inspection, we saw a few warts we didn’t see before — or maybe weren’t looking for. And so the overrated label got slapped right over the underrated label, and Griffin was sent back down the line.

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Jordan McRae shatters backboard at Sixers practice

    Jul 4, 2015, 11:00 PM EDT

    Delaware 87ers v Oklahoma City Blue Getty Images

    McRae was the 58th overall pick in the 2014 draft, and is a member of Philadelphia’s Summer League squad.

  2. Report: Jeremey Lin considering signing with Dallas Mavericks

    Jul 4, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT

    Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers

    He would have to take a paycut, but Dallas needs help at the point.

  3. Spurs reset franchise for post Tim Duncan life in one impressive week

    Jul 4, 2015, 6:30 PM EDT

    150705_LaMarcusAldridge Getty Images

    The Spurs are going to just keep going on, being the San Antonio Spurs

  4. Report: Bismack Biyombo agrees to two-year deal with Raptors

    Jul 4, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    DeMar DeRozan, Gerald Henderson, Bismack Biyombo AP

    Bargain for Toronto — as long as the Raptors aren’t expecting any offense.

  5. LaMarcus Aldridge has chosen to sign with Spurs

    Jul 4, 2015, 12:21 PM EDT

    Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Three Getty Images

    Biggest name left in free agency will make San Antonio a powerhouse.

  6. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban on DeAndre Jordan: ‘We see him as Shaq-like’

    Jul 4, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

    Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Four Getty Images

    Cuban believes Jordan can average 20 points, 20 rebounds per game.

  7. Report: Cavaliers have ‘huge interest’ in David West

    Jul 4, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT

    Indiana Pacers v New Orleans Pelicans Getty Images

    Fits with West’s desire to play for a contender, but he’d have to take very little money to sign there.

  8. Who should Clippers get to replace DeAndre Jordan? How about Blake Griffin.

    Jul 4, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Three Getty Images

    The Clippers went small the final five minutes of Game 7 against the Spurs, and it worked.

  9. Report: Derrick Williams agrees to two-year, $10 million deal with Knicks

    Jul 4, 2015, 12:33 AM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento Kings AP

    At this price, it’s a fair pickup for New Yor, giving hem another role player.

  10. Report: DeAndre Jordan’s relationship with Chris Paul was ‘demonstrably poor’

    Jul 3, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT

    DeAndre Jordan, Chris Paul AP

    A big reason Jordan left L.A. to sign with the Mavericks.

  11. Report: Patrick Beverley re-signs on four-year deal to remain with Rockets

    Jul 3, 2015, 7:37 PM EDT

    Houston Rockets v Sacramento Kings Getty Images

    Beverley’s defense provides a perfect complement to James Harden.

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. L. Aldridge (6107)
  2. D. Wade (4352)
  3. D. Jordan (3675)
  4. W. Matthews (3558)
  5. G. Monroe (3245)
  1. L. James (3231)
  2. R. Rondo (3078)
  3. K. Bryant (3027)
  4. T. Harris (2922)
  5. R. Lopez (2888)