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. Lakers sign Wayne Ellington, who played best for Byron Scott

    Sep 22, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT

    Minnesota Timberwolves v Los Angeles Lakers Minnesota Timberwolves v Los Angeles Lakers

    Ellington, who played for Scott with Cavaliers, received partially guaranteed contract

  2. Blake Griffin understands that Los Angeles is still a Lakers’ town

    Sep 22, 2014, 7:40 PM EDT

    Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin AP

    It’s not going to change anytime soon, either.

  3. Report: Jazz to work out John Stockton’s son

    Sep 22, 2014, 6:44 PM EDT

    WCC Basketball Tournament - Championship - Brigham Young v Gonzaga Getty Images

    David Stockton, an undrafted free agent out of Gonzaga, also worked out for Thunder

  4. Bruce Bowen says blame for James Harden’s defense falls on McHale, Rockets

    Sep 22, 2014, 5:14 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers v Houston Rockets Getty Images

    The Rockets’ defensive system is not the problem with James Harden.

  5. Jazz sign Dahntay Jones

    Sep 22, 2014, 4:41 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers v Atlanta Hawks Getty Images

    Jones previously played for the Grizzlies, Kings, Nuggets, Pacers, Mavericks and Hawks

  6. Report: Darko Milicic leaving basketball, taking up kickboxing

    Sep 22, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    Minnesota Timberwovles 2010 NBA Europe LIve Minnesota Timberwovles 2010 NBA Europe LIve

    Former Pistons No. 2 draft pick putting some distance between himself and basketball

  7. Caldwell Jones dies at 64

    Sep 22, 2014, 2:45 PM EDT

    Portland Trailblazers vs. San Antonio Spurs Portland Trailblazers vs. San Antonio Spurs

    Jones – who played for the 76ers, Rockets, Bulls (during Michael Jordan’s rookie season), Trail Blazers and Spurs – helped shape Tim Duncan’s career

  8. Tyson Chandler: ‘I’m going to make’ Mavericks defend

    Sep 22, 2014, 2:04 PM EDT

    Tyson Chandler, Ricky Rubio Tyson Chandler, Ricky Rubio

    Chandler: ‘We are going to be a great defensive team’

  9. NBA to review domestic violence policies in wake of NFL’s ugliness. It shouldn’t have taken that.

    Sep 22, 2014, 1:29 PM EDT

    Adam Silver Adam Silver

    There were multiple NBA players arrested on domestic abuse charges last year. The spotlight on those cases will be different now.

  10. Nuggets sign forward Marcus Williams

    Sep 22, 2014, 12:50 PM EDT

    Arizona Wildcats v North Carolina Tar Heels Getty Images

    This is the Marcus Williams who played at Arizona, not Connecticut

  11. Cavaliers lift ban on fan who ran onto court with LeBron James shirt

    Sep 22, 2014, 12:11 PM EDT

    A Cleveland Cavaliers fan interrupts play during their NBA basketball game against Miami Heat in Cleveland Reuters

    James Blair can watch LeBron in person in Cleveland again

  12. Blake Griffin said he knew Donald Sterling was racist, wasn’t really surprised by tape

    Sep 22, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT

    Blake Griffin GQ

    “The first thing I ever Googled about the man, the first thing that popped up was “racist.” So I was aware. I hate to say this, and it might sound ignorant, but I wasn’t surprised that all this came up.”—Blake Griffin on Donald Sterling

  13. ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: Chicago Bulls

    Sep 22, 2014, 10:32 AM EDT

    Chicago Bulls v Washington Wizards - NBA Global Games Rio 2013 Getty Images

    A healthy D Rose could have the Bulls contending for a title.

  14. Miami to stick with small ball, including Danny Granger getting time at the four

    Sep 22, 2014, 9:31 AM EDT

    Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Two Getty Images

    LeBron is gone but Miami is still playing small, pressuring the ball.

  15. Report: Cavaliers signing A.J. Price

    Sep 22, 2014, 9:05 AM EDT

    Washington Wizards v Cleveland Cavaliers Washington Wizards v Cleveland Cavaliers

    Price will provide point guard depth – at least through training camp

  16. Celtics GM Danny Ainge remains noncommittal on trading Rajon Rondo

    Sep 22, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

    Oklahoma City Thunder v Boston Celtics Getty Images

    “The truthful answer is I really don’t know.” —Danny Ainge on potentially trading Rajon Rondo

  17. Bucks’ Larry Sanders to play with goggles next season

    Sep 22, 2014, 12:21 AM EDT

    Larry Sanders

    Remember Sanders suffered a serious eye injury last season.

Featured video

What players stood out at World Cup?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. R. Rondo (2894)
  2. E. Bledsoe (2821)
  3. K. Bryant (2415)
  4. L. James (2349)
  5. D. Rose (2030)
  1. R. Allen (1898)
  2. N. Young (1778)
  3. K. Irving (1622)
  4. B. Jennings (1620)
  5. J. Hickson (1618)