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. Chris Bosh makes it official, signs five-year, $118 million deal with Miami

    Jul 30, 2014, 10:30 PM EDT

    San Antonio Spurs v Miami Heat - Game 6 Getty Images

    “His unique skill set makes him one of the best players in the game today.” —Pat Riley on Chris Bosh, who still is overpaid.

  2. Pat Riley says he didn’t think LeBron was leaving, Heat can turn around quickly

    Jul 30, 2014, 8:59 PM EDT

    Pat Riley Pat Riley

    Pat Riley got beat in free agency, and he doesn’t take losing well.

  3. Magic Johnson: Jerry Buss wanted Byron Scott to coach the Lakers

    Jul 30, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers Introduce Byron Scott Getty Images

    Scott, not Mike Brown, would have followed Phil Jackson

  4. Coach K on Rose: “Derrick’s played great, not good, and hasn’t held anything back”

    Jul 30, 2014, 6:59 PM EDT

    “He’s playing out of his mind. He’s being Derrick Rose.” —Anthony Davis on Rose.

  5. Report: Longtime referee Dick Bavetta retiring

    Jul 30, 2014, 6:05 PM EDT

    Dick Bavetta Dick Bavetta

    NBA reportedly wanted Bavetta to retire four years ago

  6. Report: Lakers work out Michael Beasley

    Jul 30, 2014, 5:17 PM EDT

    Milwaukee Bucks v Miami Heat Getty Images

    The elicits a shrug of the shoulders. Not much else.

  7. Kevin Durant anoints Anthony Davis MVP-in-waiting

    Jul 30, 2014, 4:29 PM EDT

    Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant

    Thunder star texted Davis after winning the award last season: ‘You on your way to get it’

  8. Notes from Team USA Camp in Las Vegas: Nobody is a fan of the FIBA balls

    Jul 30, 2014, 2:59 PM EDT

    Kevin Durant, Chandler Parsons AP

    “Guys that don’t have a reputation for playing hard defense are picking up full court.” —Damian Lillard on the level of play at Team USA training camp.

  9. Mavericks may consider signing Rashard Lewis after his knee surgery

    Jul 30, 2014, 2:19 PM EDT

    Rashard Lewis Rashard Lewis

    Dallas originally signed Lewis, but voided his contract once it was discovered he would require knee surgery.

  10. Knicks legend Earl Monroe sees New York finishing top four in the East ‘easily’

    Jul 30, 2014, 1:34 PM EDT

    Earl Monroe Earl Monroe

    Cleveland, Chicago, Indiana, Miami, Toronto and Washington all simply shake their heads.

  11. Report: Metta World Peace nearing deal to play in China next season

    Jul 30, 2014, 12:47 PM EDT

    New York Knicks vs Los Angeles Clippers Getty Images

    World Peace hasn’t drawn legitimate interest from NBA teams, so he’s considering playing overseas.

  12. Report: Anthony Bennett pulled from pro-am by agent, possibly due to his inclusion in Kevin Love trade talks

    Jul 30, 2014, 11:14 AM EDT

    Anthony Bennett Anthony Bennett

    Just like Love, Bennett is not going to be playing in any games this summer until a deal is done.

  13. Report: Sixers fighting against immediate changes to NBA Draft Lottery system

    Jul 30, 2014, 10:32 AM EDT

    Sam Hinkie, Nerlens Noel AP

    Sixers put a multi-year plan together based on current rules, which would be adversely affected with a quick change to the system.

  14. Team USA going small ball, but how many bigs do they keep on the bench?

    Jul 30, 2014, 8:40 AM EDT

    Mike Krzyzewski Mike Krzyzewski

    “Everyone talks about match-ups (with big teams such as Spain), people have to match-up against us, too.” — USA Basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski

  15. Report: LeBron James more popular than he ever was with the Heat

    Jul 30, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

    LeBron still not as popular as prior to The Decision, though. It’s only a matter of time until he is.

  16. Dion Waiters explains tweet saying he wouldn’t accept bench role

    Jul 30, 2014, 1:30 AM EDT

    2013 Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day 2013 Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day

    Cavaliers guard says initial response stemmed from his straightforward approach, confidence

Featured video

Why can't Lakers have a player-coach?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. T. Warren (5045)
  2. L. James (4641)
  3. K. Love (3933)
  4. D. Rose (3677)
  5. R. Allen (3281)
  1. J. Nelson (3091)
  2. C. Anthony (3090)
  3. K. Bryant (2955)
  4. A. Aminu (2190)
  5. B. Griffin (2174)