Jan 14, 2013, 9:30 AM EST
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:
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.
Nov 20, 2014, 9:15 PM EST
This one isn’t really worth punishing.
Nov 20, 2014, 8:15 PM EST
Adam Silver’s support for legalized sports betting is making him unpopular in some circles.
Nov 20, 2014, 7:30 PM EST
The virus has affected almost half of Memphis’ roster.
Nov 20, 2014, 6:45 PM EST
Love is averaging 16.7 points per game in his first year with the Cavs.
Nov 20, 2014, 6:00 PM EST
NBPA director Michele Roberts calls the suspension “excessive.”
Nov 20, 2014, 5:15 PM EST
Rose could be out longer.
Nov 20, 2014, 4:30 PM EST
17 is far too low.
Nov 20, 2014, 3:40 PM EST
Rockets star has taken plenty of verbal abuse lately from opposing players
Nov 20, 2014, 3:07 PM EST
Not pictured: Milwaukee celebrating win over Nets
Nov 20, 2014, 2:33 PM EST
Craftiness from the Lakers star
Nov 20, 2014, 1:55 PM EST
Cavaliers center gives Kawhi Leonard a hard time
Players union, after Jason Kidd’s negotiations, looking into agents representing coaches and players
Nov 20, 2014, 1:21 PM EST
Current National Basketball Players Association rule forbids agents from representing players and coaches
Nov 20, 2014, 12:33 PM EST
Both teams reportedly interested in Timberwolves small forward
Nov 20, 2014, 11:55 AM EST
Philadelphia players make Wroten spokesman for responding to Suns guard
Nov 20, 2014, 11:20 AM EST
Clippers coach: ‘He’s probably the best player in the league that nobody knows’
Alex Len, No. 5 pick in a draft full of players who looked like busts as rookies, showing he doesn’t deserve the label
Nov 20, 2014, 10:16 AM EST
Suns center impressing in second season
Nov 20, 2014, 9:30 AM EST
Lebron says it’s more difficult than even winning a championship
Nov 20, 2014, 9:00 AM EST
Corey Brewer throws pass just low enough to avoid a turnover, high enough to make Muhammad look good
Nov 20, 2014, 8:30 AM EST
And Seraphin gets called for the foul.
Nov 20, 2014, 8:00 AM EST
The two had words in the second quarter.
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