Blake Griffin elevates Clippers, puts rest of NBA on notice with 3-point shooting
NBA null Basketball
Griffin wasn’t bad when it came to knocking down catch-and-shoot attempts from the perimeter — he was on the same page as Devin Booker, Trevor Ariza, Iman Shumpert and Nikola Jokic in terms of success rate, albeit on less overall attempts — but his efficiency suffered because he struggled with pull-ups. He made 25.0 percent of those looks on 0.3 attempts per game.
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The good news for the Clippers is Griffin already looks like a completely different player this season. He has attempted 18 3-pointers in his first three games, making eight of those opportunities. His seven 3-point attempts against the Jazz on Tuesday night tied his career-high in the Clippers' 102-84 win.
While the list of power forwards who have attempted a greater number of 3-pointers than Griffin thus far is six deep, most of them have appeared in one more game than him. Furthermore, only four power forwards have made more 3-pointers than Griffin in the first week of the NBA season. He is currently ranked fourth behind Serge Ibaka, Aaron Gordon and Lauri Markkanen in 3-pointers made per game at his position.
What’s even more encouraging for Griffin’s development is how comfortable he seems to be taking 3-pointers in volume. 11 of Griffin’s 3-point attempts this season have been of the catch-and-shoot variety compared to six coming from pull-ups. (One of his attempts was a full-court heave at the end of a quarter). That works out to be 3.6 catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts per game and 2.0 pull-up 3-point attempts per game, both of which are comparable to Gordon Hayward’s shot selection last season.
Although Griffin is highly unlikely to maintain those levels for the entire season, it’s clear he’s focused on making 3-pointers a bigger part of his game. The eye test backs it up. Just compare this 3-point attempt from the Clippers’ season opener against the Lakers…
... to one of the 20 pull-ups Griffin attempted in 2016-17:
Now compare this catch-and-shoot 3-pointer…
... to this one from the 2014-15 season:
Two things should stand out. The first is that Griffin doesn’t hesitate on either of his 3-point attempts from this season. It’s clearly a shot he’s grown comfortable taking, and one he’s confident he can make.
The second is that the hitch in his form that used to plague him is long gone. Griffin has been a deadly midrange shooter since the 2013-14 season, but he has struggled to extend his range to the perimeter. If he can substitute some of the long 2-pointers he relied on to generate 45.8 percent of his shot attempts two seasons ago with 3-pointers — something he began to do last season — Griffin will become a much more efficient scorer.
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It will have a tremendous impact on how the Clippers function offensively as well. Whereas Chris Paul is one of the best point guards in the league at creating his own shot in the half court, Patrick Beverley and Milos Teodosic are better in complementary roles (Beverley as a spot-up shooter and secondary playmaker, Teodosic as a facilitator).
The Clippers therefore have a much greater need for spacing when they share the floor with Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. If Griffin isn’t able to step out to the perimeter, it will make it easier for teams to defend pick-and-rolls involving Jordan as the roller or Griffin as the midrange popper.
For example, notice how Teodosic isn’t in a position to score on this possession. Brook Lopez drops back because Jordan isn’t a shooting threat outside of the paint, and Larry Nance Jr. helps off Griffin to prevent Teodosic from taking Lopez off the dribble with his left hand.
In the past, Griffin would’ve likely taken a step or two inside the perimeter. Doing so makes it slightly easier for his defender to help off him and recover well enough to contest his shot.
Now that he’s comfortable taking 3-pointers, it gives his defender significantly more ground to cover. If Griffin’s defender stops helping to prevent him from getting open 3-pointers, then the likes of Beverley and Teodosic will have opportunities to snake the pick-and-roll, create a switch and put Jordan in position where he can cut to the basket or attack the offensive glass.
The rest of Griffin’s game will also benefit from him shooting more 3-pointers. Harder closeouts by defenders when they help off him means they’re more likely to fall for his fakes. He’s generally too strong for small forwards and too quick for power forwards and centers, making him a matchup nightmare against almost every team in the league.
Griffin won’t make more than 50 percent of his 3-point attempts this season, and he might not even finish the season at the same level as Love, Gasol, Ibaka and Nowitzki in 3-point makes, but his progression into a threat from the perimeter will only help the Clippers make up for the loss of Paul.
Plus, if Griffin's 3-point shot is actually for real, it'll mean he's mastered everything you could ever ask for offensively from a modern day power forward. Throw a better-than-expected season from the Clippers into the equation, and Griffin could find himself in the MVP conversation once again.