Lob City Questions: Is Blake Griffin shooting to many jumpers?

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If you can have a conversation about Blake Griffin without uttering the words “if he can get his jump shot falling _____”, then it probably wasn’t a real conversation about Blake Griffin

Through the preseason, all talk was about Griffin’s jump shot. Some games he looked like his regular self, steadily improving, and some games he looked like the next coming of Kevin Garnett, burying teams from the mid-range shot. The “new-and-improved” jump shot is an excellent look for Griffin as it pushes him closer to the elite echolon of players in the league, but tit’s becoming pretty clear that Griffin using it wrong transforms the attempt from a compliment to an offensive hinderance.

Through three games, Griffin has attempted 29 mid-range attempts (NBA Stats) — only Kobe Bryant (44), LaMarcus Aldridge (39), and DeMar DeRozan (29) have attempted more. Considering how often the three mentioned players shoot mid-range attempts, this puts Griffin in a category he’s not yet ready for.

But unlike his peers, Griffin’s attempts have lacked in the percentage department. Of the players with at least 15 mid-range attempts (it’s a handful of them), only one is shooting worse than Griffin and that’s Charlotte’s center Al Jefferson who is shooting 3-of-18 from the specific area. The rest in Griffin’s attempts range? LaMarcus Aldridge (30 attempts, 48.7%), Dirk Nowitzki (28 attempts, 71.4%), Carmelo Anthony (25 attempts, 48%), and Marc Gasol (23 attempts, 47.8%).

Rivers drawing up plays for Griffin to knock down attempts is never not a good thing — any time Griffin knocks down a mid-range attempt, it forces the defense to react to him, opening things up for those around him. But ask yourself this: as a defender, would you rather Griffin use a combination of speed and strength to attack the paint or shoot the jump shot? I’ll let you in on a hint: the latter is the easy choice and defenses would prefer he do that more than post up or isolate toward the hoop.

For a player who shot 70+ percent from the field last season, there’s little reason to shy away from attacking the paint: either you miss the easiest shot in basketball, draw a foul, or make the shot. Think about how LeBron James has been critiqued through the years. Even though his jump shot has improved year after year, when it came down to it, many would rather see James operating close to the basket or at least going toward the basket. Griffin falls in this same boat. Like James, Griffin has an improving jump shot in the mid-range area. Like James, Griffin shot 70+ percent in the restricted area. And like James, an relying on the mid-range attempt is funny business, especially when his sweet spots are being ignored in this venture.

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Has the mid-range shooting journey affect Griffin’s scoring on the season? Very little — he’s on track to topple last seasons points per game average of 24.1 if he can retain some resemblance of efficiency from range, but can you imagine the impact on the defense if he trades in two of those mid-range attempts per game for an attack at the rim? That’s basically the tradeoff he’s made when comparison Griffin’s opening three game stretch to last season. In 2013-14, Griffin averaged 8.1 attempts in the restricted area and 5.8 attempts from mid-range? This season? The former has dropped to 6.7 while the latter has increased to 9.7.

Whether he wants to believe it or not, Blake Griffin is no Dirk Nowitzki or Kevin Garnett. And he may never be, but that hasn’t stopped him from being one of the best power forwards in the NBA, if not the best. With the offense struggling *looks at Matt Barnes and J.J. Redick*, now is the perfect time to find balance within the offense. If the jump shot is a threat, let it be one, but force-feeding his latest trick could hurt more than help as the season continues.

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