By the Numbers: Blake Griffin’s shot distribution


In 2014-15, Player X has shot 24 attempts in the restricted area and 55 mid-range attempts. Player Y has shot 28 restricted area attempts and 49 mid-range attempts. Can you guess who is who?

Hint: they’re both players for professional teams in California.

You’ve likely guessed one is Blake Griffin thanks to the title of the article. Griffin is Player Y. The other? Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant.

It’s not a good sign when Griffin’s shot attempts nearly mirror that of Bryant’s, especially a Kobe who’s lack of athleticism due to age and back-to-back injury forces him to settle from range rather than attacking the basket.

The discussion around Griffin’s attempts aren’t anything new. Haralabos Voulgaris, famed bettor and NBA fanatic, tweeted this when the Los Angeles Clippers lost their first game of the season to the Sacramento Kings.

Fully Clips Twitter follower tweeted this during a recent discussion about Griffin’s “evolving” game:

If you’ve two working eyes, you’ll see what the above tweeters have spoken on. But if you’re vision is clouded in Griffin bias, I’ll let the numbers spell this one out for you.

Here are Griffin’s shot distribution charts for the 2013-14 season and the first five games of the 2014-15 season courtesy of NBA Stats:

Notice the difference? The dark blue areas reflect where the bulk of Griffin’s shots are coming from, and when comparing the two seasons, there’s been a drastic increase from the mid-range for the 2014-15 season.

Doing the math, in 2013-14, 34% of Griffin’s attempts came from mid-range. In 2014-15, that figure increases to 51%.

Why is this such an issue? It takes away from Griffin’s greatest strength: finishing at the rim. Last season, the lone player who attempted 500 or more shots in the restricted area to finish with a higher percentage than Blake Griffin (651 attempts — 70.8%) was LeBron James (581 attempts — 78.3%). If you lower the qualifier from 500+ attempts to 400+ attempts in the restricted area, that group grows from just James to James, DeAndre Jordan (466 attempts — 71.9%) and Kevin Durant (413 — 77.5%).

As seen in the above photo, Griffin’s attempts in the paint accounted for ~60% of his offense; that figure is ~40% this season. Through his first five games of the season, Griffin has attempted the second most mid-range attempts in the league at 49, only behind Kobe Bryant (this’ll likely change tonight after the Trail Blazers-Mavericks game). This means Griffin is on track to shoot a little over 800 mid-range attempts per game if his production remains. For perspective, that’s close to a 73% increase from the 2013-14 season and that’d put him in rare air, joining a group of 11 players who’ve hoisted mid-range attempts in a season — the most? Michael Jordan in ’02-03 (1056); the most recent? LaMarcus Aldridge last season (899) — dating as far back as NBA stats shot location database goes (2000-01).

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Another reason why Griffin’s love for the mid-range shot is an issue is because he’s falling into a trap: defenses want Griffin to shoot because it makes their jobs easier. Apart of what’s made Griffin an elite player over the years is his ability as a passer, and by diving following the pick-and-roll, he was able to put that skill to use often as defenses reacted quickly to him penetrating the lane. Of Griffin’s 16 assists, only three come off penetration from the roll, two being alley-oops to DeAndre Jordan, a play we’ve grow accustom to over the years.

Look at how Griffin’s roll after the pick with Chris Paul affects the entire Atlanta Hawks defense:

Here is the play in real time:

The same occurs here: similar play and situation, with Griffin rolling, the defense committing, shooters getting open, and points being scored. After a lob or two, coaches shift their strategies to keep Jordan from rolling to the rim untouched, unintentionally opening the floor for shooters. As simple a process, there was no other play the Clippers used that had as big an impact on the defense.

Now, instead of Griffin diving toward the basket like a freight train, he’s stepping and staying back a la Kevin Garnett or LaMarcus Aldridge:

If Griffin continues rolling to the basket, Stephen Curry will be forced to either 1) bump Griffin or 2) allow him to roll to the rim untouched. Either decision is a good one for the Clippers because movement by Curry means either Paul or Crawford, both on the weak side of the ball, end up with an open jump shot. But Griffin doesn’t roll and Curry immediately rotates back to Chris Paul — Griffin then settles for the jump shot.

When Griffin does the opposite? This happens:

Hawes misses the attempt, but the impact is shown here. Even Leandro Barbosa takes an extra step in to prepare for Griffin as a roll man.

The good news here? All of this can be fixed. Without Alvin Gentry on the sideline (he’s now in Golden State), the offense hasn’t had the same flair that led to the Clippers posting the best offensive rating in basketball last year, but they still have some of the best tools available in Paul, Griffin Crawford, Hawes, and Redick, meaning Doc Rivers doesn’t have to be Rick Carlisle or Gregg Popovich to get the best out of his players.

Maybe if Redick and Barnes are making their shots we aren’t talking about this. But they aren’t, meaning the search for a solution has begun, and it starts with Blake, and he’s got some fixing to do — sticking to what he knows (and does) best would be best for everybody.

Next: Clippers Lineup Data: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly