Blake Griffin’s Passing For Clippers Is Seriously Underrated


Apr 14, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) controls the ball against Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker (17) in the fourth quarter at US Airways Center. The Clippers beat the Suns 112-101. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Blake Griffin has established himself as the best passing power forward in the NBA, and by a sizeable margin. Heading into the playoffs, most people will be prioritising Chris Paul, the Los Angeles Clippers’ shooting backcourt, and countless dunks as their main concerns.

However, Griffin’s playmaking could be one of the most underrated strengths of this entire team as the Clippers look to advance deep into this year’s postseason.

Before delving into the impact of Blake Griffin’s passing for the Clippers, the frequent use (and ability) of Griffin as a passer can be illustrated by one simple number. He’s led all power forwards in assists this year with a career best 5.3 per game.

No one else at his position averaged more than 3.4.

What makes Griffin’s performance even more impressive when compared to his fellow power forwards, is that he has the best assist-to-turnover ratio (2.33) of the lot. That means he’s maintaining better possession of the ball than other All-Stars such as Tim Duncan, Pau Gasol and Paul Millsap. And by a fair amount, too.

Griffin’s versatility has been utilized better than ever this year, and his ability to find open teammates as well as hitting cutters to the basket, is a highly undervalued asset by most people. Yet during the playoffs, he can be used in order to take some of the pressure of Paul, so the Clippers’ start point guard doesn’t always need to run as much of the offense when opponents’ guards are playing particularly tight defense.

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Other than missing a few weeks due to elbow surgery in February, Blake Griffin has had another All-Star caliber season (to be exact, every season of his five year career has been All-Star caliber). He’s averaged 21.9 points, a career best 5.3 assists, and a career worst 7.6 rebounds per game. So there’s certainly been a fair share of ups and downs to Griffin’s season.

That being said, he’s increased his free throw percentage to his best mark yet (72.8 percent) and he’s shooting better than ever from mid range, making a career best 40.4 percent of his shots from at least 16 feet out.

That’s not what this piece is going to focus on, though. Instead, another area that Blake Griffin has excelled in is highly deserving of some recognition; his newly improved role as a facilitator.

His development as a passer and reliable ball handling has been happening for some time now. Even a year ago, Griffin was showing signs of improvement. If you need a reminder, watch this short video of what he could do in 2013.

Blake Griffin is capable of more than just a few flashy plays like the video above suggests, though.

Primarily, he’s used through the top of the key by the means of hand-offs, quick passes to Paul, or by operating out of the low-post to deliver the ball to guards on the perimeter or teammates cutting to the basket. His constantly improving post-game makes Griffin a threat that defenders have to guard closely. This, of course, creates opportunities for guys to cut to the basket or move out to the three-point line after their defender has left them in order to help cover Blake.

So, combined with his dual threat ability just inside the three-point line — as a passer and a shooter — Griffin has been able to account for a serious amount of the Clippers offense. Who, for the record, coincidently led the league with an offensive rating of 109.8 this year.

March 31, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) moves the ball up court against Golden State Warriors during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

To add to his 21.9 points, Griffin (per also creates a startling 12.6 points per game just with his assists. That’s more point production through assists than top point guards such as Tony Parker, Kyrie Irving and Mike Conley. And according to the calculated assist opportunities per game by, Griffin even has less chances to pass than every one of those players as well.

Not too bad for a power forward who everyone knows for dunking, is it?

The fact that the infamous Blake Griffin — a dunking icon — is becoming just as comfortable operating from the top of the key as he is under the basket says a lot about his development. If he’s not making the most of his jump shot, he’s using hand-offs as he slides over to set a screens in front of teammates, or surveying the positioning of ever player on the court. Rather than just wanting to attack the paint or instinctively fling the ball back to Paul if he doesn’t see a lane to the basket.

To put his overall offensive impact into perspective, his scoring and passing need to be combined.

In total, Griffin produced 34.5 points per game for the Clippers this year. Convert that into a percentage, and he’s responsible for just over 32 percent of the entire offense. And with more firepower in the lineup with the likes of J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford and the best point guard in the game, Chris Paul, you can’t argue that with this much of an impact, Griffin has evolved into one of the league’s top all-around offensive weapons.

March 31, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) controls the ball against Golden State Warriors forward James Michael McAdoo (20) during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, we’ll finally be able to know the complete picture for the Western Conference playoffs. As it stands, the current scenarios are: a 2nd place finish with losses by San Antonio and Houston, or a 3rd place finish with a San Antonio win or a Houston win and a San Antonio loss.

Essentially, the playoff race is still way up in the air at this point. The Spurs are probably more confused than anyone, as they could land anywhere from 2nd to 6th tonight.

All that madness aside, though, the Clippers are heading into the postseason at top form. They’re ending the regular season on a seven game win streak whilst winning nine of their last ten games. With Blake Griffin being just as key to their success as top MVP candidate, CP3.

What needs to be noted is that whilst his multitude of scoring techniques will be essential for the Clippers if they want to progress into the later rounds, it is Blake Griffin’s passing that can help L.A. on another level. He can run the offense just as well as — if not better — than any big man in the game, and as a result, Paul can play more off-ball if necessary. So that he can continue his hot shooting season of making 40 percent of his three-point attempts.

The Clippers’ offense will be running fast and pushing the pace, but when the game slows down in the playoffs, it’s Griffin’s improved passing ability that will remove some of the ball handling pressure from Paul.

His regular season growth has been impressive to say the least, so let’s wait and see how it pays dividends in the playoffs.

Next: Jamal Crawford Passes Pete Maravich On NBA Scoring List