Blake Griffin: The Clippers’ All-Star is approaching new heights


May 12, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) dribbles against the Houston Rockets forward Josh Smith (5) in game five of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Rockets won 124 to 103. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Clippers all fell short in the 2015 NBA playoffs, but Blake Griffin’s elevated aggression and leadership was a very promising sign. And when considering his ever improving passing ability and increased range as a shooter, it’s fair to say that Blake Griffin is elevating his game to even greater heights.

More from Clipperholics

He had another stellar regular season and continued to add to his already astounding NBA resumé. Griffin has now made the All-Star game every season since he entered the league and also earned his fourth honor as an All-NBA player (three on the 2nd team, with his first appearance on the 3rd team this year). And whilst there has been another drop in his rebounding (9.5 in 2013-14 to 7.6 this season) Griffin has still improved in multiple areas of his game.

Before addressing his growth, though, his drop in rebounding can be explained rather simply.

Blake Griffin was an easy choice for rookie of the year in 2010-11 when he averaged 22.5 points, 12.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. However, whilst he’s developed countless nuances of his skill set since then, his rebounding has dipped by a very noticeable margin. But if you remember that he has a two-time league leading rebounder in the frontcourt next to him (DeAndre Jordan) it makes sense that Griffin hasn’t grabbed as many boards — because Jordan dives after every loose ball that’s even remotely close to him.

As Jordan’s playing time has increased from only 25.6 minutes in Griffin’s rookie season to 34.4 this year, it makes sense that DeAndre — a man with a rebounding percentage of 24.5 and average of 15 rebounds per game — is stealing some of Griffin’s share.

Now, onto the ways in which Blake Griffin is growing, and further establishing himself as one of the most versatile players in the game and a leader of the Clippers.


May 12, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) is defended by Houston Rockets guard Corey Brewer (33) in game five of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Rockets won 124 to 103. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Griffin has always been an adept passer, but this season he took his facilitating to another level.

Blake increased his assists per game from 3.9 in 2013-14 to 5.3 this year. In comparison to other power forwards, no one else in the league averaged more than 3.4 (that second place mark belongs to David West).

And there’s far more than that to serve justice to Griffin’s big man/point guard ability.

The sheer frequency at which he moves the ball now is exceptional for a power forward who used to be known for dunking and little else. This season, Griffin even averaged more passes per game (56.6) than both Stephen Curry and LeBron James.

That says a lot about Blake’s importance to move the ball from the top of the key and set up teammates — as it’s no small feat for a big man to top players whose main role is to run the point and control their team’s entire offense.

From his assists, Griffin creates an average of 12.6 points per game with his passes alone. Which, in case you were wondering, is more than Kyrie Irving, Tony Parker, Mike Conley, Joakim Noah and Marc Gasol. And when you add those assisted baskets to his own 21.9 points per game, Blake Griffin accounted for 34.5 points per game this season (which was 32 percent of the Clippers’ entire offense).

If all that wasn’t impressive enough for you, he was even better in the playoffs — by passing with even greater frequency and efficiency (he had a playoff assist percentage of 27.3), and by taking control of the Clippers whenever it was necessary.

Against the San Antonio Spurs in round one, Griffin averaged 7.4 assists per game and finished the series with two triple doubles (including 24 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in game seven to help seal the deal). Against the Houston Rockets, the Clippers relied more on the play of Chris Paul, and Griffin’s assist numbers dropped (after his 13 assist-triple double in game one) to 4.8 for the series.

What Blake Griffin did against the Spurs, though, was the epitome of his ever increasing ability. He’s not just an incredible athlete anymore, he can run a team.

Expanding range

May 6, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) shoots the ball in game two of the second round of the NBA Playoffs against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Since Blake Griffin entered the league, he’s been the best jaw-dropping highlight reel you could hope to watch. With countless poster dunks over anyone who’s willing to get in his way, Griffin has asserted himself as an unquestioned expert of the aerial attack. Now, though, as he’s shown his dedication to not just rely on athleticism to make his career, Blake has gradually expanded his repertoire of post moves and jump shots to diversify his offense.

In his rookie season, Griffin took only 15.4 percent of his field goal attempts from between 16 feet out and the three point line. This year, that number rose to 37.8, with Griffin making shots from that distance at a 40.4 percent rate.

When he’s operating from the top of the key — using handoffs to set up guards rotating around the perimeter, or switching the ball around both sides of the court — Griffin has become increasingly confident and effective at burying shots from range. It’s not just another weapon for the Clippers’ league leading offense (109.8 points per 100 possessions this year) but it means defenders can’t just sit off Blake and wait for him to launch himself to the rim.

This gives him the chance to utilize his explosive first step, to torch slower big men who try to defend him up-close.

Just ask Aron Baynes what that feels like.

For his whole career, Griffin has averaged a shooting percentage of 73.6 from within three feet. That kind of finishing ability is incredibly difficult to stop, but now he can do more. He can step away from the basket with his hook shot, knockdown turnaround jumpers in the post, or shoot from the top of the key when defenders are expecting him to attack the basket. Put all that together, and Griffin’s becoming more diverse than ever.

Increased aggression — physically and mentally

Over the course of the playoffs, DeAndre Jordan went through multiple stretches where he was restricted to the bench whilst Doc Rivers tried to prevent easy hack-a-Jordan points for his opponents. And with the league’s best rebounder on the bench, it gave Griffin a chance to step in and clean up the boards to the best of his ability.

In game four against the Spurs, Griffin tallied 10 rebounds in the fourth quarter alone, with Jordan largely restricted to the bench. Blake finished the game with 19 total rebounds and the Clippers won 114-105 — largely due to his relentless attitude to go at the defending champions with reckless abandon.

That game may be the highlight of Griffin’s dominant rebounding in the playoffs, but across the 14 games he played he averaged 12.7 rebounds per game. An increase of 5.1 from the regular season was no accident. It happened because Blake Griffin took it upon himself to be the leader that the Clippers needed. He set the tone with his fierce play by attacking the paint as a scorer and rebounder, and then led the way with his vocal leadership as a facilitator.

May 14, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) dunks the ball against the defense of Houston Rockets guard Jason Terry (31) during the first half in game six of the second round of the NBA Playoffs. at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

He even averaged twice as many blocks (1 per game) in the playoffs as he did in the regular season — again, due to his mindset. If he can harness that going forward, and remember what it allowed him to do in the playoffs, Blake Griffin can continue to expand his potential in 2016.

His mental toughness still needs to be sharpened — as we saw from his two costly turnovers late in game two against the Spurs — but it’s improving. When he tried to score a go-ahead basket with 10 seconds left in that game, it was because he tried to do too much. He got over confident from his elite level of play and it got the best of him. But that’s a mistake that can only help him learn.

With an injured Chris Paul (hamstring) during the final game of that series, and again when the Clippers’ star point guard missed the first game against the Rockets, Blake Griffin stepped up with back-to-back triple doubles to close out one series and take an early lead in the next.

With the way he can distribute and run an entire offense, and play with that newfound aggression he used to assert himself over elite bigs like Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard, it won’t be long before Blake Griffin is more than just a fully fledged, All-NBA superstar.

He’s becoming an ever more diverse player, and more importantly, a better leader.

All statistics are courtesy of Basketball Reference and

Next: Clippers 2015 NBA Draft targets: Georgetown's Joshua Smith