The Leadership of Blake Griffin Could Make or Break the LA Clippers

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 24: Austin Rivers /
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SACRAMENTO, CA – NOVEMBER 18: Head Coach Doc Rivers of the Los Angeles Clippers coaches Blake Griffin
SACRAMENTO, CA – NOVEMBER 18: Head Coach Doc Rivers of the Los Angeles Clippers coaches Blake Griffin /

On the Court:

When Blake is healthy and focused, there is no question that he is one of the best power forwards in the league. Griffin has always had assist numbers in the top percentile for big men as the power forward is more than capable of having the offense run through him. Griffin’s career assist percentage of 21 percent (meaning Griffin has assisted on 21 percent of the Clippers’ baskets when he’s in the game) ranks him at 161st place out of all the players who have played in the NBA since the stat era began. While 161st doesn’t sound the greatest on paper, it puts Griffin above Chris Webber, who was known for his passing as a big man, and otherHall of Fame caliber forwards such as Kevin Garnett, Karl Malone, and Charles Barkley. Last season, Griffin played 554 minutes without Paul on the floor. Without Paul, Griffin averaged 22.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 6.4 assists per 36 minutes compared to 22.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 4.8 assists when the two were both on the floor in 1,523 minutes over the season.

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Griffin has averaged around five assists per game in the past three seasons even with sharing the floor with Paul, so is it far fetched to suggest that he may hit that 6.4 assist mark that his per 36 numbers suggest he should? If Doc Rivers runs his offense through Griffin, the power forward should flourish with the new additions to LA’s starting line up. Patrick Beverley, who should at least see starters minutes if he doesn’t actually start games, is a capable three point shooter who Griffin can work with in pick-and-rolls. Austin Rivers showed that he could be relied on to hit jump shots last season and has also improved with his finishing around the basket, making him a prime target for kick outs or dishes on cuts from Griffin. Gallinari is also a reliable three-point-shooter, knocking down 39 percent of his shots from behind the arc last season in Denver. On paper, Griffin looks ready to lead the Clippers offense but his new leadership role on the floor may be affected by his weaknesses.

If the Clippers want to run their offense through Griffin, the team is going to need him to stay on the floor. This means Griffin, who has been plagued by injury troubles the past few season, will need to take extra care of his body through out the season and try to limit putting himself in situations where he could easily injure himself. The power forward hasn’t played in more than 70 games in a season since the 2013-2014 season in which he appeared in 80 games and ended up finishing third place in MVP voting.

Another issue that may affect Griffin’s leadership on the court is his tendency to flounder in the fourth quarters of games. Last season, Griffin scored his lowest amount of points per quarter in the fourth quarter, only scoring four points on average (compared to 6.8 for the first quarter, 4.9 for the second, and 6.5 for the third). In addition, Blake only attempted an average of 2.8 shots in the fourth quarter. For comparison, Anthony Davis attempted 4.7 fourth quarter shots per game last season in NOLA and Paul Millsap attempted 3.6 in Atlanta. While you can argue that those stats don’t matter very much, it raises the question of how reliable Griffin can be in the fourth quarter and if the power forward can be the type of player that you want with the ball in his hands for the last possession of the game.