Fantasy Focus: Blake Griffin
In the span of one season, Blake Griffin managed to accomplish the impossible: people are talking about the Los Angeles Clippers in a favorable light.
When Griffin was picked first overall by the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2009 NBA Draft, many felt sorry for the young player and his fate with the franchise. It seemed his talent would be buried within a team that just came off a 19-63 season (in 2008-09)….a team that had been the butt of many a joke in print and television for years…a team that would forever have the famed Clippers Curse attached to it.
In keeping with the Clippers’ history, it really wasn’t terribly shocking when Griffin suffered a fractured patella – ultimately requiring surgery – in a preseason game. Despite promises of a mid-season debut, Griffin was instead sidelined the entire season.
Nobody was quite sure what to expect from him last season. If deemed healthy, a double-double average was somewhat expected, but it’s safe to say most didn’t predict this stat line: 22.5 points, 12.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists and .506 field-goal percentage. He appeared in each of the 82 games and played an average 38.0 minutes. His Player Efficiency Rating was a healthy 21.9 which ranked 15th in the league.
Griffin, in fact, amassed plenty of league rankings at the season’s end. He ranked tenth in points (twelfth in points per game), eighth in field goals, third in total rebounds (including third in defensive boards and fifth in offensive boards) and fourth in rebounds per game.
He averaged 63 double/doubles (third in the league) and two triple/doubles.
To top it off, Griffin nabbed the Rookie of the Year title (by unanimous voting; last unanimous vote for ROY was David Robinson in 1990), and he was named to the All-Star team. He even claimed victory at the Dunk Contest during the All-Star weekend.
Hoopsstats.com has a nifty way to measure a player’s performance. To determine “NBA Efficiency”, they compute the following: points + rebounds + assists + steals + blocks) – (field goals attempts – field goals made) + (free throws attempts – free throws made) + turnovers. Griffin’s Efficiency number computes to 25.6, ranking second among all power forwards in the league. Kevin Love grabbed the number one spot. Further, Griffin’s number was ranked fourth of all players in the league.
Not surprisingly, these numbers translated right into fantasy basketball, making Griffin an impressive addition to any squad.
He contributes very well in at least three categories (points, rebounds and field-goal percentage) found in typical nine-category leagues (points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocks, three-pointers made, turnovers, field-goal percentage, and free throw percentage). His 3.8 average assists ranked number one among those players having eligibility in the F/C position in Yahoo! Sports formats.
Ideally, a fantasy player contributes in a meaningful manner across the board. In order for Griffin to make that next jump in fantasy games, he must show improvement in specific areas.
We can eliminate two of those categories right off the bat – steals and three-pointers. He’s not that guy.
However, Griffin has plenty of room to grow in three other categories: free-throw shooting, blocks and turnovers.
One would not think it unreasonable to expect more than 0.5 blocks per game from a 6’10” power forward, especially one so freakishly athletic. His lack of timing and length (6’11.25” wingspan) will likely prevent him from becoming a blocking beast. Two other 6’10” players – Al Jefferson and Serge Ibaka – excel in blocks with their enviable wingspan, 7’2.5” and 7’4”, respectively. Dwight Howard, at 6’11”, measures 7’4.5”. His 21st ranking in blocks among F/C players hurts. Truth be told, blocking will be left to 7’0” teammate DeAndre Jordan (provided he returns) with his 7’6” wingspan.
Griffin turned in a dismal effort in free-throw shooting with his .642 percentage (ranked 22nd in the F/C position). At least that was an improvement from his college days at the University of Oklahoma. In his two-year career in Norman, he averaged .589 at the foul line.
And finally, only two F/C players turned the ball over more than Griffin (DeMarcus Cousins and Amar’e Stoudemire). He can do better than 2.7 turnovers per game.
He also needs to improve his performance in road games. Last season he averaged 24.6 ppg/12.5 rpg/4.6 apg/.533 FG% in front of his home crowd, yet he averaged 20.4 ppg/11.7 rpg/3.0 apg/.478 FG% in road games.
Looking ahead to the 2011-12 season (employing optimism here), what can fantasy owners expect from Griffin?
First of all, you can expect him to be on the floor a great deal of time. Last season his Usage Percentage was 27.3% (16th in the league).
You can also rest assured he’s been making the most of the extended break by working out like crazy. Griffin’s work ethic is legendary. Fantasy owners will be pleased to hear that he’s practicing free throw shots.
We can certainly hope he’s giving his mid-range shooting some attention. Last season, Griffin averaged .677 percentage in shots at the rim versus .425 at 3-9 feet from the basket and .325 at 10-15 feet away.
And finally, expect the 22-year-old to return a better overall player. He takes criticism well and is highly motivated to improve.
Fantasy owners must be mindful of one thing. While Griffin did not miss a single game last season, the risk of injury is very real with the sometimes dangerous manner in which he goes after rebounds.
If you put stock in the results of 91 recently-polled experts over at ESPN, Griffin is the tenth best player in the league right now. Those players ranked below him include Amar’e Stoudemire, Pau Gasol and Carmelo Anthony.