After six seasons of the same story, the Los Angeles Clippers have switched gears. In trading away Chris Paul to Houston, they gained an ally. His name is peak-Blake Griffin, and he’s putting the league on notice.
It’s been only six games, but in those six, we’ve seen it all. Griffin is back to dunking monstrously (though not over KIA’s), facilitating, and most notable–three-point shooting. He’s led the Clippers to a 4-2 record to start the year, and it seems they’re only going to get better.
A look at Griffin’s first weeks in the Chris Paul-less era, and how it may be just what he needed to fully ascend the NBA’s ranks.
In a season most viewed as a reset year for the Los Angeles Clippers, all lights are shining bright. They sit at 2nd in the Western Conference, and one of eight teams with two or fewer losses. It has been the Blake Griffin show in every way, and he’s averaging 23.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game.
His success in part has to be credited to the Clippers front office, who provided Griffin with a proper supporting cast via the Paul-Rockets deal in July.
Newcomers Patrick Beverly, Lou Williams, and Montrezl Harrel will play a big role in the Clippers success. As well as free agency acquired Danilo Gallinari, the second option in this fast paced offense. Some reliable passers to Griffin, and more importantly — passing targets for himself as the lead facilitator.
Paul’s exit is by no means a reason to applaud, but as Griffin tells Zach Lowe of ESPN, it’s made for a fresh start:
“It feels fresh, we have so many new guys. It was time to shake things up.”
It’s only the beginning of the year, but this Clippers star is on track to at least be mentioned among those considered for MVP down the road come Spring. Sure, the Clippers aren’t a very promising team in the Western Conference, but neither were the Oklahoma City Thunder last season.
In the absence of Paul, Griffin is already scoring a career-high in points per game. Expect a climb in his assist per game average as well. He’s no stranger to life without his former point guard, who went down with injury for 21 games last season.
In those games, Griffin’s passing saw a spike to 6 assists per game, including a season-high of 11 against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
With so many shooters in Gallinari, Williams, and Beverly, this Clippers offense is actually open to even more outlets than before. The focus can be less about lobs from Paul to Griffin and Jordan, and transition into who’s next to be set up for the open look.
That sets Griffin up to take advantage, and utilize his above average passing capability. Pairing that with his overall dominance on the floor makes for a nasty combo forward who can lead teams as well as he tears them down.
Dunk of the night: Blake Griffin puts Julius Randle on a poster! pic.twitter.com/wssZoR8Zfk
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) October 20, 2017
If his game sees any exponential decline, it will be in the rebounding department. The Clippers signed center Willie Reed in addition to Gallinari, adding two very capable players off the glass to an already top-5 NBA rebounding core.
Over the first six games of the year, the Clippers are averaging 47.8 rebounds per game, which ranks them 3rd in the league. This makes less of a need for Griffin’s rebounding, and a continued emphasis for him to pass.
He is the point forward in this offense, and with that, he’ll climb into the league’s top players. His basketball IQ and floor general identity is already on full display through five games. The Clippers are averaging just 14.2 turnovers per game, which ranks them 4th among the league.
An area where Griffin’s game has seen immense improvement, three-point shooting. Where it was once a last resort option for Los Angeles with the clock winding down, his three-point shot has become a go-to source of offense in 2017. Check this game winning shot by Blake over the Portland Traiblazers from Thursday:
— AM 570 LA Sports (@AM570LASports) October 27, 2017
He’s now improved from 34 percent from behind the arc (last season), to 41 from deep (this year) in a matter of months. That’s also on five and a half attempts per game, simply unruly for a player his size.
Again, small sample size, but these numbers are hard to ignore.
It’s this adaptability factor Griffin is showing that has me so excited for the season at hand, and full potential of the 2017-2018 Los Angeles Clippers.
As the NBA season takes off these next few weeks, watch for Griffin to become twice the household name he once was, and a tentative dark horse contender for MVP come June.
It’s his season for the taking, and with this Clippers cast ever developing, watch out; they may surprise you.