We’re just a week into the 2015-16 NBA season, and there are already so many intriguing storylines. From the Golden State Warriors’ continued dominance to the emergence of new teams like the Detroit Pistons and Minnesota Timberwolves; shoot we’ve even reached the portion of the program where we begin to wonder if we’ve overrated Anthony Davis. However, one of the most fascinating things we’re not talking about is how the Clippers’ best player might not be Chris Paul anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, Paul is still a top 5-10 player in the league, unquestionably, but I’m inclined to say that Blake Griffin’s been the most valuable player for the 4-0 Clips.
As small of a sample size as four games is, Griffin’s off to a scorching hot start, averaging 29.5 points on 62 percent from the field, to go along with 9.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. To take it a step further, Griffin’s leading the team in win shares (as a whole and per-48 minutes), box plus/minus, and value over replacement player, as well as usage, per Basketball-Reference.com:
— NBA.com (@NBAcom) November 1, 2015
This could just be Paul pacing himself at the start of the season, as we saw him lead the team in all of the above advanced categories through last season’s playoff run, but I’m more infatuated here with Griffin’s continued progress. For some reason, basketball fans never want to crown him as the best power forward in the league. I understand Davis is the league’s shiny new toy, and when Kevin Love is averaging 26 points and 12.5 rebounds I get the inclination to say he’s the best at his position, but Griffin’s been one of the best players not just at his position, but on the planet, for years now!
Maybe Griffin just set the bar too high, too early, averaging 22.5 points and 12.1 rebounds as a rookie, but the fact that he’s seemingly improved yearly, and is still getting better as he enters his prime (yes, at 26 years old we still haven’t seen his best) is scary. I don’t know, it seems like people don’t want to give Griffin respect because they feel he’s just a dunker, but each season his offensive capabilities move further and further out of the paint.
I think another thing that deters basketball fans from recognizing how good Griffin is his marketability. We loved him his rookie season when he dunked on everyone, but since he’s jumped over that Kia at the dunk contest he’s been in more commercials than Peyton Manning. Combining his visibility with his sense of humor, you’d think he would be a home run superstar athlete celebrity, yet he still gets hated on.
this "dead pan/ trying to talk like Ron Burgundy" routine that Blake Griffin does in these E commercials gotta stop
— Big Kriterion (@AbrissErik) February 20, 2013
I know, this isn’t exactly hard-hitting basketball analysis. The point I’m trying to make is people have allowed who Blake is off the court to have an impact on how they perceive him as a basketball player, and it’s getting to a point where it’s flat out stupid. For instance, Griffin averaged an absurd 25.5 points, 12.7 rebounds and 6.1 assists during last season’s playoff run, posting three triple-doubles along the way, but the lasting memories were him being too tired to finish games down the stretch.
It’s almost as if a good portion of fans WANT Griffin to be bad.
Well, so far this season Griffin’s doing everything he can to disprove any notion of him not being a go-to player, on both ends of the court. Sure having reigning Defensive Player of the Year DeAndre Jordan next to him makes life a bit easier, but Griffin’s posting a career-best 97 defensive rating, per Basketball-Reference.com. Check out his awareness on this play, where he blocks a Tyson Chandler putback in crunch time:
He’s also become more poised and skilled as a scorer. As I mentioned above, each season it seems Griffin adds another dimension to his offensive game, and this season it seems he’s finally gotten a hold on his mid-range jumper and beyond. Per NBA.com, Griffin’s shooting 47.1 percent from 15-19 feet and 53.8 percent from 20-24 feet. Griffin’s improved touch has also been noticeable at the charity stripe, where he’s shooting a career best 74 percent. Considering he’s gotten to the free throw line over seven times per game over his career, being able to convert at that efficient of a clip (he’s a career 66 percent free throw shooter) would be a great improvement.
As much fun as Blake Griffin, face-up scoring threat has been this season, don’t you ever forget that he’s possibly the most athletic 6-foot-10 and above player not named Shaq to play in the league:
Clearly it’s unfair to voluntarily pass Paul’s torch as best player on the team to Griffin after this small of a sample size, but the Clippers All-Star power forward continues to make strides in improving his game. This could be the season that Griffin not only takes over as the go-to guy in L.A., but the beginning of him being near the top of the MVP conversation for years to come.