When Chris Paul went down with a shoulder injury on January 3rd, many felt like it would be tough for the Clippers to stay afloat in the competitive Western Conference (there’s only a four game difference between 4th and 8th place). However, CP3’s injury ended up being a blessing in disguise. The Clippers are 11-6 without Paul, and Blake Griffin‘s game has flourished in his absence. In a Wednesday night loss to the Heat, Griffin exploded for 43 points and 15 rebounds. During the 17 game stretch that Paul has been out, Griffin is averaging 27 points per game.
Blake Griffin has improved his game this year in almost every way. He’s still arguably the best in-game dunker that the NBA has ever seen. He’s a freakish athlete, and if a defender challenges him in the paint he has no problem putting them on a poster. Griffin’s athletic prowess often times overshadows the other parts of his ever expanding game. His post-up game has improved drastically since he’s came into the league. Griffin has an array of textbook post moves that he uses with his back to the basket that make him a threat to opposing defenses down low.
This season he’s also added a mid range jumper to his game and he’s not afraid to use the bank shot when he’s on the wing. One of Griffin’s greatest offensive skills is his ability to face up and take his defender off of the dribble. He actually handles the ball pretty well for a big man, and this allows him to explode to the basket and finish over the top of the defense. Check out some of his impressive moves in this video:
Although his offensive game has improved drastically, Griffin still needs to do a better job on the defensive end. Griffin is listed at 6’10”, 250 lbs. LeBron James, arguably the league’s best defender, is listed at 6’8″, 250 lbs. I’m not saying that every player can Be LeBron James defensively, but James has figured out how to use his size and athleticism to wreck havoc on opposing offenses. Griffin is averaging only .6 blocks per game this season and there is no way a player with his athletic ability shouldn’t be swatting at least two or three shots into the third row of the arena every night. The Clippers are ranked 21st in the league in defensive efficiency this season (defensive efficiency tracks the number of points a team allows per 100 possessions). If The Clippers are looking to be title contenders, this number is going to have to improve by the time the playoffs come around.
The Clipper’s have done a great job building a team that can contend for a championship this year. Although he’s been hurt for much of the year, J.J. Redick is one of the best sharp shooters in the NBA. They have one of the league’s best heat check guys in Jamal Crawford coming off of the bench. They’ve got a great shot blocker and rebounder, DeAndre Jordan, anchoring their defense. Not to mention one of the leagues best assortment of role players including Matt Barnes, Jared Dudley, and Hedo Turkoglu. Darren Collison has done a nice job filling in for Chris Paul, and when Paul comes back he is another weapon that The Clippers have on their bench.
The Clippers have done a great job filling out their roster with quality players but their playoff chances rest on the injured shoulder’s of Chris Paul. He’s one of the best playmakers in the NBA, and he always rises to the occasion late in the game. He’s stout defensively, and is without question the leader of the team. Even though he’s one of the best players in the league, Paul does have history working against him. A team hasn’t won the NBA championship with a point guard being their best player since Isiah Thomas led the Detroit Pistons to back to back championships in the 1989 and 1990 seasons. This is due in large part to the fact that during the playoffs the game slows down, and getting into the paint and finishing is a key to success. If the Clippers are going to make a run in the playoffs this year, they’ll need Blake Griffin to continue to improve. They’ll need head coach Doc Rivers to work his magic and improve their defense. Most of all, they’ll need Chris Paul to stay healthy and play at an MVP level.