Blake Griffin is enjoying a career year for the Los Angeles Clippers, but has he elevated himself to the game’s best power forward?
To be clear, this is truly a position loaded with talent. Guys like Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge and Anthony Davis along with veterans Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki could all make an argument for themselves as the best power forward. What advantage does Griffin have over the others that may deem him worthy?
First of all, he’s logging the heaviest minute load for one of the NBA’s best teams. The Clippers have begun the season 50-22, good for third place in the Western Conference. Of the six names being nominated for top power forward, only Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs has a better record. It’s worth noting that Duncan only plays 29.3 minutes per game with a usage rate of 25.1 percent, while Griffin logs a team-high 36.2 minutes with a usage rate of 29.1 percent (via basketball-reference.com).
Winning and team success should play a major factor here, although those stat things are kind of important as well.
Griffin ranks second among all PFs in scoring this season at 24.4 points per game. Only Kevin Love (26.5 points) is chipping in more points than Griffin. This increase in scoring can be attributed to an improved jump shot and better all-around offensive game. Consider this bit of info, courtesy of David Nurse of hoopshype.com.
Griffin came into the league as a liability from anywhere outside of the paint and, quite frankly, from anything other than tomahawking on defenders. Although he still has that in his arsenal, he has expanded his game by developing a consistent mid-range jump shot and even extended his range to be a viable threat from three when left open. In Griffin’s first two years in the league, more than 67 percent of all his shot attempts were within three feet of the hoop. This year, that number has dropped all the way down below 60 percent. He has proportioned his shot selection to 43 percent of his attempts coming from outside the paint and knocking down a mid-range 15-18 foot jumper at a clip of slightly over 40 percent.
Rebounding is obviously a huge part of any power forward’s game, and Griffin is averaging an impressive 9.7 per contest this season. Unfortunately, this number ranks him sixth among the power forward group, headlined by Kevin Love’s 12.7 a game. In fact, Griffin ranks just 20th among PFs in rebounds per 48 minutes of play, behind guys like Tyler Hansbrough and Lavoy Allen. It’s safe to say although he’s a good rebounder, Griffin still has a way to go to be considered one of the NBA’s best.
Passing is an underrated part of the power forward position, although it’s a nice bonus to have a big that can help move the ball. Griffin is one of the best in the game with 3.8 assists per game, although he once again falls short of another PF. Kevin Love leads the pack with his 4.3 assists, while Josh McRoberts also ranks above Griffin at 4.2 dimes per game.
Defense can sometimes be tough to measure statistically, but we’ll certainly try. Griffin is regarded as an average defender who doesn’t block a lot of shots. In fact, his 0.6 blocks per game rank just 23rd among players at his position. Anthony Davis leads all PFs, and the NBA as a whole, with 2.85 blocks a night. From an individual standpoint, Griffin holds opposing PFs to a PER of 17.5, above the league average of 15 (via 82games.com). For comparison, Kevin Love’s opponent PER is 14.5. Anthony Davis allows a 16.0 PER, while LaMarcus Aldridge holds his man to a PER of 15.3. While this number certainly doesn’t tell the whole story, it is interesting to note where Griffin falls in comparison to others at his position.
Given all that we know now, it’s safe to say that Kevin Love probably edges Griffin as the game’s best power forward. He scores, rebounds and collects assists at a higher rate than Griffin, all while holding his opponent to a lower PER.
This isn’t to say Griffin can’t pass him one day. With the strides he’s made this season, it could be sooner than we think.
-All stats via ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.