Most people love Griffin now and appreciate the good things he does on the court; He’s a wonderful passer, plays with a tremendous energy and is an athletic freak.
Griffin significantly improved his jump shooting during the 2013-14 season, averaging 38 percent from mid-range, well above his career average. His progress transferred to the foul line, where he shot 71.5 percent, more than 10 percentage points higher than his previous career average.
But it was not so long ago when people were starting to seriously doubt Griffin. His stats dropped in each of his first three seasons before last year, and Griffin gained a reputation as just a one-dimensional dunker who couldn’t do anything else.
“Blake Griffin needs to learn how to post up” and “Blake’s soft and overrated” were some of the most common quotes around that time.
It’s good he was able to improve and shed the false label of being just a dunk reel. In particular, the talk about Blake Griffin’s post ups took a different direction. People started pointing out that his numbers were really good (but not great), and that while his style is a bit unorthodox, the stats show that he’s actually pretty solid on post ups.
The counter to that argument happened in this year’s playoffs, when Griffin struggled to score against the Thunder in the post, especially on Serge Ibaka. Griffin really struggled to score against a post defender who was able to match up to him physically, and who Griffin couldn’t just overpower.
The question is where Griffin’s struggles just a random slump? Or signaling that yes, there’s something fundamentally wrong with his post game that he needs to correct.
Griffin has improved as a post player. During his last three seasons his points produced per possession has jumped from 0.83 to 0.88 to 0.95 during the 2013-14 season, the seventh best mark in the league among players with over 80 post ups per Synergy Sports. Post ups took up 30 percent of Blake’s possessions, one of the highest ratios in the league.
He’s a bully down there, and likes to post on the left block, where he can attack the rim going to his right and toward the middle of the floor.
Griffin operates out the mid post area and the Clippers do a great job of finding him good position in pick and roll sets, transition and cross screens where he can catch and finish immediately at the rim (Doc Rivers helps here, he was a huge upgrade over Vinny Del Negro and puts Blake in great positions to succeed). Griffin unrefined post game sometimes work to his advantage, as he draws tons of fouls when attacking the rim. Griffin finished the season sixth in free throw attempts per game.
Blake has also been developing a nifty little bank shot from the post, which goes in at a decent rate when he faces up and takes his time. If he’s forced to fade back, Griffin tends to get into trouble and finishes those plays at a low percentage.
Griffin’s aggressiveness in the post can also work against him, he has bad foot work which often leaves him stuck near the basket in a bad position where he’s forced to throw the ball up to hastily in order to avoid a traveling call. Those times can be quite adventurous, tend to end pretty horrible and lead to his quite high turnover ratio from the post.
In addition Griffin really only goes right, and while he has great touch around the basket and finishes at the rim at elite rate of 64.5 percent around the rim, per NBA.com. He tends to put himself into bad positions to do so. Jumping off the wrong foot off of spin moves and generally being out of control on his finishes.
Griffin only shot 4-of-17 on post ups against Serge Ibaka during the 2014 playoffs, and generally struggled to finish good post defenders like Dwight Howard and Tim Duncan during the regular season. Now those guys are great post defenders and tend to make players struggle, but Griffin does seem to regress more than you would expect from a post player of his caliber.
If Blake isn’t able to overpower his defender and just bully his way to the basket, he looks like he runs out of tricks and doesn’t have the moves to be effective. Griffin actually isn’t that big, he’s 6’10” with a 6’11” wingspan which isn’t bad, but nothing compared to players like Anthony Davis who’s wingspan is a crazy 7’6″ or Ibaka at 7’4″. Meaning if he can’t go through or over you, you’ll be fine defending him.
Technique matters, and Griffin will and should get better in the post. Some of his moves are pretty out there, but he has gotten better and should continue to improve as his career goes along. If he continues to do the same it won’t be problem.
So to answer the original question; yes, Griffin could get better and there are tangible ways for him to do so. And no, it’s not a massive problem but definitely something to focus on.
In addition to his scoring from the post, Blake is a pretty special passer. He doesn’t usually make passes directly from the post but operates a ton out of the high post in pick and roll actions and dribble hand-offs. He’s great at swinging the ball quickly and making the next play.
Griffin keeps his head on a swivel and is always aware of his surroundings. It’s not really post play to score as such, but Griffin is wonderful at managing an offense on the elbows and the top of the key area.