NBA: Blake Griffin and 5 Freakish Athletes Who Need to Polish Their Game
Athletic, according to dictionary.com, is an adjective meaning "physically active and strong: good at athletics or sports."
Unfortunately, being just purely athletic does not guarantee success in this league. Other factors, such as defense, ball-handling, passing, free-throw shooting and overall team chemistry are vital in being a good NBA player.
Griffin is just one example of someone who is a "freakish" athlete, but needs to "polish" his game in other areas.
What other players need to do the same? Read on to find out.
5. J.J. Hickson: Portland Trail Blazers
There's no doubt that J.J. Hickson is athletic—check out that dunk over the L.A. Clippers. And there's no doubt that he can score—he averaged 13 points a game with the Cavaliers in 2010-2011.
However, he has been rather inconsistent. Hickson scored just five points a game before being released by Sacramento this season.
So what does Hickson have to work on?
"That's where J.J. is right now," says Brian Windhosrt via ESPN. "He hasn't learned to play the game. His basketball I.Q. is not his strong suit and that frustrates teams. He will get another chance or two, but it's going to take some patience with him."
It seems as if Hickson may have found his his game. Since signing with the Portland Trail Blazers, he's now averaging close to 15 points a game.
4. Bismack Biyombo: Charlotte Bobcats
Bismack Biyombo may just end up being the next Dikembe Mutombo of the NBA. However, he has potential to be much better than Dikembe.
There's no doubt that Biyombo is already one of the premier shot-blockers in the game, averaging 1.75 blocks per contest, good enough for ninth in the NBA.
However, like Dikembe, his offensive game is almost non-existent, averaging just 5.2 ppg in 22 minutes.
Matt Kamalsky of DraftExpress sums up what Biyombo needs to polish up:
[T]he raw aspects of his offensive game are clear. Ball security and experience are two priorities for Biyombo as he aims to play efficiently in a simple offensive role to match his elite defensive ability.
Oh, and he needs to work on his free throws as well.
3. DeAndre Jordan: Los Angeles Clippers
DeAndre Jordan's problem is similar to that of the man on the next slide. So, it's not surprising that they are teammates.
We all know that Jordan has hops—watch him dunk over two seven-footers!
But his problem—like most athletic big men, is shooting the ball—especially free throws. This airball against the Toronto Raptors may have been the worst free throw of all time.
In fact, Jordan is shooting 38 percent from the free-throw stripe this season—38 percent!
With this in mind, I wouldn't be surprised if teams just keep fouling him intentionally, knowing that he's going to miss the free throws.
If Jordan wants to take the next step and become a premier NBA center, he's going to have to learn to shoot the ball.
2. Blake Griffin: Los Angeles Clippers
There's no need to prove that Blake Griffin is athletic—just sit back and watch these two sick dunks.
And there's no doubt that he's an excellent player. He was named Rookie of the Year in 2011 and was an All-Star in 2011 and 2012.
But the reason that this slideshow was written was to concentrate on how Griffin could polish his game to become an even more complete NBA player.
So let's break it down, courtesy of Joe Treutlein of DraftExpressProfile.
His face-up offense:
Still a work in progress, Griffin's conventional face-up offense has not been among his strengths thus far, with him averaging just 0.573 points per possession on isolation attempts according to Synergy Sports Technology. In the half-court setting, Griffin doesn't protect the ball very well when facing his man, while his handle in and of itself isn't very tight to begin with. He still is capable of getting off a phenomenal spin move at times, and his first step is exceptional for his size, but he hasn't found a way to put these things together in a conventional sense yet, rarely being able to take the ball to the rim for a power move from the perimeter.
His perimeter jump-shooting:
While his mechanics are solid and he's capable of knocking down open shots from time to time, on the whole this is not an area he's excelled in, being pretty inefficient with all his jumpers this season.
According to Hoopdata.com, Griffin is knocking down just 34.1percent of his shots from the 10-15 foot range and 33.0 percent from 16-23 feet, not good numbers by any means especially when you consider most of his shots are of the catch-and-shoot variety coming off pick-and-pops. While Griffin doesn't force the issue here, usually only taking his shots when wide open or with the shot clock winding down, he is taking a total of 4.5 attempts per game from 10 feet and beyond, so this is definitely an area where improvement could pay dividends.
And finally, his free-throw shooting, which is self-explanatory. Watch him air-ball two straight free throws.
In conclusion, even though Blake Griffin is already an NBA star, there are still many aspects of the game that he has yet to master.
If he can polish up these facets of his game, Griffin might go down as one of the best athletic freaks to ever play the game.
1. JaVale McGee: Denver Nuggets
Of all the players on this list, JaVale McGee has perhaps the easiest route to polishing his game and becoming a solid NBA contributor.
First, let's erase all doubts that he's not athletic by watching him dunk three balls at once.
So—what does McGee have to polish? His maturity, or lack thereof.
He gets "brain cramps" and does things that make absolutely no sense. Here are a few examples (watch the video here):
- Running back on defense when his team is on offense
- Attempting to dunk from the free-throw line during a game—twice!
- Ridiculously goaltending a shot
- Throwing himself an alley-oop off the glass with his team down six points.
His problem is simple—just make the simple play and try not to do too much.
He has the skill, talent and athleticism to be in this league. All JaVale McGee has to do is use his brain.