It's amazing how an entire arena of fans will collectively hold their breath while a man is jumping in the air. Just seconds later, the silence is broken with an explosion of cheers, "oohs" and "ahhs" as Blake Griffin finishes off one of his trademark dunks.
We all know this side of Blake Griffin. The Mozgovs, the Perkins, the Gasols. Dominating the "Top 10 Plays" on SportsCenter on a nightly basis. But are all of these flashy dunks really just masking his flaws as a player? Maybe so.
I'm not here to say Blake Griffin is a bad player; he most certainly earned his unanimous Rookie of the Year award and his two All-Star selections.
What I am saying is that he definitely has some areas to improve on. Sure it's his second year in the league, but if he develops a more all-around game, that could be the difference between Griffin and the Clippers going from great to elite.
Let's start with Griffin's jump shot. It is probably the most criticized aspect of his game since the power forward position is being ruled by big men with a nice touch from the mid-range/three-point line (e.g. Kevin Love, Dirk Nowitzki).
He has slightly improved in this area compared to last season (34 percent mid-range shooting in 2010-2011 and 36 percent in 2011-2012). But it has not been consistent enough to ever be a threat and force adjustments from opposing teams.
Griffin's development in this area would really open up his game and would allow more opportunities to drive and attack the rim. Being able to score from the mid-range would also help to spread the floor for the Clippers, who could really thrive with a versatile offensive lineup.
His poor shooting translates to the free-throw line, where Griffin shoots an atrocious 52 percent. With hard fouls against Griffin already becoming an issue and concern for LA, If he can't improve here, teams will start hacking at him even more. More often than not, this will pay off for the opponent, as Griffin is barely making more than half of his attempts from the charity stripe.
Griffin's post game has been pretty good this year and he has really managed to improve his footwork, but he doesn't quite have enough skill down low to score at will. He could afford to watch some game film this offseason and look at players like LaMarcus Aldridge and Tim Duncan, who have established themselves as great examples of true power forwards.
We can talk about how he needs to improve, but how does Griffin's development factor into the Clippers overall success? The correct answer is it absolutely depends on it.
Griffin's performance definitely correlates to how well the Clippers perform on any given night. The acquisition of Chris Paul has taken a lot of the responsibility off of Griffin's shoulders, but he is still easily the second-best player on the team.
Because of that, he becomes the go-to guy for Paul, who is obviously a facilitator first and scorer second. If Griffin gets taken out of the game by some tough defense in the post, Paul is forced to look to other options and himself, which leads to a situation similar to what CP3 faced in New Orleans.
Sure, that New Orleans team was good when Paul was basically doing it by himself, and maybe the Clippers are the best supporting cast Paul has ever played with, but however you spin it, those aren't elite teams.
Say Griffin does get better and does add more dimensions to his offensive game—that is when the Clippers can finally take the next step. LA definitely has all the pieces in place to be a very special team in the NBA, but right now, they just need to give it some time to let their seeds grow.
Right now they are still the little brother of Los Angeles, always doomed to be in the shadow of the Lakers. Then they found a legitimate centerpiece to build around in Blake Griffin.
He has already showed his resiliency when he battled through a season-ending knee injury before even playing a second of regular season NBA basketball. Griffin has putt butts in seats night after night. His freakish athleticism and unreal jumping ability has him already making a case for the best dunker of this generation ,and maybe one of the best of all time.
What Blake lacks in versatility he makes up for excitement. If he puts in the necessary time and effort, I don't see any logical reason why he can't have both.