LA Clippers: How Blake Griffin's Improved Jump Shot Will Make His Game Blossom

Kelly Scaletta@@KellyScalettaFeatured ColumnistOctober 3, 2012

July 11, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Team USA forward Blake Griffin during practice at the UNLV Mendenhall Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE
Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

Blake Griffin is improving his jump shot. That can only mean great things for his game and for the Los Angeles Clippers' chances in 2012-2013. 

Last year, Griffin had an overall field-goal percentage of .549, which was good for the seventh-best percentage in the Association. 

However, his game was limited. While some exaggerate those limitations by saying all he does is dunk, there is truth to the assertion that he doesn't have much of a jumper. According to he shot a meager .363 percent on his jumper, and his field-goal percentage from three-to-15 feet was was a disturbing .277. 

This is something that can be improved, and it should be welcome news to Clippers fans that he has been working on it, according to Dan Wokie of the Orange County Register:

In an effort to move his game forward this summer, Griffin began working with the team's shooting coach Bob Thate. And while their work has been interrupted by practices for Team USA and Griffin's knee surgery, the pair has already made progress reshaping Griffin's shooting stroke.

With Griffin, any improvement is huge improvement. His progression should also mean a corresponding boost in his scoring average and more wins for the Clippers. There are primarily two reasons why. 

First, look at this screen cap from a play during the postseason series versus San Antonio. Griffin is squaring to take a jump shot, and no one, and I mean no one, is making a move to come out and guard him. They're giving him the jumper because they know he's going to miss (and he did).

Rather than step out and challenge Griffin, they play the passing lanes and stack the lane, effectively forcing him to make the shot. 

An improved jumper forces them to step out and guard him, which means one of three things can happen.

Either he passes off to one of the wings (depending on who steps out to guard him), one of the bigs comes out to contest and he drives past him to where he can make a short layup, or if the other big steps over, he can dump off to DeAndre Jordan. 

All of those are higher-percentage shots, which is why San Antonio is giving up the low-percentage shot. 

If Griffin can just have enough of a jumper that it compels defenses to respect it, that can make a difference in the Clippers having a more efficient offense.

It would also mean more scoring for Griffin. If he could just bump his percentage on jump shots to 40, he would raise his scoring average by 1.3 points per game. 

The other reason is even more simple. An improved jumper correlates with an improved free throw. 

Again, from Wokie:

The work with Thate on his jump shot has been the critical addition to Griffin's game this summer, with the hopes of making him a better free-throw shooter as well.

Friday at the team's media day, Griffin called the new shot more streamlined, and Saturday, when the press got their first look at him shooting free throws, the form looked improved.

Pretty much the only player in the league that Griffin is going to beat in a free-throw shooting contest is Dwight Howard. Last season, Griffin missed 224 free throws, or 3.4 per game. If he had made just 70 percent of his free throws, he would have scored another 1.3  more points per game last year. 

If Griffin has an even marginal return on his jumper, he should score 2.6 more points per game this year on the same number of possessions, which means that the Clippers' offensive rating should also rise accordingly. 

As Griffin's new jumper demands that teams respect and guard it, he should also see his assists increase even more. Considering that he was third among all power forwards last year in assists already, his new passing totals could be very impressive.

Griffin is not far from averaging 25 points, 12 rebounds and four assists for a season. His career averages are now 21.7 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.

His improved jumper could be just enough to put him in that category. Should he hit that elite statistical level, he would join Billy Cunningham, Charles Barkley and Elgin Baylor as the only power forwards to put up those numbers.

If Griffin is able to translate this new form into regular-season success, he could be a dark-horse MVP candidate.