Why a Mid-Range Jumper Would Make Blake Griffin the NBA's Best Power Forward

Jeff Nisius@JeffNisiusContributor IIOctober 22, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 12:  Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers shoots a jumper over Chris Bosh #1 of the Miami Heat at Staples Center on January 12, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Blake Griffin is known for his unbelievably athletic dunks that nearly redefine the laws of gravity.  But while he is tearing down rims, opposing defenses are developing new ways to stop him from getting near the basket. 

In order to combat a compact defense, Griffin needs to develop a reliable jump shot.  Adding a mid-range jumper to Blake’s arsenal would undoubtedly make him one of the most difficult players to guard in the league.  It would also make him the best power forward in the league.

Griffin’s pure athleticism allowed him to get to the rim at will the past two seasons. However, that is certain to change as teams begin to close off the paint and push Griffin out onto the wing.

In 2011-2012, Blake Griffin shot a career high 54 percent from the field.  Meanwhile, his percentage from the free throw line—52 percent—mimicked his field-goal percentage.  Teams began putting him at the line instead of letting him score in the paint.

Overall, Griffin saw a good number of open mid-range jump shots, mainly due to teams protecting the paint and allowing him to shoot those jumpers.  Chris Paul’s passing ability, especially in pick-and-roll situations, forced teams to either trap and stop Paul’s attack or fade and leave Griffin open on the wing.  The tactic worked well, because Griffin has shot under 40 percent from beyond ten feet the last two seasons.

This past summer, the Clippers showed their commitment to helping Griffin develop his jumper by hiring renowned shooting coach Bob Thate to work with him.

Thate worked with Jason Kidd and Vince Carter in the past, helping improve their shooting form and overall consistency, something Griffin needs to do.

"As you get older, you're going to lose a step," Thate told Kidd at the time. "When you lose a step and you can't make a shot, nobody's going to guard you, man."

While Griffin losing a step is years away, the logic is sound.  Teams do not respect Griffin’s jumper and at times it hinders the Clippers offense.

As you can see in this video against the Spurs, the defense is sagging into the paint against Griffin.  When Blake gets the ball at the top of the key, Matt Bonner does not even come up to challenge Griffin.  Instead, he plays off Blake in order to defend his drive.  Griffin could take one dribble and pull up for a wide open jump shot, but he is not confident in his jumper.

When Griffin attacks off the dribble, Bonner does his best to stay in front of him until Tim Duncan can rotate over and cut off his attack, making an easy block at the rim.

One of the reasons for Griffin's poor mid-range field-goal percentage is maintaining the form on his jump shot.  When he takes time and concentrates on his mechanics, his form looks solid.  Elbow in, ball on the fingertips, nice arc on the release.  However, opposing defenders are not going to give Griffin the time to focus on his mechanics.

As Griffin’s jumper improves, teams will begin to respect his shot and challenge him more than they have the past two seasons, giving him less time to get his shot off.

Take a look at Kevin Love, for example.  He is widely regarded as one of the best power forwards in the league, yet he has nowhere near the athleticism Griffin possesses.  Love averaged 26 points per game last season, largely due to his great jump shot.

While Griffin may never be as good a shooter as Kevin Love, teams need to respect his jumper.  Not only will it make him a better player, but it will allow Griffin to attack defenders in multiple ways each time he touches the ball.

Griffin has proven he has good handles, so he can obviously attack off the dribble.  Chris Paul being on the floor makes Griffin dangerous because of the ball screens and rolls to the basket, where Griffin can finish above the rim.  But adding a jumper to his arsenal will make Griffin just as dangerous from the triple threat position as he is running the floor on a fast break.

When he can do that, Griffin will be the NBA’s best power forward.