One of the most polarizing figures in the NBA is the high-flying and low-flopping Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers. With the athletic gifts to dominate any opponent, Griffin has already made All-Star appearances in each of his first two seasons and established himself as one of the league's top players.
With that being said, Griffin must learn from Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan if he hopes to maintain this level of greatness.
The former Oklahoma Sooner has been a star from the moment he stepped foot on an NBA floor. The concern is there for sustainability, however, as Griffin's mid-range, back-to-the-basket and defensive abilities approach solid but leave room for improvement.
With this progressing yet underwhelming level of fundamental prowess, Griffin should begin to study two of the greatest power forwards in NBA history. Garnett and Duncan.
According to Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times, Griffin has been working to improve in said areas of concern. Whenever Griffin misses a jump shot, his teammates have made it a point to remind the former Oklahoma Sooner of shooting coach Bob Thate's presence.
A major reason his mid-range game has improved so drastically over the span of an NBA year.
"If I miss a couple in practice, they say, 'Keep shooting it. We see you every day before practice working with [Clippers shooting coach] Bob Thate,' " Griffin said about his teammates. "That gives me confidence. Now I know that if I miss a couple, I can get it going. It's just a matter of doing it."
No one should question Griffin's work ethic, as he's only achieving such spectacular feats by virtue of his will to improve. What can be questioned, however, is how long Griffin will last if his fundamental abilities do not catch his elite athleticism.
Fortunately, coach Thate is helping Griffin to take the necessary steps to reach said plateau. The question is, what else can Griffin improve on?
With a study of Duncan and Garnett, he would soon learn.
Using the Glass
The primary reason that Tim Duncan has developed a status as a surefire Hall of Famer is his uncanny ability to use the glass. This is why, even at 36, Duncan is shooting 45 percent from mid-range and 71 percent from the restricted area.
The man has perfected the fundamental aspect of shooting the basketball. If you want to make your shot, find glass and bank it in.
Which is exactly what Blake Griffin must learn.
To be fair, Griffin has made significant strides with his mid-range game. He's shooting 42 percent from said range thus far this season, which is up from 36 percent in 2011-12.
Griffin is also becoming far less one-dimensional on offense.
During the 2011-12 regular season, he attempted 69.2 percent of his shots from inside the paint or the restricted area. In 2012-13, that number is down to 59.4 percent.
As he continues to work on his mid-range game, it is imperative that Griffin learns to use glass. The more he does, the more his shots will fall and the greater he will contribute to the Los Angeles Clippers' title dreams.
Patience and Attention
The most significant detraction from Blake Griffin's game has to be the fact that he is a virtual non-factor on the defensive end of the floor. In order to improve his proficiency on defense, it is imperative that Griffin takes a page out of Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett's respective books.
Have patience and pay attention to detail.
Griffin is presently averaging 0.8 blocks per game and has a career average of 0.6. Although Garnett also stands at 0.8, his career average is 1.5 and KG remains one of the most influential defenders in the league.
Don't believe it? Try the numbers.
When Garnett is on the floor, Boston is allowing an average of 96.3 points per 48 minutes. When he is not, that number rises to 114.6 per 48. An 18.3 point differential.
The Clippers, meanwhile, are a polar opposite.
With Griffin on the floor, the team is allowing 101.8 points per 48 minutes. When he is not, Los Angeles is holding opponents to just 91.1 per 48. A 10.7 point differential that does not favor Griffin.
As for Duncan, he continues to dominate the defensive side of the ball as very few ever have. At 36, he is averaging 2.4 blocks per game, which rests slightly higher than his career number of 2.2.
Not so coincidentally, the Spurs are allowing 98.9 points per 48 with Duncan on the floor and 100.5 when he is not.
What Griffin can learn from Duncan and Garnett is patience, as he is too often caught on ball and head fakes. Upon committing said act, Griffin is allowing his opponent to blow by for an easy deuce.
Duncan and Garnett, meanwhile, are much more inclined to keep their hands up on defense and a solid base without jumping. Only once a player commits to a shot do they rise up for an attempt at a swat or shot alteration.
This all comes by his attention to detail, which both Garnett and Tim Duncan could teach Griffin a great deal about. The more focused you are on an opponent's footwork and tendencies on fakes, the less likely it is that you'll be fooled the next time around.
In due time, Griffin will learn that.
Drawing the Line on Intensity
In terms of on-court intensity, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett couldn't be any more different.
Duncan is a soft-spoken, calm player who has won four NBA championships and two league MVP awards. Garnett is legendary for his outspoken nature and intense demeanor, which is a major reason he is a former NBA champion, league MVP and Defensive Player of the Year.
So which route should Griffin take? Contrary to their accolades, it is Garnett's approach which best fits Griffin.
The high-flying dunk artist often lets his play do the talking, throwing down slams that have been referred to as taunting. What Griffin must also establish is that same level of intensity on defense, which can be established by getting into an opponent's mind or pressing them on drives or post-ups.
Regardless of which route he takes, Griffin must draw the line on his intensity. Whichever path he chooses to follow will lead him to sustainability and respect, even if his image as a likable player could potentially suffer.
A sacrifice worth making if Griffin wants to fulfill his dream of becoming a legendary NBA power forward.