Is Blake Griffin Ready to Become a Real Champion?

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 26, 2012

There's great news in Hollywood—Los Angeles Clippers star Blake Griffin now knows what it takes to become a champion.

It takes practice, commitment, stepping outside of one's comfort level and, of course, an accomplished chicken call.

For Griffin to lift his Clippers team to the NBA Finals, he's got some items left to mark off that championship checklist.

Luckily for him, he's already checked off that first level.

His work ethic has been lauded since before he ever stepped foot on (or exploded off) the NBA hardwood. For him to be forced to delay his rookie season for an entire calendar year after suffering a stress fracture in his left knee and requiring subsequent surgery, then lead all rookies in points, rebounds and double-doubles en route to a Rookie of the Year award says all you'd need to know about his off-court activity level.

And with that work ethic, Griffin's displayed the requisite commitment to developing his game beyond the highlight reels. He hasn't limited the number of those dynamic dunks, but rather supported them with a growing offensive repertoire.

Here's where we currently find Griffin.

He's still working on moving away from that crowd-pleasing comfort zone. His mid-range jumper (although improved) is still a ways removed from being a reliable offensive weapon.

And his defensive intensity has yet to match what his size (6'10", 251-pounds), strength and athleticism suggests that it should be.

Although not a defensive liability, he's not the shot-blocking threat that his athleticism could make him.

Great shot-blockers don't have to be great athletes.  Just look at some of the names inside the league's top-10 erasers: Roy Hibbert, Tim Duncan, the Lopez twins. Of course, some other names on that list (Larry Sanders, Serge Ibaka, Dwight Howard and Josh Smith) suggest just how much athleticism can support good anticipation and footwork. 

All of the players inside the top 10 average at least two blocks per game; Griffin has managed just 0.7 in 2012-13.

If his acting career has shown anything (outside of having far too much time on his hands), it's that there isn't a role that the big man is uncomfortable playing.  His work in the Kia Optima commercials highlights the fact that he understands that there are limitations in his game.

The Clippers will need Griffin to continue the development he's already shown in his first two-plus seasons in the league.

Not only will they need him to help mask their shallow frontcourt depth for any championship aspirations for this season, but they'll need him to prove to impending free-agent Chris Paul that he can assume the role of being the point guard's championship-caliber supporter for seasons to come.

And as for that chicken call, I'd say it's about as good as it's ever going to get.