Clippers Nation: Why Blake Griffin Deserves a Break

Joshua AxelrodCorrespondent IMay 13, 2013

Seriously, where does all the Blake Griffin hate come from and how can we make it stop?
Seriously, where does all the Blake Griffin hate come from and how can we make it stop?Joe Robbins/Getty Images

There is absolutely no reason to hate on Blake Griffin.

The three-time NBA All-Star has received many labels in his short NBA career. Some think of him as an athletic freak or human highlight reel, while others consider him to be all flash with no substance.

In fact, the word overrated keeps popping up when discussing the Los Angeles Clippers star’s game. Frankly, I just don’t get it.

Seriously, where is all this overrated talk coming from? What is it about this guy that is so divisive?

Griffin’s critics say that his game emphasizes big plays over steady production. They believe that though he is unquestionably amazing at getting on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays, his skill set is relatively limited.

The Griffin haters point to his lack of a reliable jumper and his shoddy defense. They basically feel that his game is not well-rounded enough for a guy who gets so much attention.

Griffin has also become known as a flopper who the refs tend to baby. Some may see him as an entitled player who whines when he does not get calls.

Most importantly, it could be argued that Griffin has not met the expectations of a No. 1 overall pick and is thus overrated.

To his critics: I respectfully disagree.

Griffin entered the NBA with a pretty ridiculous amount of hype. He finished his sophomore season at Oklahoma with an average of 22.7 points per game and 14.4 rebounds and was expected to be a sure thing for any NBA team.

The Clippers never even considered taking anyone but Griffin with their first overall pick. He was to be the savior of the Lakers’ bumbling younger sibling.

That perception was altered after Griffin suffered a season-ending knee injury that delayed his NBA debut a year. Clippers nation was not sure what to expect upon his return a season later.

Those expectations rose sky high after Griffin’s first NBA points turned out to be a one-handed dunk off a lob. That foreshadowed three years of putbacks, lobs and slams that earned him a reputation as one of the most explosive players in the NBA.

In three seasons, he has helped lead the Clippers to two playoff appearances and has cemented his status as an NBA superstar. As NBA power forwards go, it does not get much better than Griffin.

He has noticeably developed his post and pick-and-roll games. His jumper still needs work, but I would rather play a pick-and-pop game with him than Dwight Howard.

He is a career double-double guy, averaging 20.4 points per game and 10.4 rebounds. His 2012-13 numbers were down a bit, but that was mostly due to injuries Griffin spent all season battling.

His defense is admittedly still suspect. He only averages a career 0.6 blocks per game, which is way too low for a guy with his level of athleticism. But Griffin makes up for it with his mastery of an important skill: the art of flopping.

Do not laugh. Flopping has become a legitimate NBA skill. Just ask guys like Manu Ginobili, Anderson Varejao and Derek Fisher, all of who have made careers out of tricking the refs into believing they deserve calls. If it is working for Griffin, who are we to question that tactic’s effectiveness?

Despite his penchant for flopping, Griffin’s toughness is not in question. He played through a bad ankle sprain during the Clippers’ first-round playoff series with the Memphis Grizzlies. Though the Grizzlies won in six games, it is not unreasonable to assume that a healthy Griffin could have changed that outcome.

The best part of all this is that Griffin is constantly getting better. He still has plenty of time to develop his game so he can get his team on the same level as, say, the Oklahoma City Thunder. We need more of a sample size from him before the word overrated can even reasonably be used.

Besides his contributions on the court, Griffin has also become one of the most marketable players in the NBA. Just check out his Kia commercials, which are self-referential and surprisingly funny. The man has an impressive sense of comic timing for an athlete.

That is a product of Griffin’s larger than life personality, which was exemplified during the 2011 Slam Dunk Contest, when Griffin dunked over a Kia off a pass from Baron Davis (who was inside the car) while a choir sang R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.”

That moment showed that Griffin is not afraid to be silly, an important skill that players like LeBron James have been exploiting for years. It makes him come off as an overall likeable guy.

So, let us recap. Griffin almost single-handedly began the Clippers’ transition into competitiveness and relevancy. He helped coin the term Lob City as the centerpiece of one of the most fun offenses in the NBA.

His inherent likability and charisma have made him a hot commodity in the advertising industry. That increased publicity plus an infusion of young, dynamic talent has put the spotlight on the Clippers over that other Los Angeles team for once.

In fact, the Clippers are currently in the process of unseating the Lakers as the most important basketball team in Los Angeles. If this last season was any indication, their future is much brighter than the purple and gold’s.

Griffin is a large reason for that. The man has made the formerly hapless Clippers a championship contender.

So I will ask the question again: How is he overrated? Clearly, he is anything but.