The power forward position has long been a staple of successful NBA teams—from Tim Duncan to Karl Malone, Charles Barkley to Kevin McHale, Elvin Hayes to Dave DeBusschere.
However, the Los Angeles Clippers Blake Griffin leads a new, more athletic, breed of power forwards.
Other than rebounding, Griffin has continuously developed his game since entering the league in 2009. Still, the Clippers desperately need for him to make a bigger impact, to turn into the star that everyone expects him to eventually become.
The quicker that happens, the faster the Clippers can make their first ever conference finals appearance.
2013-14 Projections: 32 MPG, 20.5 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.2 SPG, 54.5 FG%, 68 FT%
The Los Angeles Clippers look like one of the most potent offenses in the league—at least on paper. While Chris Paul may be the conductor of that offense, Blake Griffin is definitely the motor.
Griffin will be relied upon to provide the energy, toughness and low-post scoring the team desperately needs. The highlight-reel dunks are great and definitely worth watching over and over again. But, it will be the grit and added versatility to Griffin's game that will allow the Clippers to reach their promise this season.
Everyone in the league knows Griffin can breeze past defenders with his solid handles and quickness. However, teams have begun playing off him and forcing him to shoot or drive into the teeth of the defense.
To Griffin’s credit his shooting has improved. According to hoopdata, Griffin shot a mere 27.7 percent from 10-15 feet in 2011-2012, his sophomore campaign, but he improved that mark to 40 percent last season on nearly the same amount of shot attempts.
That number must improve to convince defenders that they need to honor his mid-range shooting. Hopefully that improvement will come this season, Griffin’s second under shooting coach Bob Thate.
Finally, Griffin really needs to put in more work on the glass this season. As a rookie, Griffin pulled down 12.1 rebounds per game, but that number fell to 8.3 last season. Make no mistake, Griffin is being asked to do a lot on both ends of the floor, but rebounding is something that takes effort, and Griffin needs to put in more of it.
Based on his overall growth over the past two seasons, we can expect noticeable improvements to Griffin’s all-around game. The real question will be in what areas has he improved and how significant is that improvement. Adding a reliable jumper and/or more versatile post moves would go a long way toward helping the Clippers win the West.
2013-14 Projections: 18 MPG, 8 PPG, 3.5 RPG, .5 APG, .2 SPG, 46 FG%, 35 3PT%
After not having a forward who can stretch the floor the past two seasons, the team finally signed one in Antawn Jamison.
Jamison provided the Los Angeles Lakers with solid production off the bench last season, scoring 9.4 points per game and shooting 36.1 percent from deep. But he's never been a very good defender, and his problems in that area were again evident last year with the Lakers.
The good news is that Jamison can certainly play extended minutes with DeAndre Jordan, who can help protect the paint while Jamison can stretch the floor on offense. Although that combination relies on Jordan to earn more minutes in order to stay on the floor without the starters.
Regardless, signing Jamison for the veteran minimum this season was a bargain. He provides Doc Rivers with plenty of options on offense and could see extended minutes, provided he's not too much of a liability on the defensive end of the floor.
2013-14 Projections: 17 MPG, 6 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1 APG, .5 SPG, 42 FG%, 32 3PT%
Another big who might be able to stretch the floor, Mullens still has plenty of flaws in his game.
As a member of the Charlotte Bobcats last season, Mullens shot 38.5 percent from the field and 31.7 percent from deep, marks that will not necessarily translate into playing time for the four-year veteran. Still, he is a big body who can contribute on the defensive glass.
Clipper management obviously though he was well worth a roster spot, signing him to a minimum deal for the next two seasons. The hope is that his shooting develops and that he can split time at power forward and center, allowing Rivers with plenty of options to help spread the floor.
Additionally, Mullens is only 24 years old and is still developing his game on both ends of the court. But development comes from getting playing time in actual games.
Mullens will be given every opportunity to prove he belongs in the rotation.