Quiet Blake Griffin Transformation You May Not Have Noticed Yet

Oren FriedmanCorrespondent IIDecember 12, 2013

Where has Blake Griffin quietly excelled this season?
Where has Blake Griffin quietly excelled this season?Brian Babineau/Getty Images

Despite boasting similar numbers to his career averages, Blake Griffin is discretely transforming into an even better player than he has been over his first three seasons in the NBA.

Putting up 20.6 PPG and 10.4 boards, Griffin is one of just nine players averaging a double-double in points and rebounds. His 16 double-doubles are tied for the third-most in the league, just behind his teammate Chris Paul and league leader Kevin Love.

Points and boards have long been BG’s bread and butter, but the Oklahoma standout is beginning to excel in other facets of the game as well.

Specifically, Griffin’s ability and willingness to knock down the open jumper has opened up the floor dramatically for Lob City. Griffin is also improved on defense, and finally appears to be grasping some of Doc Rivers’ complex  schemes.

Where exactly are these quiet transformations taking place? How has Griffin’s development fared in Lob City?

Let’s delve into some of the key transformations you might not have noticed yet.


Elbow Operations

Allowing Paul more room to work and facilitate, Griffin has taken his game from the low-post out to the elbow.

While Griffin still earns some of his points banging opponents on the low-block, his success on the perimeter has been a revelation in Los Angeles. Griffin is physical enough to back down smaller defenders, and agile enough to blow by big men that step out to him.

Griffin averages 12.6 elbow touches per game, the second-highest mark in the league behind Marc Gasol, per NBA.com. His 12.6 touches are at least a full touch more on average than big man elbow savants Love and LaMarcus Aldridge.

BG’s improvement in his mechanics has allowed him to knock down 50 percent of his attempts from the right elbow between 16 and 24 feet. From just beyond the free-throw line, he is converting an effective 41.9 percent of his attempts.

Those numbers are significantly higher than Griffin’s effectiveness from the same spots last season. In the 2012-13 campaign, the big man converted just 33.9 percent of his attempts from mid-range on the right side and 30.9 percent from the center.

Griffin’s improved stroke has not gone unnoticed:

“He’ll tell you in a heartbeat that every time I give it to him, I tell him, ‘Shoot it, shoot it,’ because nobody works on it as much as he does,” Paul said. “I have the utmost confidence in him.”

Griffin’s adept court vision has also allowed his teammates to score more easy buckets. According to NBA.com’s Player Tracking Data, Griffin is averaging 56.2 passes per game. He is just one of three big men to be in the top 25 in that category, resulting in an average of 3.0 assists per game.

Working from the elbow has opened up space for DeAndre Jordan in the low post. With sharpshooters around the perimeter and Griffin hanging by the elbow, Jordan is reaping the rewards of Griffin’s improved game, averaging a career high 9.7 points per game, mostly in the unclogged paint.

While Griffin has always been tremendous on offense, his improved offseason has resulted in a new Blake Griffin capable of elevating the games of those around him.

Griffin has become one of the best at operating from the elbow.
Griffin has become one of the best at operating from the elbow.Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Defensive Awareness

Along with Jordan, Griffin is captaining the Clippers’ much improved back-line defense.

That once porous Clippers’ defense is now the ninth-stingiest in the league. Lob City is giving up just 100.5 points per 100 possessions.

Although it is far off the pace being set by the likes of the Indiana Pacers and the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles’ improvement is well noted. Lob City hung around the bottom 10 in the league through the first 10 games of the season.

Of Clipper rotations that have logged at least 30 minutes of action together, Griffin belongs to four of the stiffest five defensive units. Compared to last season, this is a significant improvement.

Among five-man units that logged at least 100 minutes together during the 2012-13 campaign, Griffin belonged to just one of the best five defensive rotations.

Griffin’s defense passes the eye test too.

Although some of his hedges can be off, his back-line communication is much more effective than in years past. BG appears to be grasping a more cerebral quality to team defense, something absent in years past.

As such, it is no surprise the Clippers are continuing to tighten up their defense and improve their overall quality of play. Griffin is at the forefront of the offensive renaissance in Los Angeles as well as the new defensive impact.

His improvements throughout the season will only make this squad more potent as the season goes on.

All statistics accurate as of December 11, 2013. Statistics used from NBA.com and ESPN.com.