Why Blake Griffin Has Been the Los Angeles Clippers' MVP Thus Far

James LumaluContributor IIIFebruary 4, 2014

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 17:  Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers looks on against the New York Knicks during their game at Madison Square Garden on January 17, 2014 in New York City.    NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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When Chris Paul separated his shoulder, the popular opinion was that the Los Angeles Clippers would struggle and tumble in the Western Conference standings. Instead, the Clippers are 11-5 sans Paul, and a lot of it has to do with the elevated play of Blake Griffin.

Since January 4, Griffin has shouldered the load for the Clippers averaging 26 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. His Usage Rate has rocketed up to third among all power forwards at 25.9 and is behind only Kevin Love (27.0) and LaMarcus Aldridge (28.2) . 

His role as a facilitator has been key to the success of the Clippers offense. He has a particularly keen ability of throwing deft lob passes to Deandre Jordan. 

Zach Lowe of Grantland.com touched on Griffin’s brilliance as a passer in his article, “Dispelling the Blake Griffin Myths”:

Griffin is one of the game’s great big-man passers, a skill that proves useful since teams almost automatically send help toward Griffin post-ups at this point. News flash: NBA coaches don’t send help at guys who can’t score on the block. Griffin has assisted on 17 percent of L.A. baskets while on the floor, a very good mark for a big man, and among bigs, only Marc Gasol records more “hockey assists” per game than Griffin.

Griffin is currently having a career year scoring the ball, averaging 23.3 points. A large part of that is due to his improvement at the free-throw line where he is shooting 70.1 percent (which is up 4.1 percent from last season).

From a career perspective the progress is staggering.

It was just two seasons ago that Griffin was shooting 52.1 percent from the line, but guidance from shooting coach Bob Thate has helped make those woes a thing of the past.

Defense is another area where Griffin has shown improvement under the tutelage of coach Doc Rivers.

He is faster on rotations and is third in the league in charges drawn with 15 (per Jeff Fox of Hoops Manifesto). And while he may never rack up blocks (0.6 per game) because of his short wingspan, the overall maturation complements Griffin’s athleticism and aids in his ability to protect the rim.

Pundits and fans love to say that Griffin has no skills other than dunking, but that could not be further from the truth.

Improvement is never instantaneous, and Griffin’s hard work has helped reveal himself to be a multifaceted threat for the Clippers.

The Clippers were supposed to sink without Paul, but thanks to Griffin they are just 2.5 games behind the San Antonio Spurs for the second seed.