Blake Griffin Must Cement His New Status with Huge NBA Playoffs

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Blake Griffin Must Cement His New Status with Huge NBA Playoffs
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It's taken nearly four years, but the masses are finally coming around in seeing how impressive an all-around player Blake Griffin is.

To really cement his status as a top-10 NBA player and the best power forward in the game, though, he will need to do something he has yet to accomplish in his career: come through in the postseason.

Chris Paul's arrival transformed the Los Angeles Clippers into perennial contenders. However, the Clips have underachieved in the playoffs the last two seasons, failing to earn a single win past the first round.

The knock on L.A. in the playoffs has been their overreliance on Paul to carry them through. He's been forced to do everything for them offensively in large part because Griffin has often disappeared in big postseason contests.

Over his 17 playoff games, Griffin is averaging just 17 points and 6.4(!) rebounds on 48.7 percent shooting, posting a 19.5 PER.

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Griffin has been two completely different players in the regular season and postseason.

Those numbers are nowhere near his career regular-season averages of 21.2 points and 10.2 boards on 53 percent from the field, good enough for a 22.7 PER.

In both postseasons, the Clippers have been better with Griffin off the court than they have with him on the court, per Basketball-Reference.com.

Griffin goes from performing like a second-team All-NBA superstar (an honor he has achieved each of the past two seasons) to merely an above-average forward who can't even competently rebound.

That trend can't continue if the Clippers are to be true championship contenders.

If he keeps playing at the level he currently is, though, L.A. need not worry.

Griffin has turned himself into an all-around offensive dynamo, capable of scoring in a variety of ways, creatively finding open teammates and even running fast breaks all by himself.

He has beefed up his post-up game to the point that he ranks in the top 30 in the league in points per possession on post-ups, according to MySynergySports (subscription required).

And now that he's more confident in his free-throw shooting, Griffin is back to aggressively attacking the rim. He has attempted more field goals in the restricted area than anyone in the league, and his 70.5 percent conversion rate there is tied for fifth among players with at least 200 attempts, per NBA.com.

But the biggest indicator that Griffin has made the leap for good is how well he played in the five weeks Paul missed due to injury.

Joe Murphy/Getty Images
Griffin carried the Clippers when Paul was sidelined with a shoulder injury.

Over that 20-game span, Griffin averaged over 27 points a night on 55.5 percent shooting, grabbed nearly nine rebounds and dished out 4.5 assists per game.

"It's about being more aggressive, carrying a little bit more of the scoring load," Griffin told ESPN LA's Arash Markazi last month, just prior to Paul's return. "But at the same time be a facilitator when I need to and keep the offense going smoothly." 

And did it ever go smoothly.

Per NBA.com, the Clippers' offense scored 112.8 points per 100 possessions, nearly 3.5 points better than their mark for the entire season and well above the Miami Heat's overall league-leading figure.

Oh, and L.A. won 14 of those 20 contests with the NBA's top floor general out of the lineup.

Head coach Doc Rivers was impressed with his young star.

Noah Graham/Getty Images
Doc Rivers has been wowed by Griffin's full potential.

"I expected greatness," Rivers told Markazi when asked his expectation for Griffin. "But he's done things we didn't know he could do as well, and clearly we're taking advantage of him in the open court with the ball. That's something we didn't know he could do and now we know he can do."

Griffin has kept it up since Paul's re-introduction. Paul now trusts Griffin to pull down a defensive rebound, take it coast-to-coast and make a play in transition.

Los Angeles' key to a deep playoff run will be having two unguardable offensive weapons who can score at will as well as create quality looks for their teammates.

That's been the missing ingredient in past postseason failures.

If, nay when, Blake Griffin produces like this in the playoffs, the basketball world will finally come to a consensus on his greatness.

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