Blake Griffin: Slam Dunk Champion, NBA All-Star, Franchise Savior?

Michael PerchickCorrespondent IFebruary 21, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 09:  Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers dunks the ball against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on February 9, 2011 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. The Clippers defeated the Knicks 116-108.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Blake Griffin has wowed the NBA with his supreme athleticism and thunderous slams.  But behind all the glitz and glamour, the question that needs to be asked is: how good is Blake Griffin?

Your average NBA fan sees nothing more than the highlights and stats that media outlets parade.  But when you break down his game, how much is there?

Nobody can deny that Blake is a really exciting player.  However, his mid-range game leaves a lot to be desired, and he's a huge liability at the free throw line.  On average, he's missing 3.3 free throws per game.  Now, if he were to make one more free throw a game, would the Clippers suddenly be a playoff team?  No.  But they may be able to get a win out of it, and force defenses to not resort to fouling Griffin on easy drives to the basket.

In terms of him being an All-Star, his stats are off-the-charts, especially for a rookie.  But shouldn't All-Stars represent winning teams? The Clippers still stink with him, and that's with a team that is much more talented than given credit for (Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman and DeAndre Jordan form a very solid supporting cast).

Monta Ellis was top-five in scoring in the NBA last year, and is top-five again this season, and has no All-Star appearances to show for it.  Throw in that Golden State is markedly better than the Clippers this season, and it's easy to question how Blake makes it despite his team having such a poor record. 

Now the positives: He's a very hard worker, and a guy fans love to root for and watch.  But eventually, defenses are going to figure out how to defend him.  Give him room on the perimeter, and make him beat you with a jumper.  Until he develops a mid-range game, defenses will be able to pack the middle, or give him space on the outside, limiting his offensive potential. 

Has he made LA a two-team town?  Kind of.  

As much as Blake has done, the Lakers shocking struggles have also forced Blake and the Clippers into the limelight.  But again, the Clippers, despite all the hype and attention they're getting, are 21-35, and 16.5 games behind the Lakers.  

When you actually sit down and look at it, they're nowhere close to LA's dominant team.

Could the Clippers be a good team in two years?  Of course.  

Blake needs to work on his free throws, and develop a mid-range game—he doesn't have to be draining threes like Love, but just enough of a consistent jump shot so defenses can't play off on him—to be a more effective player.

Defensively, Blake is listed generously as 6'10.  But despite his quickness, he's consistently bodied by bigs.  He can still had 10-15 pounds to his frame, thus making him better defensively guarding bigger power forwards (think about Pau and LaMarcus Aldridge), and giving him a stronger post game offensively as well.  

Blake has had a great rookie season, but the hype around him has lead people to believe he's the best power forward in the league.  He's not even the best power forward in Los Angeles!  He's a great young talent, with a lot of potential, but he'll have to work on his entire game in order to join the elite.