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Los Angeles Clippers Need More Than They're Getting from Blake Griffin

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistNovember 10, 2014

Los Angeles Clippers' Blake Griffin looks to shoot during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Clippers' 4-2 start has been anything but auspicious, and Blake Griffin's shoddy offensive production has been one reason why. 

Although Griffin is averaging a career-high 24.5 points through six games, efficiency has eluded him as he's drifted away from the basket. 

To date, Griffin is knocking down just 46.3 percent of his field-goal attempts (his career low is 50.6) while attempting 20.2 shots a night (3.2 more than last season's career high). 

While the increase in touches is hardly a concern, Griffin's seemingly fallen in love with his mid-range jump shot throughout the first two weeks of the season. 

November 8, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) shoots against the Portland Trail Blazers during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

After attempting 40.7 percent of his shots inside of three feet and another 21.8 percent between three and 10 feet last season, according to Basketball-Reference.com, Griffin has continually opted for mid-range looks that have tinkered with his efficiency. 

Thus far, a paltry 21.5 percent of Griffin's total shots have come within three feet, while 24 percent have come between three and 10 feet. 

To further illustrate the disparity, take a look at the complete distribution here: 

Blake Griffin's Shot Distribution (2013-14 vs. 2014-15)
Season0-3 Feet3-10 Feet10-16 Feet16 Feet-3 point LineThree Pointers
2013-1440.7 %21.8 %7.6 %26.7 %3.2 %
2014-1521.5 %24.0 %13.2 %38.8 %2.5 %
Basketball-Reference

As you can see, Griffin's not only attempting fewer shots in the paint and restricted area, but his volume of shots between 16 feet and the three-point line has increased by 12.1 percent. 

Here's what that production looks like, according to NBA.com

Blake Griffin's 2014-15 Shot Chart
Blake Griffin's 2014-15 Shot ChartNBA.com/Stats

The main takeaway: Griffin has attempted more shots from mid-range (61) than he has from the paint and restricted area combined, which is atypical for a player with his savvy down on the blocks. 

Those figures are fine for a mid-range savant like LaMarcus Aldridge, but Griffin's jump shot isn't the centerpiece of his well-rounded arsenal. While it can—and most certainly should—function as a component of his game, Griffin's primary focus should be on making defenders match up with his size and speed. 

By continually settling for mid-range jumpers, he's voluntarily neutralizing his greatest strength. 

As you'd expect, Griffin enjoys catching the ball with his back to the basket in post-up situations, leaving him with several options, as seen in the following clip from Poulard_NBA

First, he can face up and threaten to knock down a jump shot from just above the block. But if the mood strikes, Griffin is more than capable of putting the ball on the deck and using his raw size and strength to overpower defenders and convert an easy shot off glass. 

As Grantland's Zach Lowe wrote this past January, Griffin's post game has evolved tremendously of late: 

Griffin has post moves and countermoves. I repeat: Blake Griffin has actual post moves. He prefers to work from the left block, as most righties do, and if he’s backing you down there, he’s probably going for his righty jump hook in the lane. Sit too blatantly on that, and he’ll fake it, watch you jump, and go to a lefty up-and-under layin. He’s gotten stronger as a back-down force. You can’t guard him with weaker post defenders anymore, and he even knocked Joakim Noah off-balance with shoulder blocks last week in Chicago.

With a vast array of moves, Griffin can't afford to ignore his scoring roots. While his mid-range jump shot represents an encouraging step in the right direction as it pertains to versatility, Griffin's at his best when operating as an explosive pick-and-roll finisher and post-up scorer. 

And while you wouldn't know Griffin's lacked aggression simply by looking at his free-throw numbers (7.2 attempts per game), he's aware of his shortcomings. 

"I don't think I should ever go through a game where I only shoot one free throw, and it has nothing to do with the officiating," Griffin said following a 121-104 loss to the Golden State Warriors, according to the Los Angeles Times' Ben Bolch. "It has to do with me personally attacking the basket." 

A passive approach is also unacceptable when you consider how much of the Clippers offense is already predicated on outside shooting. 

Following Saturday's 106-102 win against the Portland Trail Blazers, L.A. ranks seventh in threes attempted per game (24.7) and eighth in nightly conversions (8.3) thanks to the strokes of J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford and Chris Paul, among others. 

The final key for Griffin, though, will be generating more consistent effort on the glass.

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 31: Jamal Crawford #11 and Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers rebounds against the Los Angeles Lakers at STAPLES Center on October 31, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agre
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

With his rebounding average down a full 3.2 boards from last season (currently sitting at 6.5 per game), Griffin hasn't looked like his usual, determined self.  

According to NBA.com, Griffin is hauling in just 2.2 contested rebounds per game, a number which pales in comparison to those posted by Tim Duncan (7.7 per game), Anthony Davis (7.0) and even Greg Monroe (6.5).

With a contested rebounding percentage of 34.2, Griffin is grouped with guards like Derrick Rose, Klay Thompson and Mo Williams, while ranking slightly behind rookie Elfrid Payton. 

The good news is that all of these problems are correctable. With some simple adjustments, Griffin can return to All-Star form and help thrust the Clippers back into ultra-efficient offensive waters. 

And considering a matchup with Duncan looms on Monday, Griffin will need to channel the positive qualities that earned him MVP consideration a year ago in order to jump-start his resurgence. 

All statistics courtesy of NBA.com and current as of Nov. 9 unless noted otherwise.