Chris Paul has been in the NBA for eight years, only escaping the first round a total of two times. He’s seen his friends win championships and knows by now what it takes to get to that level. Long story short: he thinks that Blake Griffin is the key for the Los Angeles Clippers to take the next step in this league:
“Blake is one of those guys, where his age has nothing to do with anything,” Paul said in a wide-ranging phone interview with ESPNLosAngeles.com this week. “People may say he’s a young guy, but he’s been special in this league, he’s been an All-Star. His voice carries a lot of weight and I think our team will definitely go as Blake goes.
“He’s our guy, and he’s good enough to do so.”
via CP3 says hopes rest on Blake Griffin | ESPN LA
Paul is absolutely right. A lower-body injury hampered Blake Griffin’s effort during the 2013 playoffs and we saw how it affected the Clippers. As good as Chris Paul is, he can’t carry the team on his back no matter how hard he tries. Jared Dudley and J. J. Redick are great acquisitions, but neither wing has the talents to carry a championship team.
Look at all teams that are championship level: if the team wins it has more to do with what the second best player does moreso than the first. With stars such as Kevin Durant, Lebron James etc. we’ve come to expect these players to do what they do on a nightly basis. It’s the Russell Westbrook’s and Dwyane Wade’s that can be the difference between a loss and a win. We saw that throughout the 2013 NBA Playoffs with Wade’s up-and-down playoffs, but when he showed up the Miami Heat looked like the team we always thought of them as.
Everyone knows how talented Griffin is. Add that with his nightly highlight reels and he’s the idea star. But it’s time for him to take the next step as a power forward. Redick and Dudley will do wonders on the perimeter, giving Griffin more room to work with on the block, but improvement on his jumpshot and defense are crucial. Playing alongside DeAndre Jordan, Blake’s abillity to spread the floor can be the difference between a first-round exit or a Western Conference finals appearance.
According to NBA Stats, Griffin shot 35 percent from mid-range. For a more detailed look on his shooting numbers, here are his numbers per spot via Hoop Data:
- At Rim: 77 percent
- 3-9 Feet: 50 percent
- 10-15 Feet: 40 percent
- 16-23 Feet: 34 percent
Both the 10-15 feet and 16-23 feet are below the league average by three or four points, but with a full summer under his belt an improvement is likely to happen. If he can make this step as a player, people will finally consider the Clippers a legit title contender.
An importance factor in getting Griffin to be the guy that carries this team forward is how the shot distribution will play out. Last season both Griffin and Jamal Crawford averaged 13.4 shots per game. Griffin’s shots per game dropped to 10.7 in the playoffs. His drop in shots (and playing time) contributed to career lows in point per game. Crawford is a key player, but there’s no reason he should be averaging as many shots per game as the second best player on the team. When it came time to win games, Vinny Del Negro relied to heavily on team depth instead of going with an eight man rotation getting the most out of his key guys. Surely Doc Rivers will change this come playoff time.
We’ll see how it plays out, but entering this season this team will have a lot of expectations. Hopefully Blake can carry them to a season in June.