Doc Rivers Opens The Playbook for Blake Griffin

Oct 7, 2013; Portland, OR, USA; Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers speaks with power forward Blake Griffin (32) on the bench during the second quarter of the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Gone are the days of Vinny Del Negro‘s offense. Though the Los Angeles Clippers have only participated in two preseason games, the changes are a bit jarring. There’s more movement, more screens and more motions from all five players on the floor as Doc does his best to create spacing. And one way he’s done so is moving Blake Griffin off screens to get him open shots.

It’s an interesting dynamic considering Blake Griffin shot 33 percent on jump shots last season (h/t: Basketball Reference) which is extremely low for someone you’re running plays for. But Rivers knows that keeping Jordan on the move opens the floor for Blake and those around him. To take the next step as a player, Griffin must improve on his shot from range and Rivers is putting him into position to do so as he once did for Kevin Garnett in Boston.

Griffin 1

The play here begins with what looks like a double screen from DeAndre Jordan and Blake. Instead of taking his man into Griffin, Chris Paul forces Trey Burke into DeAndre Jordan as he maneuvers his way to the top of the key.

Grifin 2

As Blake Griffin fades down from the double screen, this gives Jordan space to set a down-screen on Dominic McGuire who is playing Griffin for the lob instead of the pop. And instead of sticking to Griffin as he pops up from the screen Enes Kanter drops down with Jordan causing himself to be screen. The result is this:

In this play which is similar to the first, the Clippers use a misdirection to send the attention away from Griffin as Paul swing the ball to Jordan who hits Jamal Crawford in the high post. With most of the attention on the strong side of the offense, Paul sets a down screen to get Blake open at the free throw line which results in this:

Griffin 4

Blake doesn’t get a wide-open opportunity due to his slow release, but he does score on the play. While getting Blake open is the objective to a play such as this, keeping DeAndre Jordan on the move is just as important. If he’s stagnant on offense it’ll allow defenses to play 5-on-4 against the Clippers giving them the upper hand. And with Griffin’s passing abilities, teams can’t just play him for the catch-and-shoot when he receives the ball.

Griffin 5

Here’s the play in live motion:

Here’s another example of the motion play.

Griffin 6

It’s the same set-up as the last play with Willie Green on the wing instead of Crawford in the high-post. Dudley cuts through the paint into the corner and Jordan heads to the left block. CP then sets a half-hearted screen on Derrick Favors which leads to Griffin open at the free throw.

Griffin 7

The result of the play is a made contested jumper, but look at Griffin’s feet as he comes off the screen. Pair that with his slow release and he’ll never be able to get off a clean shot as defenders will recover by the time he’s set. Improving with his foot work off screens is a must if he wants this part of the offense to continue throughout the season. Surely J.J. Redick can get him a few pointers on how to set his feet off screens.

It’s safe to say the Clippers are already a better team than they were last year and that’s not even speaking on the offseason additions. What was the biggest problem outside of their big-man defense, this offense is finally looking like something out of the NBA and not the NCAA. These sets will likely hinge on Blake’s ability to improve as a shooter, but it’s a great start for this team.

If Blake can get his 16-23 footer shot to hit at a rate similar to what Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap shot last season (around 38 percent), NBA defenses will dread this Clippers team come playoff time.

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