Los Angeles Clippers’ forward Blake Griffin is a highlight reel wrapped in a conundrum. Griffin led the league in dunks this season but his production wasn’t nearly as spectacular as some of his above-the-rim acrobatics.
His second-year numbers were actually worse than the numbers he posted his rookie season. It seems weird that his numbers would decline when you consider he didn’t have a point guard as good as Chris Paul to get him the ball during his rookie year.
That’s not to say his numbers this year were horrible. Griffin did average 20.7 points and 10.9 rebounds this season but he doesn’t have much of a low-post game.
That means someone else had to set him up for most of his scores. As the season progressed, teams sought to take away his dunking by sending him to the line more and forcing him out of the paint.
It was a good strategy since Griffin only hit 52 percent of his free throws last season. He shot 64 percent from the line during his rookie year so the 12 percent drop in shooting played a part in his scoring decline.
But it wasn’t the only reason. Teams knew that the Clippers wanted to get out and run so teams would slow the tempo and force the Clippers to play more half-court basketball.
This was the Memphis Grizzlies’ strategy during their first-round matchup with the Clippers. They slowed the pace, denied the Clippers fast break opportunities and tried to beat Griffin up every time he touched the ball.
And it nearly worked. Memphis came back from a 3-1 deficit and pushed the Clippers to a decisive Game 7. What’s more, they limited Griffin to only eight points and four rebounds in the final game of the series.
The Clippers were able to survive that game though due to the stellar play of their bench players. While Griffin’s lack of effectiveness in that game didn’t prevent L.A. from advancing, it did give the San Antonio Spurs a blueprint for how to contain him when they faced off in the second-round.
The Spurs would sweep L.A. but all the bumps and bruises Griffin suffered during the playoffs will be a great thing for the Clippers next season. Griffin got to see that the playoffs are a completely different game and he will be prepared to help the Clippers advance even further next year.
That means we will see a much improved Griffin for the 2012-2013 season. He knows that his poor free throw shooting, poor outside shooting and lack of a consistent post game were hindrances for his team this year and he will come back a much better player next year.
And look for him to add a little more muscle also. He took a lot of hard fouls towards the end of the regular season and all throughout the playoffs. He knows that teams will continue to play him physically until he proves he can make them pay for playing him like that.
So just like the character Steve Austin in the old tv show, the Six Million Dollar Man, look for a bigger and better Blake Griffin next season. Besides, it’s in Griffin’s best interest to bulk up and improve his game because if he doesn’t then he risks suffering a serious injury as teams continue to beat him up.
And if his body suffers too much damage we may not have the technology to fix him.
Roosevelt Hall is an NFL Blogger for The Sport Mentalist and an NBA Blogger for The Sport Mentalist 2. He is also a Sports Reporter for Pro Sports Lives. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to follow him on Twitter @sportmentalist.