A Focused Blake Griffin is MVP Blake Griffin

Remember when the strategy was to play off of Blake Griffin because he couldn’t shoot for his life? Well those days are long gone. Every season Griffin adds a new element to his game to make him better, and this year he has gotten off to a tremendous start.

The 6 foot 10 forward came into this league in 2010 and thrived because of his athleticism and dunking ability. Since then, he has learned how to expand his game to become one of the best, if not the best, power forward in the NBA.

The MVP chants have already started at the Staples Center for their prized player. Through the first five games of this season, Griffin is playing some of the best basketball in the NBA. He is fourth in the league in points per game with 29.3 and is also hauling 9.7 rebounds per game. The next closest player at his position is Anthony Davis with 25.2 points per game. Griffin has been scoring efficiently with a 59.8 FG % and has a PER of 32.8. If not for Stephen Curry’s unhuman performances, Blake Griffin would be topping the league in PER.

Can Blake Griffin keep up these type of numbers as the season unfolds? Absolutely. Last season, he started to fall in love with his mid-range jumper and stopped attacking the rim as often as usual. He took 32.8 percent of his shots at the rim (0-3 feet) and 37.8 percent on long twos (16 feet out to the arc). The mid-range shot has turned into a weapon in Griffin’s arsenal, who shot 40.7% on those long twos last season. This season, Griffin looks like he has a found a balance to his offensive game and has also polished his mid-range jumper – now shooting an even more deadly 54.1% through his first five games. The past two years Blake Griffin has been on the fringe of the MVP conversation, but the way he has stepped up this season is remarkable and should be noted.

How has Blake’s shooting evolved into such a weapon for him? Fellow teammate J.J Redick believes he knows why:

“He’s more confident, but that confidence comes from work. I always say it’s form, repetition and confidence are the three things to shooting. But you can’t have confidence unless you have something representing good form. And if you’ve put in the work, and Blake’s put in the work to have great form, he (ends up) shooting the ball with great confidence.”

Griffin’s game has transitioned away from his jaw-dropping dunks. He still shows flashes of his athleticism through his dunking abilities, but now he has started to veer towards using jumpers, runners and hook shots more for the sake of the longevity of his career. Blake Griffin has already established himself as a freak of athletic nature, and now cares more about his health and doing whatever he can to help the Clippers win and making that push deep into the postseason.

When you watch how Griffin has mentally and physically approached this season, you can tell he is sick of getting knocked out early in the playoffs. He has evaluated every part of his life after the Clippers’ crushing loss to the Houston Rockets in the second round of the playoffs last season.

It’s educating myself on a lot of different things. I’m definitely taking a different approach, but as far as basketball goes, still trying to play the same way. Leadership-wise, how I carry myself every day, I tried to make a little more of a change.”

Some of his training methods for this season were unheard of for NBA players to do. He trained with handball legend Timbo Gonzalez to work on his hand-eye coordination. He took lessons from sprinting Olympian Carmelita Jeter to improve his explosiveness. He grappled with UFC fighter Donald Cerrone to enhance his performance and positioning down low.

He’s approaching the season the best … ” Rivers said, pausing to try and describe what he’s seen. “Where he’s at, it’s just phenomenal.”

Phenomenal. If Blake Griffin can keep this train moving, which barring injury he should be able to do, that is the word we will be seeing associated with his name. This could be the year the Los Angeles Clippers get past the second round with their superstar’s new developed focus and mindset. There are not many players that are as valuable to the success of their team as Blake Griffin is to his. If Curry ever settles down, Griffin will be the one accepting an MVP award at the end of the season.

photo via llananba