Blake Griffin struggles to sustain dominance throughout games.
Did he just do what I think he did?
Blake Griffin has performed unbelievable feats in his inaugural season in the NBA. The 21-year-old power forward’s game exudes a style unparalleled by anyone in the Association. The aforementioned statement is quite evident even though the young man has merely played 36 games into his NBA career.
He truly is one of a kind.
Still, where the high-flyer showcases style and flare, he backs it up with substance. Griffin currently finds himself third in the League in rebounding and top 15 in scoring. Even more impressive, Griffin has recorded 23 consecutive double-doubles. By his standards, Griffin has only had seven “off games,” where he did not achieve a double-double. Along with 22-year-old Eric Gordon, he is carrying a young, depleted Clippers’ team, on his broad, muscular shoulders.
Griffin plays a specific brand of basketball that leaves coaches drooling. Pardon the cliché, but he always gives 100 percent. Unfortunately, that quality has occasionally gotten Griffin into serious trouble. For instance, he was forced to miss the entire ‘09-10 NBA season when he injured his kneecap on a ferocious dunk during the preseason. Whether it’s exhibition or the real thing, this guy will go all out.
Not surprisingly, this mindset has made him the dominant player he is today. Griffin’s enthusiastic play has produced dozens of viral videos to the point that he is recognized by casual NBA fans, as well. More importantly, his extraordinary will to win and “never-take-a-play off” approach is contagious. Although the Clippers find themselves near the bottom of the Western Conference, the squad has won seven of its last 10. Plus, Griffin scores nearly 24 points per game on 60 percent shooting in Clipper victories. In wins, he grabs over 13 boards per contest. In a sense, it appears as though Blake Griffin has the ability to will his team to win.
Unfortunately, there is a costly drawback to the 6-10 forward’s style of play.
He tires himself out.
The former Oklahoma Sooner dominates the first quarter on a regular basis, only to see his performance decline the remainder of the game. Of course, we realize that Blake Griffin’s not as impressive second through fourth quarters are better than most guys’ usual efforts. Still, Griffin’s post-first quarter decline is still a very tangible problem.
The impressive rookie scores 37 percent of his points in the first quarter. After that first period, his offensive output decreases drastically. Take a look:
One might argue that Griffin scores so many points in the first quarter because he plays a great deal of minutes early in games. Here, we control for that by calculating the points Griffin scores per minute played (in each quarter). In other words, we are measuring scoring rate, irrespective of the big man’s playing time per quarter. Again, his first quarter performance dominates relative to the other three quarters. Griffin is the weakest, according to this measure, in the third quarter of games. We graph his quarterly performance below:
Below, we see once again that Griffin performs the best in the first quarter when his legs are most fresh. Although Griffin’s shooting percentage increases from the third to fourth quarter, it never comes anywhere close to its first quarter level. Observe:
The way Blake Griffin soars through the air, one could easily assume that he possesses an infinite supply of energy; that the laws of gravity and fatigue do not apply to this godlike figure. Such thinking is clearly misguided. He is human like the rest of us, as evidenced by the aforementioned data.
One obvious reason for Griffin’s offensive decline through the progression of games is his energetic style of play. He puts a great deal of energy into his acrobatic slam dunks, and many people forget that he also brings the ball up the floor from time to time. In addition, Griffin plays a whole lot of minutes. He logs the most minutes of any rookie at a clip of 37.1 minutes per game (John Wall is second with 36.3). In fact, only three rookies including Griffin even play over 30 minutes per night (Landry Fields of the Knicks is the third).