The growth of Clipper bigs: Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan

Once upon a time, DeAndre Jordan was a long, 6-11 body that had promising potential written all over it.  However, he couldn’t quite exhibit the skill needed to be an effective center in the NBA.  In his first two seasons, Jordan was known as a prospect and served as a decent backup center.  In his third year, Jordan started to become a qualified basket protector as he averaged 1.8 blocks in just over 25 minutes per game.

Photo courtesy of sportsillustrated.cnn.com

As a sophomore in the 2008-09 college season, Blake Griffin was the reason for much of the hype surrounding the 2009 NBA Draft.  Sooner Nation’s own had been loyal to Oklahoma’s program as he stayed two full years.  That was despite having superior athleticism and scary potential well before his arrival in the NBA.  Unfortunately, Griffin had to sit out his entire rookie year for what had eventually become a broken left knee cap.  That left knee cap is presumably doing well as of today.

Blake Griffin is averaging a career high in points at just under 24 per game.  Griffin seems to score the ball with more ease than he had before.  For the most part, Griffin had been pretty dependent on catching a pass from Chris Paul and finishing at the hoop.  Obviously, that still remains the case several times a game because of Paul’s outstanding point guard skill.  However, with more work on his game and a confident approach, Griffin is finally starting to create his own shot.  A couple years ago, Griffin’s game in the post was somewhat limited.  In order to be an elite big man, you need to have a few post moves you can rely on.

Big men are known to struggle at the free throw line and sometimes there’s just no way around it.  However, Griffin has put in the work and found his touch.  He has risen his free throw percentage to a respectable 70 percent.  His improvement on the line is a valuable part of his game we must not forget.  Not only on the free throw line are his shots falling.  He has learned to stop being hesitant about taking open midrange jumpers and added a decent stroke to his resume.

Photo courtesy of washingtonpost.com

Moving on to DeAndre Jordan.  It’s no coincidence that his game dramatically elevated right after Doc Rivers took the Clippers’ coaching job.  Rivers uses motivation and knowledge to turn players into much better players.  That especially goes for big men on the defensive end.  Keep in mind that Kendrick Perkins also became a top post defender under Doc’s lead.

Jordan is averaging a league-high 14 rebounds per game and 2.4 blocks to go along with that.  He has boosted his activity around the basket and it’s paid off for the Clippers.  Size can’t be taught.  Size is just something Jordan has always been blessed with.  However, being really tall and athletic doesn’t assure you to be dominant in one facet of the game.  You have to study film and work at it until you understand how to stop players at the basket.

Doc Rivers demanded that we take the emphasis off the term “Lob City.”  There are still plenty of lobs to be caught by Griffin and Jordan.  They’ll still continue to generate poster after poster and amaze fans on SportsCenter every morning.  Most importantly, the Clippers have found a winning ingredient that isn’t just about flash.  It’s about being a student of the game, knowing how to play your role, and executing.  Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan have done just that.

 

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  • KellyRichards19

    Jordan’s game has shown more improvement during his short time under Doc Rivers than all the years under Vinny combined. He’s always been an athletic freak, but the lack of confidence the previous staff had in him probably held him back and affected his confidence in himself. Since Doc got there he’s praised DeAndre over and over, expanded his role on the team and given him valuable 4th quarter minutes. Watching DeAndre being vocal and setting up the team on the defensive end on the court is something you never saw from him before and shows how much confidence Doc has in him. Call me crazy, but I can see DeAndre evolving into one of the top 3 defensive centers in the league under Doc’s coaching.

    • Zach Tennen

      I definitely agree, if he isn’t already a top three defensive center. Doc transforms players.