Why Blake Griffin Is on the Verge of Superstardom for LA Clippers

Ethan Sherwood Strauss@SherwoodStraussNBA Lead WriterOctober 12, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 20:  Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers reacts in the fourth quarter while taking on the San Antonio Spurs in Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 20, 2011 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The ringing taunt of "Flop City" grew louder and louder as the Los Angeles Clippers turned heel over the course of one NBA season. "Lob City" was how the Clips were sold; "Flop City" was how they came to be loathed. 

Blake Griffin suffered a dramatic drop in approval rating due to his acting tendencies. It was not unusual to see him drive, fall and roll around as though electrocuted by swarming, invisible eels.

People grew tired of the flopping, and it seeped into the assessment of Griffin. Whispers of "overrated" and "regressing" surfaced despite consistently fine play.

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN put it like this:

Griffin's first season was one of pure affection, but the only thing we enjoy more than falling in love with a star is falling out of love with him. Last season, fans wallpapered the Internet with his highlights, but lately Griffin is being seen through a different lens. We still get breathless whenever he gets loose above the rim, but that anticipation brings with it the growing feeling that what was deemed basketball perfection less than a year ago has evolved into something else.

I'm not sure what the expectations were for Blake Griffin, because I did not share in the collective disappointment. He is not far away from being a top-five player, and he did show progress toward such an eventuality. 

Last season, Griffin upped his long-two percentage all the way to 37 percent (via Hoopdata). The threshold for such a shot being a legitimate threat hovers around 40 percent and above.

Griffin is not far from forcing defenses to come out and guard his pick-and-pop jumper. When that happens, he has one of the best big-man handles in hoops by which to burn defenses.

He continued his paint dominance, attempting 7.2 shots at the rim and converting at a 73.7 percent rate. His game remains more than just "dunks," though.

His rebounding was as dominant as his paint offense. Griffin grabbed 10.9 per night—down a tick from the 12.1 he managed as a rookie—but it's not like he suffered a massive regression. So long as he's in his 20s, and healthy, his boards and paint offense should be a given. 

Griffin is a fine passer at his position too, averaging 3.5 assists over his career. Though his defense is cited as deficient, his team did not play worse on that end when he was in the game. 

At age 23, at 20-and-10 numbers, Blake Griffin has a firm foundation to build upon. He merely needs to creep above that 37 percent average on long twos, and elite status awaits.

Dismiss him as some hype creation at your peril. This guy could be a top-three player within three years.