The Los Angeles Clippers are in a prime position to go on a long run to an NBA championship, but that all depends on the status of star power forward Blake Griffin. The man has size at 6'10", 251 pounds, but his health has become a bit of a red flag this year.
Not only has Griffin missed the Clippers' past two games with a strained hamstring, but he has also dealt with a burst bursa sac in his elbow this season. In fact, the latter injury has been one he has played through in each of the past two seasons.
Granted, it's great that Griffin has a team-first mentality and is willing to fight through injuries for the good of the team, but how much longer can he go on doing that? He's only 23, but these bumps and bruises, along with the fact that his production has declined in each of his three NBA seasons, are highly concerning.
Look at it this way. Griffin has posted 18.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game this year, but those are actually career lows. The points have dropped to where they are now from 22.5 and 20.7 per contest the past two years, and the rebounding is down from 12.1 and 10.9.
It could be argued that Griffin's drops in scoring and rebounding are due to the presence of a more balanced attack from the Clippers. Prior to the arrival of star point guard Chris Paul and the formation of Lob City, Griffin was the star player on a lottery team with no identity. Now that everyone is chipping in equally, not to mention the emergence of DeAndre Jordan, it's perfectly believable that his numbers have dropped due to Los Angeles being a better-rounded squad.
But that does not take away from the fact that Griffin needs to stay healthy if the Clippers are going to win a championship. Yes, he has great size and is a powerful dunker, but he is not overly athletic by any means.
The rebounding totals may be respectable, but that doesn't make Griffin a solid defender. In reality, the former Oklahoma Sooner is quite weak on defense and does not have much of an offensive game outside of the paint, though he has worked on both his versatility and his low post game.
Long story short, the Clippers need to start monitoring Griffin's health more. As tough as it may be to stomach, there are going to be times where he's worth more to them sitting on the bench in a suit than he is on the court in uniform.
The fact of the matter is that Los Angeles is in a great position to contend for an NBA championship, but those dreams will die if one of Griffin's seemingly minor injuries blows up into something worse in the blink of an eye. If they are going to make a real run at the Larry O'Brien Trophy, head coach Vinny Del Negro needs to bite the bullet and work with the great depth his team already has.
The Clippers have proven that they can be a great team, and having a healthy, non-banged-up Blake Griffin on the court for them will only take them further.