During the offseason, Blake Griffin made a conscious effort to work on his shooting form with Clippers shooting coach Bob Thate.
Early indications are the work is paying off.
“I feel more consistent and comfortable (with my shot),” Griffin told me earlier this season. “I feel like now when I shoot, it’s going to go in. It’s not a second guess or anything like that.”
As opposing defenses concentrate more on keeping him off the blocks, Griffin is taking fewer shots at the rim this season than last (5.3/game down from 7.2/game) and fewer shots from within 9 feet (61.3 percent of his attempts, down from 69.6 last year). Most teams are reluctant to play up on him because of his speed, athleticism and finishing ability, preferring to have him shoot from the perimeter than get a dunk or lay-up.
Anticipating this tactic coming into the season, Griffin needed to improve his shooting percentage from 16-23 feet, as proficiency from that range would allow him to stretch defenses and would make Chris Paul even more dangerous as a distributor with options.
Though it's still a work in progress, so far so good. Griffin has improved his shooting percentage from that range from 37 last season to 38.4 this season.
Thate’s diagnosis was that Griffin would often mistime his release and shoot on the way down, instead of shooting at the peak of his jump.
"Most of the time now when I shoot, when I mess up, I hold the ball a little too long, especially on the way down,” said Griffin. “My posture is a lot better as far as going straight up and down . . . the thing I'm really working on now is trying to shoot on the way up."
Concentration on form has paid off at the free throw line as well. Although Griffin’s free throw attempts are down (as a result of taking fewer shots around the rim), his percentage from the line has gone up more than ten points (62.7 vs. 52.1) since last season.
“I look forward to going to the line now,” he said. “It takes time but I feel much more confident about it. I feel that my shot is there and I just have to keep working on it.”
And when he is able to establish low post position, Griffin’s improved eye is also making him more dangerous down low. He has increased his post-up scoring from .83 points per play to .95 (making him the 14th-best post scorer in the league) and has bumped his post-up situation shooting percentage from 44.9 to 48.9.
While Griffin has transformed into a more perimeter-oriented big man, his points per-36 minutes (20), shooting percentage (53.4 percent) and PER (22.5) are in line with his career averages and his Win Shares per 48 minutes is a career high .207.
Griffin is, of course, most explosive and dangerous as a finisher in and around the basket, but the balance he's achieving with improved outside shooting may be the best version of his game we've seen yet.
Stats for this piece come from ESPN.com, NBA.com and MySynergySports.com.