Posted by: Kingsguru21 | May 12, 2009

How Blake Griffin could fit in the Kings

I know I said I wouldn’t mention Griffin or Rubio much anymore. I’m really trying to avoid the topic really because there is so much opinion out there that really I’m a bit tapped out. But, still, I can’t help wonder in the final analysis what exactly CAN WE expect of Blake Griffin if the Kings are A) lucky enough to have the 1st overall pick, and B) take Griffin if A happens.

Right now the Kings have 8 players under contract, or 7 if you ignore Kenny Thomas. Those players are: Kevin Martin, Francisco Garcia, Spencer Hawes, Jason Thompson, Andres Nocioni, Donte Greene and Beno Udrih. (No order of emphasis here.)

By my count, you have 3 players who are primary backcourt players (Martin, Garcia and Udrih–although Garcia can and HAS played a lot of the 3 position–more on this later). Hawes and Thompson are primarily C/PF’s. (Both have the ability to play both position effectively, although I think offensively Hawes is more of a PF and Thompson a C, and defensively it’s switched.) Nocioni and Greene are essentially hybrid F’s with Noc being more effective at SF and Greene potentially being effective at both PF & SF.

I’ve come to one conclusion that I think is important to share. If you bring in Blake Griffin, you’re basically saying Donte Greene CAN’T be a player that you want as part of the future. Trading him becomes important because he will be angry and upset that he won’t get minutes. Which also means that the Kings won’t get much for him because when you make 840 K, you’re not going to have much value on the NBA trade market.

It’s always possible, however, that the Kings could keep Hawes, Thompson, Greene and Griffin as a 4-some of the front line. That’s always difficult though when you have to pay all 4, and they all want to be stars of the team and get 40 minutes a night.

This is one reason why so much Ricky Rubio love has transpired I suspect. That’s not why I’m in the Rubio camp, though. It is, unfortunately, a bit more complicated than that. To that end, more tomorrow. I want to keep this centered on Griffin as much as I can. (Which is really hard for me.)

One of my biggest fears in the draft is that Griffin and Rubio are essentially 1 & 1A and are unable to leapfrog each other, how does the franchise pick that player?

Another large fear I have is, is how do you integrate Griffin into the flow of an offense that is essentially about flow and spacing? Most of Griffin’s positives are physical attributes (all but really the most important two in my opinion which, again, really sucks), and today, Chad Ford on an ESPN chat mentioned some other important things as well in his weekly chat:

Thomas (Memphis, TN): How legit is Blake Griffin as a #1 pick in the NBA??

SportsNation Chad Ford: I just spent the day with him in San Francisco on Monday. All I can say is wow. The physical tools are amazing and the workout he goes through everyday is the most grueling I’ve ever seen. Griffin looks like he’s training to be a Navy SEAL. However, what was really impressive was the basketball part with former Spurs head coach Bob Hill. He’s much more skilled offensively than you think. Excellent ball handler and nice stroke with some three point range. And he’s a nice, grounded kid with a very cool family. I was super impressed.

First, I don’t want to make this anti-Griffin like I have in the past. His lack of shot blocking, defense, and my belief of his lack of great height and wingspan is important to note. But, what if the Kings take him anyway? How does that make a difference if the Kings take him? It doesn’t. Pushing on.

Let’s say you take Griffin with that first overall pick. Now, you need more PG depth, and you need shot blocking on the front line. You’ve improved your interior scoring and rebounding with Griffin, but little else. Let’s assume for a moment that Spencer Hawes blocks 2 shots a game, and JT 1.5. Because Griffin has a huge learning curve, let’s assume he only blocks a shot a game next year. That’s 4.5 blocks a game just from those 3 alone. (And that doesn’t include that if you take JT & Shawes 1.7 combined blocks a game this past season, the Kings still averaged a paltry 2.5 blocks per night with Francisco Garcia getting 1 of those a night too.) So, let’s assume that the Kings won’t block that many shots, and while thats not something that greatly bothers me with regards to Griffin, it is a nice perk of having a franchise player up front. (See Garnett, Kevin or Duncan, Tim.)

Let’s assume that Spencer & JT average 14 points a night with about 32-34 mins a night. That leaves Griffin the remaining scraps, and remember, since Griffin’s main value will be his scoring and rebounding, I would suspecct, that along with Spencer 9 boards and JT’s near 10 boards a night, Griffin should be grabbing between 9 & 10 boards a night. That’s nearly 30 boards from those 3, but they are your main players. Let’s assume that Noc grabs somewhere between 4.5 and 5.5 boards a night, Garcia grabs about 3 boards a night, Martin grabs 3-4 boards a night (he really needs to), and everyone else grabs 5 boards a night, you’re talking about 43 boards a night. This was after a year where they averaged just 39 boards a night. So you’re talking about a significant improvement rebounding assuming all goes well. You know what they say about assuming right?

Griffin has shot an ungodly % from the field while at Oklahoma. One can assume he won’t shoot 65% in the NBA. Or, one shouldn’t. Still, he should be able to shoot well above 50% for the season starting next year, and if he shoots anywhere above 55% on a good amount of attempts, that helps a team with the 25th worst offensive efficiency this past season.

Griffin however, does turn the ball over a lot (every big man with high usage rates does), and doesn’t shoot FT’s particularly well (again, this is typical). So this means that his production could vary just depending on how often teams can foul him and see him lose points on the line. I also wonder how this will effect him mentally when teams continually do this and his touches maybe go away partially because he may not finish as often or as consistently around the rim when teams foul him. It happens with Dwight Howard, and Howard is at least 3 inches taller than Griffin. Why wouldn’t any team do that to Griffin when the opportunity presents itself?

The good news is if the Kings select Griffin that they will have 3 frontcourt players who the team can rely on. Thompson and Hawes are both C’s by height and ability, and even though both have the ability to play PF, essentially they are playing down low or up high with Griffin on the court. They are more likely to be facilitators while he’s more of a finisher. While it’s nice to have players who can play that way, it would be a great deal more nice to expect more than that from Blake Griffin. His individual defense will leave something to be desired as he adjusts to the speed and athleticism of the NBA. What really concerns me though, is that beyond his athleticism, I wonder how he will consistently create shots in the half court when the team does get the ball to him (another concern). Worse, if the other players on the court are slow to get to the ball to him I wonder how much of his athleticism will be a great asset to him when so many players in the NBA have athleticism as well.

I believe the Kings could be one of the best rebounding teams in terms of totals and differential with Blake Griffin around. But, outside of that and efficient scoring, I fail to see how he greatly helps the team in area’s where internal improvement can’t be had as well. Hawes is young and improving. Thompson is young and improving. Donte Greene is young, and has the potential to be very very good, and perhaps, even better than Griffin in impact. (Not very likely, but possible. Donte has that KIND of talent.) Griffin fits a need, but he doesn’t necessarily fit the greatest need. More importantly in my view, he doesn’t fill enough needs across the board to quality as a franchise player.

I suspect the Kings will take Griffin for one reason. He’s the only option they have because Ricky Rubio has pulled out of the draft. I hope that doesn’t happen because I think Griffin will have a terrific career. What I fail to see, truthfully, and I don’t wish to drink any purple & black kool-aid here either, is that he makes a great impact on a team in desperate need of a franchise player. I don’t wish to be mis-quoted here as I believe Griffin to be an unique talent whom the Kings would benefit with his presence in several respects. My question is rather simple though: Is he a franchise player who can take the Kings to another level? I don’t see how that’s possible unless his post defense and shot creation get to another level. I do think he would benefit being on a team that plays fast (The Kings were the 7th fastest teams in terms of pace last season) and a team that plays with a frenetic tempo & purpose. His athleticism in that scenario would be a tremendous boon for the Kings (particularly with JT on the court at the same time) in this particular type of game.

But, my reservations lay again in who gets these guys the ball. That’s a problem that can be solved in the future with a Free Agent signing in 2010 (it’s not likely to happen this summer–more on that later) or in the next draft in 2010. I would love to believe that Blake Griffin is a franchise big man who can change a franchise’s fortunes. I just don’t believe he is that player. His lack of shot blocking, his relative lax post defense at the college level, combined with his relatively shorter height for the position, and not great wingspan (I really can’t wait for the measurements to come out on him and Rubio) hurt him in total sum of whether he has the opportunity to be a franchise player or not. It’s not really one thing or the other that hurts him, but rather the combination of all those things that do that.

Still, even after it’s all said & done, there are worse options than Blake Griffin for the Kings. One could be Tyreke Evans who might not be the type of PG Geoff Petrie prefers. One is Brandon Jennings whom the Kings might not be willing to wait to develop into the type of player his talent suggests he could be.

Of all the options the Kings could have, I find Blake Griffin the least enticing unfortunately. You shouldn’t say that about a guy who averaged at 23 pts, 14 boards on 65% shooting at the NCAA level. Yet, I just did. What is this proof of? That I am a stupid fat bastard.

Tomorrow, my shameless shilling for Ricky Rubio.

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