Which Los Angeles Clippers Player Has the Most Upside Right Now?

Upside is often a term thrown around to describe young players who have either accomplished nothing or have yet to scratch the surface of what they might become. This term typically is not reserved for someone of Blake Griffin’s caliber.

But perhaps it should be.

Although Griffin missed his entire first season due to injury, he exploded out of the gates as a rookie, scoring 22.5 points per game to go along with 12.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists. He was assertive with the ball, searching out contact and finishing with power, going to the line a career-high 8.5 times.

His second year was impressive as well. Griffin averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds for the second consecutive season. However, teams became increasingly more physical, beginning to force Griffin away from the rim and further out onto the perimeter.

By his third season in the league Griffin’s scoring dropped to 18.0 points per game and his rebounding fell to 8.3 per game. The arrival of Chris Paul took some of the weight off Griffin’s shoulders to be the primary option, but Griffin’s game needed to evolve in order to be more complete offensive player. Defenses were now frustrating him and leaving him open for mid-range jumpers, expecting him to miss.

The hiring of Doc Rivers might have been the best thing to happen to Griffin, as the head coach refocused the offense around Griffin’s strengths. Rivers, a former NBA point guard who once played a season with the Los Angeles Clippers, has been able to convince Paul to play at a faster pace. This increased pace might not be ideal to Paul, but it has allowed Griffin to flourish in an open-court system.

Griffin’s unique ability to create off the dribble, pass, finish above the rim and hit mid-range jumpers are now being taken advantage of in lieu of Paul’s methodical, preferred style of play. The increased tempo allows Paul and Griffin to share playmaking responsibilities without taking away possessions from each other, let alone role players.

New system aside, Griffin’s offensive talents are still in development. That might be a scary realization for the rest of the conference, considering he is already a 21 point per game scorer for his career. But why is his game still improving and which area of his game will be the next to develop?

 

Offense

One of the most blatantly inaccurate talking points surrounding Griffin over the years was that he was merely a dunker. How many times did you hear that Griffin had no post moves, or that he couldn’t shoot outside of 10 feet?

Those who watched Griffin closely over the years were the largest proponents of his development. Fortunately, the numbers back Griffin’s supporters.

Griffin’s jumper has improved noticeably since coming into the league, especially the last two seasons. According to basketball reference, Griffin took 15.4 percent of his field-goal attempts from 16 feet and further as a rookie and made a lousy 29.8 percent of them. Last season, Griffin took 26.7 percent of his field-goal attempts from the same distance, but made 37.2 percent.

The development of Griffin’s jumper is likely to continue to improve. Imagine if Griffin’s range and consistency eventually extend to the three-point line? Griffin will be a nightmare to defend, and that is exactly where his game seems to be heading.

Griffin’s jumper is improving and it is worth noting, according to Grantland’s Kirk Goldberry.

Away from the basket on offense, Griffin has never been great, but this isn’t unusual in young power forwards. The key questions with him involve trajectories: Is he getting better? Is he diversifying his scoring portfolio? The answers there are definitely “yes” and “yes.” His rookie season, Griffin made only 33 percent of his midrange jumpers. That’s bad; as a whole, the league makes 39 percent of these shots. However, his second season that number rose to 36 percent, and this year he’s at 39 percent. In four seasons, Griffin has gone from a bad jump-shooter to an average one.

Griffin’s extended range coincided with Clippers finishing as the highest-scoring team in the league last season. Teams can no longer afford to sag off Griffin on pick-and-pop situations to prevent Paul from attacking the rim. To make matters worse, teams also have to fear Griffin’s playmaking ability.

There are not many forwards in the league who can handle the ball well enough in the open court to beat a point guard off the dribble, let alone prevent said point guard from turning them over. Griffin is one of the few bigs in the league able to handle the ball well enough to create for himself and others.

Need more evidence? Digest this statistic for a second: According to basketball reference, since Griffin entered the league in 2010, only 14 players have shot 50 percent or better from the field while assisting on at least 16 percent of their teammates’ field goals for a season. Griffin and LeBron James are the only players on that list in each of the last four seasons.

Griffin’s court vision and passing ability combined with his physical tools make him an extraordinarily difficult matchup. Furthermore, when sharing the floor with Chris Paul, Griffin’s talents are elevated even further because the defense has to key on Paul just as much. Pick your poison.

While there is plenty for Griffin to improve on offensively—his post moves need more refinement—his upside is also calculated based on the other players on the floor. J.J. Redick and Spencer Hawes are key complementary pieces. Both can keep the floor spread with their outside shooting, but they are also good passers who can set up Griffin for scoring opportunities.

Pieces like Redick and Hawes are key to Griffin’s development. The better Griffin’s teammates complement his skill set, the more realistic fulfilling his upside becomes. His game begins to develop because the other players on the floor are themselves threats when combined with Griffin’s talents.

 

Defense

Never known as a good defender, Griffin’s upside here is somewhat limited due to his physical attributes. According to Draft Express, he does not have a large wingspan (6’11.25”) and at 6’8″ he is of average height for his position.

Fortunately, physical abilities do not solely make a good defender. Griffin’s focus during his first three seasons was scoring as much as possible, in as many ways as he could. Rivers is attempting to change that mindset and already seems to be making progress, according to Los Angeles Times reporter Broderick Turner, who quoted Griffin as saying:

The past few years or so, all I’ve ever heard is everything I can’t do…I take pride in those things people say I can’t do, and [defense,] that’s one of them. There’s a long list…So, I just use that as motivation and try to get better. Obviously there are areas I need to get better in, but at the same time, I think sometimes people get a little carried away.

The fact that Griffin realizes what his deficiencies are and is now using them as motivation to improve says a lot. There are plenty of players who knew exactly what they needed to improve upon early in their career, but never were able to do so.

Heck, Dwyane Wade still can’t shoot threes.

Griffin’s attention to detail, understanding of Rivers’ defensive principles and nightly commitment on the defensive end of the floor seemed to be improving as the 2013-14 season came to a close. This season, Griffin must take the next step as a defender, because the Clippers are going to need him engaged to force stops and close out tight games.

What Griffin needs to focus on is his awareness and effort level defensively. Far too often Griffin was slow to hustle back on defense, or rotate properly, thus allowing an easy basket. Those are the types of effort plays that Rivers will demand from his entire team, because they will be the difference between reaching the conference finals and failing again to advance past the second round. Additionally, that level of commitment will be critical if Griffin is to reach his potential on defense.

Adding up the sum from both ends of the floor it is clear that Griffin has, by far, the most upside of anyone on the roster. At age 25, he has already developed into one of the league’s best players. Still, demanding more from him is certainly a legitimate request.

Griffin’s desire to improve is the final characteristic that sets his upside apart from anyone else’s on the roster. Combining all of the aspects above with hard work will allow Griffin’s upside to be realized; converted from myth into reality.

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Blake Griffin Performs at The Laugh Factory’s Open Mic Night

If you’re a fan of super-athletic NBA players reading comedic poetry, then we’ve got just the thing for you.

Los Angeles Clippers star Blake Griffin appeared at The Laugh Factory in Los Angeles Tuesday night to test his comedic chops in front of a small crowd. Fox Sports’ Jill Painter Lopez has video of the short performance:

According to Lopez, Griffin didn’t actually write the poetry, but his delivery—which we’ve seen during countless Kia commercials—was nearly as flawless as a Chris Paul lob.

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Chicago Bulls Sign Guard From Magic

According to Priority Sports & Entertainment, the Chicago Bulls have signed former Purdue guard and three-year NBA veteran E’Twaun Moore to a free agent contract Tuesday. According to the report, Mary Stevens of Sports Talk Florida reported in mid-August that Moore would sign with the Bulls “in the next few days,” but the deal apparently did not transpire until this week.
Congrats @ETwaun55 on signing with the @chicagobulls. Nothing like staying at home!
— Priority Sports (@PrioritySports) September 16, 2014

Moore has averaged 6.3 pts, 1.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 0.7 turnovers in his three-year career. After spending the last two seasons in Orlando, the Magic declined to submit a qualifying offer to Moore.
The Chicago Bulls finished 4th in the Eastern Conference last season, with a 48-34 record.
Chicago Bulls Officially Sign Purdue’s E’Twaun Moore http://t.co/ahwZDiZcip
— Chicago Bulls News (@BullsAllNews) September 17, 2014

Bulls have signed E’Twaun Moore to a two-year deal, a

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Sacramento Kings to retire Stojakovic’s jersey (Yahoo Sports)

MIAMI - JANUARY 22: Peja Stojakovic #16 of the Sacramento Kings grabs a rebound against the Miami Heat on January 22, 2006 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Sacramento Kings are planning to retire Peja Stojakovic’s No. 16 jersey.


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SLAM Magazine Uses 2014 Draft Class to Recreate ’96 Cover Photo

As if the expectations for the 2014 NBA draft class weren’t already high enough…

Featuring Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid and several other tantalizing stars, this year’s crop of rookies has long been dubbed as a game-changing group. Now, these young phenoms are drawing a comparison to the famous 1996 class with SLAM Magazine‘s recreation of the nearly two-decade-old cover photo. 

The Milwaukee Bucks Twitter feed provided a side-by-side look:

The ’96 class features three former MVPs in Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Allen Iverson and arguably the best shooter ever in Ray Allen, among several other All-Stars. 

So, yeah, no pressure, rooks.

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Milwaukee Bucks: The future is now with Parker and Antetokounmpo on board

Milwaukee Bucks fans should not just be excited that Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker are on the team now, but that they could stay on the team for a long time.
Milwaukee is not the most desirable city to play basketball, but Antetokounmpo and Parker have both expressed their feelings in sticking with the Bucks.
I’ll never leave the team and the city of Milwaukee till we build the team to a championship level team..
— GiannisAntetokounmpo (@G_ante34) July 17, 2014

In the world of sports today, it is common to see players of all caliber switching teams over the course of their careers. Antetokounmpo said that he will commit himself to improving the Bucks, which could certainly be a long and stressful process. This kind of commitment is not seen often in today’s sports, so having one of the Bucks’ young potential stars say this is a great thing for Bucks fans.
The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Milwaukee Bucks had the 1st and 2nd picks respectively of the 2014 NBA draft. With the injury to Joel E

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Hawks’ ownership feud uncovered Danny Ferry-Bruce Levenson racism scandal

Michael Gearon Jr. never got along with GM Danny Ferry and disagreed with co-owner Bruce Levenson.

      
 

 

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Everything You Need to Know About Los Angeles Clippers’ Joe Ingles

Dante Exum isn’t the only wonder from down under who’s set to debut in the NBA during the 2014-15 season. According to Eurobasket.com’s David Pick, Joe Ingles, a teammate of Exum‘s on the Australian national team, will join the Los Angeles Clippers on a one-year, guaranteed deal for the league minimum.

That, in itself, is more than Ingles originally anticipated. “I won’t be on a guaranteed contract and will be trying to make the team but that in itself is motivation for me to go in and work,” Ingles told The Courier-Mail‘s Boti Nagy during the recently concluded 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain.

Ingles, though, isn’t just another international veteran trying to find a niche for himself in the Association. The 26-year-old native of Happy Valley (not the one in Pennsylvania, of course), who also holds a British passport, happens to be one of the most accomplished Boomers around and may well make a significant impact as a rookie come fall.

Ingles certainly knows a thing or two about making a splash right off the bat. In his first game with the South Dragons of Australia’s National Basketball League, Ingles, then all of 19, scored 29 points—an NBL record for a player debut—to tip off a campaign that would conclude with him as the league’s Rookie of the Year. All in all, Ingles averaged 15.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and three assists per game that season, per FOX Sports Pulse.

Prior to that, Ingles spent two years at the Australian Institute of Sport, the same school that produced Exum and Andrew Bogut. Ingles was preceded in stardom at AIS by Brad Newley, a second-round pick of the Houston Rockets in 2007.

Ingles was never drafted by an NBA team, though his upcoming time in L.A. won’t be the first he’s spent in affiliation with the Association. Ingles was a member of the Golden State Warriors‘ Summer League squad in 2009 and 2010 but failed to garner a suitable contract from either stint.

Instead, Ingles opted to bolster his game and his credentials overseas. He led the Dragons to what would be their first and only NBL title in 2009; the club was dissolved shortly thereafter.

From there, Ingles jumped to CB Granada in Spain’s prestigious Liga ACB. He immediately emerged as one of the team’s most productive players, averaging 11 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.1 steals in 29.2 minutes.

But Granada, as a whole, struggled. The squad went just 15-19 during the 2009-10 campaign and soon found itself unable to afford Ingles amidst its crippling debt. As a result, Granada offloaded Ingles to Barcelona Regal just seven games into the 2010-11 season.

Ingles tasted plenty of team success with the Blaugrana, even as his own output declined. Barcelona won five domestic competitions and contended in the Euroleague during each of Ingles‘ three seasons with the club. In none of those campaigns, though, did Ingles average more than 6.3 points or 20.1 minutes per game, per DraftExpress.

That didn’t really change this past season, either, when Ingles made his way to Maccabi Tel Aviv. He put up 6.8 points per game during the regular season in Israel, 2.9 points in the playoffs and 6.4 points amidst Maccabi‘s surprising run to the Euroleague crown under David Blatt.

In Ingles‘ defense, European club basketball isn’t exactly conducive to putting up big numbers. The team-oriented, sharing-is-caring style of play that the San Antonio Spurs have perfected was about as close as any NBA squad has yet come to replicating the continental basketball culture on American shores.

That being said, the Australian national team has long been the driving force behind Ingles‘ career ascension, and this year was no different.

Ingles first appeared on the international stage at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, with an 11-point fourth quarter against Team USA. His star rose another step at the 2010 FIBA World Championships in Turkey, where he put up 10.3 points, three rebounds and 2.2 assists on the Boomers’ behalf. 

Come 2012, Ingles was a bona fide cornerstone of the Australian team. He put up an impressive line of 15 points, five rebounds and 4.3 assists while shooting a scorching-hot 63 percent from the field. Ingles bested even that efficiency at this year’s World Cup, where he nailed 70.8 percent of his field goals, including 66.7 percent of his threes—albeit during an abbreviated run for the Aussies.

Still, Ingles has clearly come a long enough way to warrant more than a tryout in the NBA. He hit better than 40 percent of his threes in Europe last year, thereby quelling lingering concerns about his perimeter shot. 

He’s always been a good athlete who can create off the bounce, be it for himself or for his teammates. Now that he can shoot, Ingles brings to the table the sort of skill set with which he can become another valuable “3-and-D” guy. Here’s how then-Australian coach (and current Philadelphia 76ers head man) Brett Brown described Ingles‘ game back in 2012 (via The Daily Telegraph‘s Jim Tucker):

“Joe’s got a body like (Detroit Pistons‘ small forward) Tayshaun Prince. He’s long, left-handed, multi-faceted at guard or small forward, he’s stepped up in defence to take personal pride in guarding people and you’ve seen his competitive spirit here.”

Does that mean Ingles is going to be a key cog for the Clippers this season?

He certainly could. L.A.’s wing rotation has thinned somewhat with the Jared Dudley trade and wasn’t all that exciting to begin with. Beyond Matt Barnes, who’s had his own issues with inconsistency over the years, the Clippers will count on a host of youngsters (Reggie Bullock, C.J. Wilcox) and fringe types (Chris Douglas-Roberts, DeAndre Liggins) to fill out their wing rotation.

That may well afford Ingles enough opportunity to prove his worth in the NBA. Then again, on a Clippers club that’s already so close to championship contention, Ingles will probably have to work that much harder and shine that much brighter for anyone to take notice.

But Ingles hasn’t had much trouble garnering attention yet. Who’s to say that will change now?

 

For more on the Clippers, find me on Twitter!

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Kyrie Irving’s Impressive Summer Only the Beginning of Superstar Climb

Big Three label aside, LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving won’t be heading to Cleveland Cavaliers training camp without their own hierarchical designation—namely, that order exactly.

At least that was the order, before Irving’s stellar showing at the FIBA World Cup rescued everyone into a fact that had lately been forgotten: This guy has superstar written all over him.

To be sure, Irving’s FIBA numbers don’t exactly jump off the page: 12.1 points and 3.6 assists on 56 percent shooting (including 61 percent from distance, which, okay, that jumps off the page).

Rather, it was how Irving played—deferential when he needed to be, dominant when it mattered most—that proved he’s more than ready to take the reins of what could prove the NBA’s most punishingly potent offense.

“I’m doing whatever’s needed to win, playing with the best in the world,” Irving told NBA.com’s John Schumann. “I feel like that’s where I want to be and where I should be. Going back to Cleveland, I’m just going to have the same mind set, just being myself, working extremely hard every single day, and maintaining my confidence that has made me who I am and who I want to become.”

Spared the burden of being Cleveland’s primary option, Irving can instead focus on what made his such a successful FIBA foray: attacking weak spots in the defense and draining jumpers from everywhere on the floor.

Even if Irving’s raw production takes a bit of a dip—and it most certainly will—his stands to improve immeasurably.

Here’s USA Today’s Adi Joseph speaking to precisely this point in a column penned shortly after James’ earth-shattering announcement:

[Irving] landed his own maximum-level contract extension this offseason and now is primed to earn it.

And he will because he finally has been positioned to succeed. That’s what this James return means for Irving, above all the spotlight and scrutiny — relief…Irving may not top his 20.8 points per game average this season, but he should improve dramatically on his 43.0% field goal and 35.8% three-point shooting percentages.

[Dwyane] Wade’s field goal shooting rose from 47.6% in 2009-10 to 50.0% the next season, his first playing next to James. That number had soared to 54.5% by last season, as the Heat’s Big 3 further learned to play efficiently together.

And that’s before we even get to Love, a player who—let’s not forget—finished in the top five in points, rebounds and overall player efficiency a season ago.

In Love’s peerless rebounding and outlet passing, head coach David Blatt boasts the perfect catalyst for a devastating transition attack that should blow the Cavs’ somewhat anemic offense a season ago (they tied for 17th in pace) out of the water. Spearheaded primarily, of course, by James and Irving.

Blatt‘s formula of high energy play is orchestrated by the point guard controlling the tempo,” writes The Plain Dealer’s Branson Wright. “It’s an offense where the point guard will push the ball and if the team can’t get a quick or easy basket, the ball will move around and set up a pick and roll with the point guard.”

At 29 years old, James is at the peak of his powers—a basketball poet continually reimagining the language of the game. No matter what strategies and schemes Blatt devises, this is LeBron’s play to direct, just as it has been for over a decade.

However, as The Washington Post’s Seth Partnow writes, Irving is exactly the kind of player you want shouldering whatever LeBron has to shed:

James certainly seems cognizant that carrying such a huge offensive burden, as he did last season, is probably harmful to his chances of being fresh for the playoffs. His visible weight loss this offseason is one indicator of his desire for increased longevity. And it’s not hard to see him ceding some control over the offense to a star like Irving.

Indeed, even LeBron acknowledged, in his now famous letter for Sports Illustrated announcing his decision, that turning the Cavs into contenders is sure to be “a process.” Translation: The next few seasons are less about how we start than how we finish.

Deeper translation: Young Kyrie will have ample opportunity to shine.

Playing at a position where most players don’t reach their primes until their mid to late 20s, Irving’s three-year resume—FIBA Most Outstanding Player, 2012 NBA Rookie of the Year, a pair of All-Star appearances and an All-Star Game Most Valuable Player award—is as impressive as it gets.

And while the point-guard position is teeming with would-be usurpers to Chris Paul’s throne (Damian Lillard, John Wall, Stephen Curry and the recovering Derrick Rose, just to name a few), Irving’s uncanny combination of shooting, playmaking and penetrative explosiveness put him squarely at the fore of the floor-general ranks.

Even Irving’s principal weakness, his defense, isn’t beyond repair. Particularly with a taskmaster of James’ caliber orchestrating the defensive movements.

What results is a picture of a player whose last two seasons risked stunting his superstar path, suddenly recovering his course. Albeit with a little help from his hardwood friends.

Conventional wisdom says the arrival of Cleveland’s two newest stars will cast Irving to dimmer, darker corners. Really, it’s the opposite we should be looking forward to: that James and Love will help illuminate, rather than eclipse, Irving’s NBA future.

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Lakers Rumors: Kobe Bryant’s NBA 2K15 rating leaked?

via 2K Sports
Does Kobe Bryant pay attention to his rating in NBA 2K? It’s possible – especially seeing as he was the cover athlete for NBA 2K10 – and if he does, the 36-year-old will likely gain a little extra motivation from his rating in this year’s version of the game.
According to a video posted by Javier Gonzalez, Bryant will be an 89 in NBA 2K15, his lowest rating since the series began.
Now, it should be noted that Bryant’s rating hasn’t officially been announced by 2K Sports yet, though this appears to be legit as the other ratings that have already been revealed – such as Julius Randle (76) and Ryan Kelly (71) – match the numbers released by 2K on their Facebook page.
Do you agree with Bryant’s rating? To be fair, the five-time NBA champion only managed to play in six games last season and is coming off two major injuries, so agreeing on a sensible number for Bryant without seeing him in action was likely a pretty tough task for the 2K Sports team.
H/T Lakers Nation

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