Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
After a slow start to the season, Blake Griffin has begun to come on strong in December. The NBA today recognized his stepped up production by naming him the Western Conference Player of the Week.
What a difference a week makes. A little over a week ago, I posed the question should Los Angeles Clipper fans be worried about Blake Griffin. Through 15 games his productivity was down across the board. Part of the decline was clearly due to reduced minutes thanks to the Clippers vastly improved bench this season. But Griffin's numbers were off even taking into consideration the playing time decrease -- most disconcerting was his field goal percentage, which was below .500 after 15 games.
It was inevitable that Griffin was going to get on a roll at some point, and as it happens that roll started almost exactly when I asked the question. And the league has taken notice, naming Griffin the Western Conference Player of the Week.
Once again, his raw per game averages, while much better, may not at first glance appear to be POW-worthy -- 23 points, 10.25 rebounds, 3.5 assists. Nice numbers, but plenty of players do that over the course of four games. Upon closer inspection though one sees just how impressive the week was. For one thing, the Clippers bench was perhaps more dominant than ever during the week treating Griffin to a rather leisurely workload of just over 30 minutes per game. He didn't even appear in three out of four fourth quarters during the week. When you make the per minute adjustments, Griffin's per 36 numbers this week start to shine brighter: more like 27 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists per 36. But it's his efficiency during the week that really stands out. After languishing below .500 in field goal percentage for five weeks, Griffin shot a hyper-efficient 64 percent from the field this week. In just four games he boosted his season field goal percentage from .495 (a little disappointing) to .527 (I'll take it).
As impressive as his offensive productivity and efficiency were this week, there's another statistic worth noting: Griffin had 10 steals during the week. Griffin has always had all of the physical tools to be a terrific defender. He's obviously a superior athlete with unmatched quickness and footspeed at the power forward position. In his first two seasons in the league, he didn't always work as hard on defense as he did on offense, but that is beginning to change. In his first two seasons in the league, in 148 regular season games, Griffin had his career high three steals three times. In 20 games this season, he has had four more three steal games and set a career high with four steals last week against Phoenix.
Five weeks into the season, the Clippers were playing good basketball and had intermittently looked like a serious title contender despite what had been a subpar season from Griffin to that point. Now that he's starting to play like the Blake Griffin we've come to expect, the team is even more formidable.