Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images
An NBA halftime show is rather predictable. Some joker from the stands will be marched to the three-point line while the public address announcer screams a few rules for the contest that is about to go down.
“A three-pointer is worth $1,000 and a free throw is worth $500!”
The people who didn’t rush to the concourse for halftime refreshments feign excitement even though it is a near lock that both shots attempts will fail miserably. No one is too upset though because the real excitement happens right after when a group of young men trot onto the floor, set up a trampoline, and delight the crowd with acrobatic dunks. No matter how many times you have seen this executed, it is still entertaining. At the conclusion of halftime, everyone has forgotten about the missed shots and talks about the ridiculous dunks.
Does this routine remind you of a certain NBA player?
I now refer to Blake Griffin as “The Halftime Show.” He is a miserable shooter and plays defense like a Washington General, but he consistently amazes NBA fans worldwide with his dunking ability. His dunks are so incredible that fans don’t even bother to mention his poor shooting or lack of defense. And why should they? Even though the league boasts superstars such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Kobe Bryant, the second-year forward for the Clippers is one of the most exciting players in the NBA.
Griffin was recently voted into the All-Star Game as the starting power forward for the West. In my opinion, power forward in the Western Conference is the hardest spot among the ten starting positions to secure. No other position has the depth that power forward in the West can boast. Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Dirk Nowitzki will ride the pine for the Western Conference All-Star team, and Tim Duncan will watch from home even though his numbers per 36 minutes aren’t too far from his career averages.
In summary, Griffin got the nod over the best power forward of all-time (Duncan), last year’s NBA Finals MVP (Nowitzki), the best power forward in the NBA right now (Love), and a star buried in the obscurity of the great Northwest (Aldridge). Not to mention a prominent All-Star snub that didn’t even get selected (Millsap). And I’m fine with it because the All-Star Game is all about providing an exciting product for the fans.
However, you’re fighting an uphill battle if you try to argue that Griffin is actually the best power forward in the West. Love is clearly a better player, LaMarcus Aldridge is probably better (an argument could be made for Millsap too), and I would take Dirk Nowitzki over any of them for just one game. But, Griffin has the highest ceiling of all.
Griffin has the requisites skills to be an elite defender, but he is far from it. The bright side is that Griffin’s defensive numbers are actually much improved from his numbers as a rookie. I guess we can find some solace in the fact that he is progressing in the right direction, but there are still many steps required.
Most people are aware that shots between 16-23 feet are the lowest percentage shots in the NBA, but this seems to have slipped the minds of Griffin and the Clippers staff. “The Halftime Show” is averaging about 1.5 more shots per game in this zone than he did last year, and to account for the difference he is shooting fewer three-pointers and shots in the lane. This trend is detrimental to success right now, but could provide a path to more success if Griffin can improve his shot selection.
Griffin’s most significant drawback at this stage of the game may be his ineptitude from the stripe, especially when you consider that Dwight Howard is the only player in the league with better and-one numbers. He is only making 54 percent of his free-throw attempts this season while players like Love, Aldridge, and Millsap hover around 80 percent. In addition, Love, Aldridge, and Millsap both play effectively inside and outside. Griffin doesn’t. Plus, Love, Aldridge, and Millsap both play better defense than “The Halftime Show.” Those are the facts. The same could be said about Nowitzki in all of this too (taking into account that his free-throw shooting ability is superior than any of the names listed above).
Remember, Griffin is only 22 years old and has plenty of time to hone his skills. Regardless, what’s the worst thing that can happen to The Halftime Show? He could never improve his shooting or defense and still be remembered as one of the most exciting players in the NBA during a triumphant era for the league. There is nothing wrong with that.
Matt Scribbins is a contributing writer for Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.