Brooklyn Nets

Three ways Blake Griffin can make a difference on the Brooklyn Nets

The Brooklyn Nets aren't done making moves.

Last week, the team announced the signing of six-time All-Star Blake Griffin, who recently cleared waivers after securing a buyout with the Detroit Pistons.

According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, Griffin's deal is worth $1.2 million for the remainder of the season.

On the surface, the Nets landing Griffin is yet another case of the rich getting richer - imagine telling someone five years ago that Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Kevin Durant and Griffin would be on the same team in 2021 - but the last couple of seasons have been a bit of a struggle for him.

In 2019-20, Griffin was limited to 18 games because of a knee injury that required season-ending surgery. In the 20 games he appeared in with the Pistons this season, he averaged a career-low 12.3 points on 36.5 percent shooting from the field and 31.5 percent from 3-point range. He's developed into far more than a dunker - more on that soon - but it's telling that Griffin hasn't made or attempted a single dunk this season. Athletically, he's simply not the same player he once was.

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Fortunately for Griffin, that shouldn't be as big of a deal in Brooklyn as it was in Detroit. Playing alongside three All-Stars who are still very much in their primes in Irving, Harden and Durant will allow him to take a backseat on offence and focus on playing to his strengths as a shooter, passer and post-up scorer.

After missing his first five games in Brooklyn, due to injury management on his left knee, Griffin is set to make his debut Sunday against the Washington Wizards.

So how can Griffin help the Nets?

First, shooting.

Griffin's evolution as a shooter is quite impressive. His jump shot was once seen as his greatest weakness, but it felt like he added a little more range to his jumper each season he was with the LA Clippers, to the point where he was doing things like this on a consistent basis in his first full season with the Pistons:

We haven't even seen that version of Griffin over the last couple of seasons, but sharing the court with Irving, Harden and Durant means he won't have to create shots for himself in nearly the same volume he did with the Pistons. Whether it's playing power forward or small ball centre, he can space the floor for the three of them by camping out on the 3-point line as a spot-up shooter.

An encouraging stat: Griffin is 196-for-550 (35.6 percent) on catch-and-shoot 3s since the 2016-17 season. (It's his shooting off the dribble that has fallen off a cliff lately. Per, he's 19-for-65 on pull-up 3s this season after going 17-for-58 last season. That's ... not good). Griffin is no Karl-Anthony Towns, but there's reason to believe he will be able to stretch the floor for the Nets at a good enough rate for it to work.

Second, passing.

Griffin has long been one of the better passers at his position. Even this season, his 3.9 assists per game rank him 18th among forwards, a list that includes the likes of Brandon Ingram, Khris Middleton and LeBron James.

Time will tell how much offence the Nets actually run through Griffin - probably not much when he's playing with two or three of Irving, Harden and Durant, but maybe a decent amount when he's the centerpiece of bench-heavy lineups - but it's easy to imagine him being involved in handoffs with Brooklyn's shooters...

...initiating fastbreaks...

...running the occasional pick-and-roll...

...and making plays out of the post.

If nothing else, Griffin gives the Nets someone else they can give the ball to and run actions off of, which will take some pressure off of Irving, Harden and Durant to do everything offensively. That's not a luxury they currently have with DeAndre Jordan, Nicolas Claxton or Jeff Green, the three other bigs who make up their power forward and centre rotation. They're more finishers, whereas Griffin is more of an initiator.

Which brings us to the third of Griffin's strengths, post-up scoring.

Get this: Brooklyn is generating 1.7 percent of its offence out of the post this season, the second-lowest rate in the league behind only the Utah Jazz. In signing Griffin, the Nets have acquired someone who is generating 30.2 percent of their offence out of the post this season, the second-highest rate in the entire league behind only post-up powerhouse Joel Embiid.

There are two ways of absorbing that information. The first is Griffin and the Nets are at odds stylistically. (Someone who lives in the post is joining a team that never looks to score there!) The second is Griffin adds an element the Nets were missing.

Personally, I lean more towards the latter.

Not that the Nets will spoon-feed Griffin the ball in the post - he ranks in the 44th percentile with 0.92 points per post-up possession this season, so it's not like he's lighting teams up with his back to the basket - but he's going to see his fair share of mismatches playing next to Irving, Harden and Durant. Rarely is he going to be defended by the opposing team's best defender, and pick-and-rolls involving one of them as the ball handler and Griffin as the screener could lead to some favourable switches on both sides.

Again, time will tell how much offence the Nets run through Griffin, but he at least gives them the option of dumping the ball down low.

The Nets will be able to give Griffin plenty of space to work with in those situations, as they can surround him with three or four 3-point shooters at all times.

The other end of the court is a far bigger question mark for Griffin at this stage of his career. He was a solid defender in his prime, but he's never been much of a rim protector and isn't nearly as switchy as he once was. Especially in big games, he's someone teams will look to attack on defence by putting him in pick-and-rolls.

That could limit Griffin's effectiveness late in games and in the playoffs, but Brooklyn's season doesn't hinge on him turning back the clock on either end of the court. (The Nets still have Jordan against bigger lineups and either Green or Claxton when they want more flexibility). Anything they get out of him will be a bonus, making this a low-risk signing that's worth the gamble given the potential upside.

The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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