I smile anytime I see Blake Griffin on those commercials.
Whether it’s the Gamefly ones or the Kia commercials, something about him just makes me laugh. Maybe it’s his curly hair and freakishly large body next to a bunch of smaller kids. Or perhaps it’s me reminiscing about the whole “Blake face” video. Whatever it is, I truly do enjoy seeing those commercials on television.
I smile more when I watch Blake Griffin play basketball in 2014.
Coming into his fourth season, there were plenty of people criticizing Griffin’s game. A one-dimensional big man who lacks the touch from the outside and can’t hit a free-throw to save his life, Griffin has really blossomed in the early stages of the 2013-14 season. He’s really improved from the stripe, which we will get into in more detail later on. He’s become a far more efficient player on the court, and as a result, fantasy hoops owners are being handsomely rewarded as Griffin dominates.
Through 39 games this year, Griffin is averaging a gaudy 22.3 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals per contest. Those numbers are good enough for him to rank as the number six overall power forward on ESPN’s Player Rater. And when you consider three of those players (LeBron, Durant and Melo) are SF and PW eligible, he’s really a top-three fantasy power forward. His night-to-night consistency is strong, as he’s averaging an incredible 41.5 DraftDay fantasy points per contest, which is among the highest in the game today. A large part of his fantasy success has to do with his ability to score at a high clip lately.
His 22.3 points per game ranks 10th-best in the NBA, and he’s had double-digit points in every single game this year. Griffin has also scored at least 20 points in 25 of 39 games this year, including 30 or more points in six contests. He’s had the big games that fantasy owners love to see out of some of their top draft picks, and a lot of it has to do with another contributing factor.
Anyone knows that opportunity is one of the biggest components to fantasy success. If a player gets the ball a ton of times, fantasy numbers will follow. It’s common sense, folks. Griffin has been one of most utilized players in the league through the first couple of months. In fact, his healthy 80.8 offensive touches per game on the season is the 17th-most in the entire league, making him only one of three non-point guards to place inside the top-25 in that regard. Keep in mind, this isn’t just because of the absence of Chris Paul, as Griffin has been up there for the majority of the season. More importantly, he’s seeing plenty of looks where it’ll be easiest for him to score points. His 6.6 close touches per game (touches originating within 12 feet of basket) are the eighth-most in basketball. And again, he’s been efficient in that regard, averaging a very strong 0.28 points per touch on the year. Griffin is also shooting the ball a strong 16 times per game, which places himself inside the top-25 in that regard.
Of course, it also helps when you are on the court a whole lot. Griffin is currently averaging 36.2 minutes per contest, which is inside the top-fifteen most in all of basketball. He’s only played fewer than 30 minutes in a game twice all season long, which is pretty awesome volume to target.
This has been the most impressive part of Griffin’s improvement this year. A career .626% foul shooter, Griffin often killed his fantasy owners in category leagues from the line. Killed them. However, Griffin has vastly improved early this year, shooting a career-high .707 percent from the stripe. Sure, it obviously isn’t a stellar number by any means, but it’s an encouraging sign, especially when you consider the fact that he is going to the line almost eight times per game. Opposing defenses can’t handle him inside the paint, and if he continues to improve his foul shooting, he’ll easily average 20-plus points per game the rest of the way, strictly based on the amount of trips he’ll be making to the line.
Griffin is playing out of his mind right now, and it’s even more impressive when you consider that Paul, the best point guard in the NBA, isn’t even there to set him up right now. He has been, and will continue to be, in must-start fantasy territory.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.