NBA beware: Blake Griffin is back to his best

Blake Griffin has always carried the mantle of ‘saviour’. Everywhere he has played, from High School, on to College and finally the NBA, every team he has played for expects him to take the leadership role. And that is exactly what he has done all his career, except those times when the oft-repeated cases of injuries strike.

His arrival in Los Angeles, when the Clippers made him their number one pick at the 2009 Draft, was seen as the start of something magical for the franchise. They had made the playoffs just four times since they arrived in California from San Diego in 1978, and had not been at the postseason in two years when he was drafted.

The eight seasons he spent in Los Angeles were the best of the Clipper years; he was named Rookie of the Year, the first Clipper to get that honour in 28 years, and they qualified for the post-season six years in a row. However, apart from his first four seasons, Griffin has not enjoyed an injury-free campaign.

He didn’t play at all during the 2009/10 season after he was drafted and so, was considered a rookie when he finally suited up for the 2010/11 season, and was promptly handed an All-Star selection. He ended that year tallying 22.5 points, 12.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists, and those were his best numbers until the 2013/14 season, when he logged a career-high 24.1 points and 9.5 rebounds. The ‘decline’ started from there. Griffin never completed a full NBA season after that.

Then, last season, he was traded to the Detroit Pistons, and while his team has changed, the expectations and the delivery, have not. The Oklahoma native is touted as the most important recruit the Pistons have made since they landed Hall-of-Famer Grant Hill, and Griffin is living up to the hype. In his debut game, he recorded 24 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists, the first Piston since Hill to deliver such numbers in their first game. Then, against the Philadelphia 76ers late in October, he scored a career-high 50 points in the overtime win; the first Piston to score 50 since Rip Hamilton scored 51 in 2006.

In other words, Griffin is back to his best; his play is showing it, and the numbers are confirming it. The 27.3 points he is averaging now is a career-high, much better than the previous best of 24.1 points of the 2013/14 season; add the 10.7 rebounds he has averaged through the 10 games he has played so far, and he is averaging a double-double for the first time since 2011/12 and for only the third time in his career.

The 30.1 usage percentage against his name is the most of his entire NBA career, the closest to that figure was the 29.8 usage percentage of 2015/16. His impact is also being felt in the win-share percentage; the league average is .100, Griffin is logging .180, and that is his highest since he logged .183 in the 2014/15 season.

Griffin is back. The Charlotte Hornets will feel his impact, when they arrive in Detroit to face the Pistons in this week’s NBA Sundays game.

Charlotte won two of the three meetings in the regular season last term, with Griffin recording 20 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists in the last meeting, the only one he played in the series. The new sheriff is now settled in Detroit and the Hornets are about to feel the sting.

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