Scouting Science: Blake Griffin with Ku Kahlil of Detroit Bad Boys
It feels like I’m typing the words “so and so superstar (or former superstar) is a Brooklyn Net” every week.
Yet Blake Griffin is a bloody Brooklyn network. What a totally crazy time of year. While some will point to Blake’s under-the-the-rim style – particularly that he hasn’t dived since 2019 – as evidence that the former dunk champion reached Capital “D,” others will highlight his efforts at adapting his game to the modern NBA. Networks of former assistant coaches, Steve jones jr, highlighted Griffin’s ground clearance on Twitter: He shoots 44.2% on wide open threes (defenders 6+ feet away or more), according to NBA stats. If you put two and two together, as ESPN’s Zach Lowe did on “The Jump,” in a space that featured the global shooting talent of James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and Joe Harris, there is one good chance Blake gets a lot of these wide open freebies.
But basketball exists beyond just catching and shooting wide-open shots, regardless of a group’s talent. Griffin needs to find his place on the offensive, but perhaps more importantly, on the defensive too.
To get a better sense of what Blake might bring to the table, I brought in an expert. May I introduce Ku Kahlil, Writers and reporters for our sister site, Detroit Bad Boys. Ku is as bright as it gets when it comes to keeping a tight grip on everything to do with analytics and film for the Detroit Pistons, as his great YouTube channel shows. Ku’s ballroomthat you should definitely check out.
First off, Ku, thank you for coming to see me. I look forward to getting a glimpse of what to expect from Blake Griffin. Lord knows there have been many different opinions about the guy.
What better place to start than with …
Matt Brooks: We know at least historically what an offensive force Blake Griffin can be. For this particular Nets team, what is the greatest thing he will add to Steve Nash’s offense?
Ku Kahlil: I think the most positive and realistic addition Griffin can bring to Brooklyn is his game. He’s not the same athlete as he was in 2018-19, let alone his clipper days. He struggled to keep anyone from dribbling this year and struggled shockingly even in post-up situations. I don’t expect Griffin to get much better in either area of Brooklyn.
However, his game is still pretty sharp. For example, without including passes, Griffin ranked in the 44th percentile in post-up situations. However, if you include passes, this increases to the 73rd percentile. This trend stays true when you take an aggressive look at other areas of his game as well. Another example is the pick and roll. That year, Griffin ranked in the 90th percentile as a pick-and-roll ball handler when including passing.
Of course, I don’t expect Griffin to get many chances on a loaded Brooklyn team with better options. However, I think Steve Nash can really take advantage of his pass in short roll situations. For this to happen, however, Griffin had to start rolling again – something he had completely stopped in Detroit.
MB: Some of Blake’s shooting numbers this season are BAD. Is there reason to fret about his longevity as a Sagittarius? Or was this a by-product of playing on a sometimes cramped floor?
KK: His shooting is at least a little worrying. The only year he could shoot so well from a distance was his 2018-19 MVP season. His numbers have been down since then, and injuries I think obviously have a lot to do with it. However, I think it’s also fair to believe that playing with three Superstars who make him look better can make his life easier and Nets fans can see an improved percentage from outside the arc.
He shoots 34 percent on catch-and-shoot threes. It’s not terrible, but it’s not good either. The thing is, Griffin shot over 36 percent from depth in 2018-19, but what made him such a good shooter at the time was the fact that he was doing a lot of it outside of dribbling. That season he shot 37 percent catch-and-shoot threes, but he made 1.5 more attempts with pull-up threes and shot them 35 percent. I think Brooklyn just has to hope Griffin can get closer to that 37 percent while realizing that expectation that he’s a legitimate threat is gone from now on is basically gone – since he’s currently 29, 2 percent shoots when pulling – up to three.
MB: ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that the networks are planning to use Blake as a backup. 5. Do you think this is a good role for him?
KK: I have to be honest, I think that’s terrible for the networks. Blake’s so bad on defense now, it’s weird. He’s no longer able to move as well, making it difficult for him to move sideways and stay with people who seem like an off-the-dribble game. The area I think that will hurt the most is leftover. Blake’s remaining stock, and I’m not exaggerating when I say this, maybe the worst in NBA history. I can’t imagine drop coverage with Blake as your 5 when you’re playing against a big one who can shoot. What’s even more frightening is playing against a great guy who can shoot but also attacks good close-outs, let alone terrible ones. That doesn’t even take into account its lack of rim protection.
Griffin will cover the cost for you so I think that’s a plus. To be honest, at this point in his career I have a hard time figuring out a situation for Blake in defense that would be “good”. So shoot, why not give Small-Ball 5 a try?
MB: Defensively, is there a way to maximize Blake? Is he a “drop” defender? A guy who hides and recovers? A Switch Defender?
KK: Haha, I think I just answered that. I don’t understand how you play with Blake Drop Coverage without the other team making you pay from the outside. Personally, I’d say his best chance as a Switch guy is because it doesn’t make him move as much off the ball. He’s still pretty strong so you won’t see a lot of players bullying him into the basket and he’s a very smart player too. In this scenario, he can examine the tendencies of the players before the games and try to predict where they are going. Let me reiterate that this is a dilemma that Nash needs to figure out. I don’t see good options, but I think moving is the best possible. Maybe catching him and then asking him to recover if he tries 200 times more effort might work, but I just don’t see it.
Unless Griffin has been faking his game and efforts all season, as Twitter says. Then you can be sure that he can do whatever Nash demands of him!
MB: And finally, do you like the move for the nets? And is Blake – dare I use the word “W” – washed?
KK: I really love Blake Griffin. He became my all-time favorite butt while at Detroit and the fan base really appreciates what he’s done here, and specifically sacrificed his body in the 2018-19 season. However, I would not accuse anyone of using that word. I’m not going to call him washed because I find it disrespectful and I really hope he’ll revive his career. But those of us who have watched him in Detroit for the past two seasons see it as quite an obstacle for him to overcome.
As for the question of whether it’s a W for the nets, I would still say yes. I believe in the whole: “Collect so much talent, think about fit later.” On the surface, Blake is still very talented. The abilities are not what has decreased, it is his body. If Brooklyn somehow gets a healthier version of Blake, that would be a steal for the bare minimum. The thing is, all we’ve heard in Detroit is that this is as healthy as it can get. So i don’t know. At this point, while I am not blaming anyone for wanting to think that way, it would be extremely optimistic to the point of an unrealistic view of things. What I can buy for the nets is low risk, highly rewarded. If Blake doesn’t show more than he did in Detroit, put him on the bench and probably win the championship anyway. If he’s showing more, then you probably have a bargain price on the vet minimum. Just want to tell Nets fans that they don’t go into it and expect this to be another Bruce Brown. I know Detroit already gave you a gem for free. I don’t think this will be the same. I hope I’m wrong though, because it’s ridiculously fun to watch a healthy, fully functional Blake Griffin.
MB: Ku, I just want to thank you for taking the time to answer some of Blake Griffin’s more pressing questions. Your insight, especially about its ideal fit in defense, is greatly appreciated in these areas. You and I agree, my friend, a rejuvenated Blake would be a hell of a sight.
NetsDaily friends, be sure to pass Ku on Twitter If you like creative, out-of-the-box sports content. His YouTube stuff is great and I would be lying if I didn’t say I got inspiration for my own stuff. Stay tuned with the pistons through Ku, as Detroit and Brooklyn seem to cross over every few months at this point.