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Welcome A.J. Griffin


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This is from Sam Vecenie's draft guide. Definetly the most detailed draft guide I've come across in text form.


AJ Griffin W | Duke | DOB: Aug. 25, 2003 (Age: 18) | 6-6 | 220 LBS | Hometown: White Plains, N.Y.

STRENGTHS: Was a consensus five-star recruit despite missing most of his junior and senior seasons. Named to the McDonald’s All-American team and Jordan Brand Classic teams. Started slowly during his freshman season but picked it up by the time conference play rolled around, earning ACC All-Rookie honors, and was an honorable mention All-ACC player. Terrific frame at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds with a 6-foot-11 wingspan. Has shown terrific intersection of power and explosiveness at lower levels, particularly as a leaper. At Duke, showcased more of the power. Plays through contact exceptionally well. Made 65 percent of his shots at the basket in half-court settings, per Synergy. Didn’t get there a ton but makes tough, below-the-rim finishes when he does. Knows how to play off contact to create angles. Hard to overemphasize his potential as a floor spacer and shooter. Behind only Jabari Smith Jr. in this class in terms of shotmaker potential. The shot looks a bit strange, as he has a wide base on the catch, but his touch is terrific and has been in every level of his career. Gets terrific rhythm and weight transfer, with very simple mechanics on a set shot. Beautiful one-motion shot. Always aligned toward the rim and ready to fire off a one-two step. Great setup where his right hip and right elbow are aligned with a slightly turned base. Very comfortable firing from behind the NBA 3-point line. Took more than 40 shots from beyond 25 feet, made them at a 33 percent clip, per Synergy — not a bad mark for an 18-year-old. Knows how to hunt open 3s too. Finds them in transition and finds them by shuffling into open areas to spot up from 3. Can also hit pull-up jumpers. Because of his natural touch level, Griffin has immense upside if his athleticism ever returns to previous levels. His stepback game is nasty. Per Synergy, he hit 43.7 percent of his pull-up jumpers, including 43.2 percent of his pull-up 3s. Creates a ton of separation on his stepback to his left with a hop-step. Plays with great pace on his dribble leading into it, rocking defenders onto their back foot before hitting them with that stepback. Loves the left-to-right dribble between the legs before a stepback to his left. Tough to guard, and part of it is because you have to stay balanced on him as a driver to his left. His moves flow into each other in a way that makes sense because of it. Will drive left then hit a turnaround jumper to his right or get to the rim using his power from his lower half. If you guard him small, he’s going to elevate over the top to finish because of his touch level. Has real potential to take smaller guards into the post on switches because of this. He uses that physical strength well on defense too. Has potential to guard bigger guys with ease because of his strength. Won’t have any issues against fours in the NBA because of his strength and length. You can’t go through his chest because of his strong core and base. There are defensive issues if the athleticism doesn’t come back — and he’s a genuine negative on defense right now — but defending bigger assignments in isolation won’t be an issue.


WEAKNESSES: Used to have some twitch at lower levels but didn’t showcase it much at Duke. Has dealt with some past injury issues. Missed most of his junior season in high school with a knee injury, then his senior season with an ankle injury. He also had a knee surgery prior to his freshman season at Duke. Could be a situation where the injuries have sapped some of the twitch or could be that he’s still recovering given that it’s been one injury after another for a couple of years. Particularly, there are concerns on defense. A bit heavy-footed on the perimeter. In switch scenarios on lead guards, he can get blown by easily. Tries to use length to recover but doesn’t have great hip flexibility to turn and go. Ends up putting himself in bad spots positionally and fouling, either with hand checks or with his lower half. That’s all only in isolation, though. He’s even worse in ball screens. Struggles to fight through screens because of how stiff he is. Can’t get skinny to get around them. However, when he gets hit by the screener, he also doesn’t have the ability to restart his momentum and gets lost in recovery. You can’t play a drop with him because he’s not good enough at fighting through screens; you end up having to switch because Griffin gets locked onto the screener. But you also can’t feel comfortable with him in switches because his foot speed isn’t good enough. Griffin must work on his lateral quickness. There is real defensive downside; some of this is fundamental, but the stiffness throughout his lower half might not be if his quickness isn’t there. He’s bad on closeouts, in large part because he gets heavy-footed. Doesn’t take good angles on closeouts and is a blow-by magnet because of his lack of foot speed. Duke seemed to have a lot of communication issues with him involved in exchanges. He lost his assignment a bit too regularly. Missed tags on pick-and-rolls. Ball watches and gets back-cut more often than you’d like to see. Doesn’t seem aware about what’s happening around him off the ball and doesn’t seem all that engaged. Given that stiffness, he’s also not that creative of a ballhandler. Doesn’t separate through shake or change of pace. Can’t collapse a defense right now. His handle is fine in a straight line, but he can’t go anywhere unless he’s going through people. While his handle isn’t completely a problem, I do think his footwork is bad — particularly when trying to load up as a finisher. Takes extra steps when he’s trying to load up to drive and ends up allowing his opponent to recover. Because he can’t collapse any help, he’s not an effective playmaker or passer for his teammates at this time. Everything is an escape-pass right now, because no one has to help onto him because his man constantly stays in front of him.

SUMMARY: Griffin’s game comes down to how much you buy him as a shot creator. If you think he’s such a good shooter and jump-shot creator that he can average an efficient 20 points per game almost purely living on 3-pointers and pull-ups, then you should have him in the top five. As a scorer, I would argue that he has the most upside in the draft outside of the top four guys because of that value as a shooter. I completely buy him as a 40 percent shooter from 3 if you get him a steady stream of kickouts. If you start to throw in his potential athletic gains as he gets further from injury, then it’s easy to see how you could have him that high. But if you don’t buy him as being able to get enough separation because his stiffness and athleticism limits how fluid and functional he can be, then there is some real downside because of how poor he is on defense. When he’s not scoring, he can be invisible because he’s not making an impact as a defender, transition driver or passer. There were far too many moments where he was a passenger for Duke. This is a risk/reward pick. The general manager who picks him might end up with the kind of scorer who can get to his spots and shoot over the top because of how special his touch is. Or they might end up with a floorspacing defensive liability. Take your chances.

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