Chris Paul has missed all or part of the Los Angeles Clippers' last five games, the first four of which were losses. In case you needed a reminder of why Chris Paul is a closer challenger to LeBron James and Kevin Durant for MVP than you might think, that's exhibit A. However, don't blame Blake Griffin, an All-Star starter yet again, for the swoon, because he's been playing inspired basketball.
When Griffin was a rookie -- and the runaway choice for rookie of the year -- he average 20 points, 10 rebounds and 3 assists, which were nearly unprecedented numbers for a newcomer in the league, certainly considering how 20-10 players have become an endangered species in today's NBA. When Chris Paul arrived, the Clippers immediately got better while Griffin's numbers dipped significantly, leading to many calling out whether he was regressing, not living up to his potential, or something else entirely.
Instead of regressing however, it's now clear Griffin kept his ability all along, simply harnessing it for the greater good of the team. While his numbers have suffered -- this year, he's averaging 18.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game -- the Clippers are among the best teams in the league. He's improved his post defense, laughable in his first two years, significantly to the point where he and DeAndre Jordan aren't the all-flash, all-flop team, rather an average defensive unit that routinely gets the better of opposing frontcourts because of their athleticism and commitment to running the floor.
Blake Griffin has dished out nine assists or more in the past two games, both against the Portland Trail Blazers. In his past six games, he's averaging 22.2 points, 9.3 rebounds and 6.2 assists, shooting around 55 percent from the floor and blocking more shots than usual.
No, Blake Griffin isn't good enough to carry the Clippers to the playoffs on his own. But to say he's regressed would be simply a miscategorization. Could he be better at adapting his game? Certainly. But Griffin's ability to be among the best all-around big men in the game is certainly there. He simply has to show it.