A.J. Griffin gives the Spurs a much-needed dose of shot creation
While coming into the league with good measurables is certainly a nice thing to have, I'm almost always more concerned with transferable skills that a player can bring to the NBA. In Griffin's case, his most obvious appeal at this point is his long-term potential as a shooter and three-level scorer.
Griffin had a bit of a slow start to the season, and up to this point, some of his other teammates at Duke like Paolo Banchero, Wendell Moore Jr., and to some degree, even Trevor Keels and Mark Williams have stolen the show. While those other names have certainly had a lot to do with Duke's success this season, it would be a tremendous mistake to overlook Griffin's impact on the court, especially in late December going into January.
Griffin's stats don't exactly pop off the screen-- he currently averages 8.9 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.0 assists in 19.4 minutes per game. What should catch your eye, though, is that he's shooting 54.4% from the field and a staggering 50% from beyond the arc on just over three attempts per game while maintaining the lowest turnover percentage of all of Duke's regular rotation players.
For being as young as he is, Griffin has an incredibly versatile scoring package. From beyond the arc, Griffin can hit pull-up threes off of step-backs, hesis, and crossovers. When away from the ball, he's just as reliable of a catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter, particularly from the corners. He's also hit some wildly difficult shots off of movement, including the one below just this past week.
Despite his eye-popping three-point shooting, this is far from being Griffin's only method of scoring. When he has the ball in his hands, he loves using spin moves to either shoot a short fadeaway in the paint or take the ball to the rack. He often will not settle for tough shots, and his comfort with putting the ball on the floor and taking contact allows him to find more efficient shots when his defender makes a closeout.
When the ball is in someone else's hands, Griffin has frequently been able to show off his fantastic instincts as a cutter. He has a knack for recognizing when defenders fall asleep and frequently capitalizes when he catches them ball-watching. As these plays almost always result in an easy layup or monstrous dunk, this has been a major contributor to his efficiency despite still not exactly being a high-volume shooter.
Finding such a complete and versatile offensive skillset in an 18-year-old wing is not easy to come by, so if the Spurs are looking for a primary scorer outside of Dejounte Murray, Griffin could very well be a long-term answer. Outside of the consensus top three in this year's class, there may not be a higher-upside player on that end of the floor.