• Sudeep Tumma

Scouting Report: AJ Griffin Possesses Top-5 Physical Tools and Talent

A slow start shouldn't overshadow his future.

It’s pretty telling that in AJ Griffin’s first eight games, he averaged four points in 10.4 minutes and was still talked about as a lottery pick.

After missing most of his last two years of high school due to injuries, those same woes popped up again to begin his Duke career.

Since then, Griffin proved why he’s a five-star and justified his draft stock.

In his last 21 games, Griffin has averaged 12.8 points and 4.3 rebounds on 51.3 FG% and 50.5 3PT% in 26.5 minutes. And that’s on a loaded Duke team that could have could have five first-round picks in this 2022 NBA draft.

Griffin has seamlessly slid into this rotation, appearing comfortable in his role as a secondary piece. His blistering shooting percentages certainly support that notion.

He operates as anything from the No. 2-5 option on the floor. But lately, he’s been the No. 2 with his high-caliber play.

The 6-6, 222-pound wing boasts an NBA-ready body with quality physical tools. He isn’t the most explosive player on the floor, but he’s a good athlete with imposing strength.

It’s a little onerous to try to figure out what type of athlete he is. He was touted as this big-time explosive athlete coming out of high school. I’m not sure if it was injuries or what it was, but he hasn’t shown that athleticism.

Griffin is almost like a running back. First off, he has excellent balance as a driver and runs with a “low center of gravity” — a phrase often used to describe RBs. He’s also got good build-up speed, he’s not a super quick athlete whose first step is devastating.

Rather, he’s a deliberate, high IQ player who leverages defenders and uses his physical tools to great effect.

His game starts with his silky-smooth jumper. Griffin’s obscenely high 3-point percentage isn’t just on spot-up looks. He works off the catch, but he also creates space off the dribble to hit long-range bombs. Whether he jab steps a defender, utilizes the step back, sidesteps off a pump fake or combines it all together, he’s a dynamic shooter.

His mechanics are good, although he shoots with a wide base and a low release point on his jumper. Still, it’s silly to argue with the production.

Griffin utilizes ball fakes so well and is extremely patient. He spends the majority of his time on the perimeter as a floor spacer, but he runs off screens well.

When he does get the ball beyond the 3-point line. If the defense closes out, Griffin has a tight handle on the ball and he plays with a smart pace.

Griffin absolutely adores the hesitation move. When he’s sizing up the defender, he loves to hit him with the hesitation, create an angle and attack downhill. He’s really a no-nonsense player who doesn’t fool around. He averages a mere 0.7 turnovers, which is a testament to his high IQ.

As I said, he’s not an elite athlete, but he has some deceptive quickness/burst as a driver. With the astute pace he plays with, his athleticism almost feels unexpected, which gives him a major advantage. Now, combine that with his elite blend of power/strength/body control, and he’s a load attacking the rim.

Griffin is adept at finishing with either hand and his touch around the rim is pure. There isn’t much trickery/finesse at the rim, but he’ll lower his shoulder and finish through contact.

Whether it’s off screens, in pick-and-roll or iso situations, Griffin displays the ability to score — at all three levels.

He has some savvy mid-range ability. He’s not going to contort his body and hit fadeaways in that area. But he has a great feel on when a defender is scooting back with his feet twisted. When Griffin feels the defender is giving him too much space, he’ll pull up and knock down those jumpers.

Even when he’s driving and doesn’t beat his defender cleanly, he doesn’t force up a porous layup attempt. He’ll come to a stop near the rim and go to his counter: the turnaround mid-range jumper.

Once again, it speaks to his IQ. His shot selection is exemplary.

He’s settled in so well to his role and doesn’t try to force things. And that’s the same MO when it comes to his playmaking.

Griffin averages only 1.1 assists. He doesn’t provide much as a passer, but I love how he just makes the simple passes and doesn’t commit boneheaded mistakes. The turnover number speaks for itself.

In the last 21 games, he is averaging 4.3 rebounds a game. Obviously, the number could be higher, but it’s more a product of his role/teammates than his effort.

When you’re playing next to 6-10 Paolo Banchero, 7-0 Mark Williams, long-armed Wendell Moore and linebacker-built Trevor Keels, there aren’t too many rebounds to be had.

The Blue Devils are the 28th-best rebounding team in the nation.

Still, Griffin is typically looking to creep in, crash the glass and is willing to box out. His physical tools are obviously a big plus in that department.

Tools that help him as a defender as well. However, his defensive profile is a bit two-fold.

His one-on-one defense is certainly a weak point. It all circles back to his lateral quickness. Griffin gets beat off the dribble routinely. It’s not an effort thing, his ability to slide has just been diminished.

Almost ironically, he’s locked in when he’s playing off-ball defense. Typically players fall asleep there, but Griffin’s defensive intensity is commendable. He sticks with his man well.

With his size/strength, his defensive versatility is a major selling point. He can guard multiple positions. He switches matchups seamlessly and slides well as a weak side help defender.

That being said, he does have a tendency to bite and gets beat on backdoor cuts. He plays ball denial well, but sometimes overdoes it and lets his man get past him.

Still, with a 7-0 wingspan and a 40-inch vertical, Griffin has the defensive potential to really flourish on that end of the floor.

As a whole, it’s easy to see why Griffin is touted as a potential top-5 pick. He effortlessly slid onto a talented Duke team, and he’ll effortlessly slide onto a talented NBA team.

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