Blake Griffin and DeMarcus Cousins Stepping Up (part 3)
When Rob and I have discussed the two in the past on the podcast, one of his chief points in favor of Blake is the higher minute load carried. And in fact, earlier in the season, Blake was playing around 6 more minutes per game, 36 to 30. But from the above, Cousins has managed to cut down on his fouls and/or improve his conditioning enough to almost equalize that advantage. On the other hand, Blake has upped his offensive game almost across the board, with the biggest improvement being at the free throw line. Not only is he getting to the line almost 50% more often, but he has significantly upped his percentage, going from a liability (64.6%) to a relative strength (76.3%).
In a a development I think is related, Blake has been an absolute beast in the low post over that period - raising his overall efficiency in post up situations to 96/100poss, including getting buckets against legitimate post defenders (as opposed to just destroying mismatches, which was the case up to December.) The change appears to be based on one change - his willingness to go into the middle of the lane and seek contact. For the first 6 weeks or so of the season, teams were simply conceding a right hand drive/left shoulder jump hook to him from the left block, but he was rarely opting for that shot:
More recently, and I would suggest aided by his willingness to get to the FT line, he has been attacking the middle of the floor and the bucket in these scenarios:
More interestingly on the offensive end, Cousins has also become extremely effective as a PnR roll man since the forced insertion of Isiah Thomas into the starting lineup following the Rudy Gay trade, as he is up to a robust and well above league average 1.03 PPP in those situations. Much like Blake's increased post scoring through aggressively attacking the rim, Cousins is using the combination of his physical talents and Sacramento's increased floor balance to get to the rim as a roll man with more regularity. In a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem, early in the season, Cousins preferred to pop rather than role in part due to his own decision making but also due to the clogged nature of the lane given the poor quality of Sacramento's wing play:
In contrast, he now has more space and more spacers around him, allowing hard rim runs:
That said, the SportVU numbers continue to reveal interesting facets of the game, including more support for Cameron's observations about LeBron's lack of shot contesting effort this year. Additionally, my love of Kyle Korver continues to grow, as he is contesting more shots at the rim per game (4.1) than any other full time wing in the league. Also of interest is the fact that Draymond Green has been roughly as effective in contesting shots at the rim as Chris Bosh this season, on a per minute basis, #TeamDraymond scores out about as well as would a league average big man in terms of rim protection.