Our 2022 NBA Draft Scout Report Series continues with a look at AJ Griffin, a promising specialist from Duke.
AJ Griffin is an exciting overall score, even if teams may end up fearful of overusing the young forward. He is in the 2022 NBA Draft class as the son of a renowned NBA assistant coach (Adrian Griffin), a former best-in-class contender before losing time in high school to injury, and one of the top three-point shooters. the college ranks last season.
On top of all that, he won’t turn 19 until August and is already 6ft 6in (6in 10in) tall and weighs 200lbs. He already has an NBA body, but he’s underdeveloped defensively and doesn’t yet have a diverse set of skills to use offensively.
It’s a bit unusual to see a young prospect who is so advanced in a few areas but still so raw in many other areas.
Shooting is a skill that sets him apart from almost every other player in the class. He converted almost 45% of his 159 perimeter attempts in his only season at Duke. The movement is clean, even if the release point is a bit lower than you’d like given its frame. There really is no reason why he can’t spend a significant amount of time at the next level discovering his weak point and doing whatever he needs to do to succeed in this role.
Some have expressed concern that Griffin may not be dynamic enough on offense at close range, but his best current skill in the NBA probably lies in his ability to use a dribbling or two to move still past the three-point line to produce a high percentage of shots. .
When kicked completely off the line, he is currently a bit of a straight-line racer with a limited handle and a deliberate decision-making process. His performance in this area causes fair concern. NBA teams will have to figure out how much of this can be solved with the NBA Development Program and all the reps that come with it.
Griffin is far from being a reliable pick-and-roll or dribble handoff. He admits that in high school and in the AAU environment, he was most interested in dribbling in his elite backstep jumper. Apparently, his ball handling and decision making suffered as a result. But this is a player who will play his entire rookie season at 19.
I see two prerequisites for him at the next level if his potential is to be maximized. First, he must be part of an NBA organization that excels at player development. Then he needs to play in an offensive system that is prescriptive rather than organic, Memphis being a good example. Otherwise, he will probably need a role in which he will start almost all possessions in the spot-up role.
Considering he moves well off the basketball, both in the lift/shake and in the cut, he should be confidently progressing as a credible performer in this role.
Defensively, he needs a lot of improvement. And the more limited his future offensive role will be, the more important it will be for him to make significant progress on this end of the floor.
It’s hard to see how injury-related his defensive limitations are. But currently he is an unimpressive lateral player who struggles to keep the ball carriers up front.
With a naturally low and wide stance, he looks, in a way, ready to sit and slide as a defender. But his first step in any direction will be slow and long. His stance may be too wide at this point, or he may simply be playing more flat-footed than he appears.
Griffin demonstrates that he knows how to put his body and strength to work in the stance, where he is much more successful as a defender. For this reason, he can perform as a power forward at the NBA level and can be best paired with another forward who is solid on the ball.
He can get lost at times, defending the ball, losing cutters, and not tracking the screens coming towards him. He will need to demonstrate that he can be trusted as the team’s defender to get a real opportunity at the next level. But the caution here is the same as in all other areas. He is so young and inexperienced.
At this point, Griffin is mostly bullied towards the end of the lottery, but he may have a draft range that’s just as hard to pinpoint as any player in the class. Teams can trust his ability to coach given that he has been coached by an NBA coach his entire basketball life. And that could help him get drafted sooner than he otherwise might have been.