News flash: Duke basketball’s AJ Griffin is a BEAST
During the Blue Devils’ last game at Notre Dame, the ESPN broadcast featured NBA Draft analyst Mike Schmitz talking about the number of potential first-round picks that Duke basketball may have on its squad. Of course, he zeroed in on Paolo Banchero and the race for the top spot. But he also singled out AJ Griffin as the player who helped himself the most.
Schmitz went on to list the measurements for Griffin — 6-foot-6 with a 7-foot wingspan at a chiseled 222 pounds and only 18 years old — and stated that his long-term upside could land him in the lottery and as high as the fifth overall selection. Considering the top four — Banchero, Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith, and Jaden Ivey — is somewhat of a consensus, it’s made the talk of Griffin’s ascension that much more impressive.
After all, this was a player who began the year injured and was brought along slowly, much to the dismay and consternation of some Duke basketball fans. Griffin’s status, or plight if some prefer, has been a much-discussed topic on Duke twitter and elsewhere. The infrequency in which he played his last two years of high school ball, along with the tantalizing gifts seen in highlight videos and his lofty national ranking, had made him an enigma of sorts to start the season.
Now, we get to see his full talent on display, and there seems no limit to how much it can grow. The coaching staff has said it is almost a surprise when he shoots and the ball doesn’t drop through the basket. Duke basketball fans have seen this with their own eyes as AJ Griffin is shooting 50 percent from three on 3.1 attempts per game.
Even more impressive is that when he attempts three or more shots from behind the arc, Griffin has shot at least 40 percent in eight of those eleven games. He seems to get better the more he shoots it. And in the three games he shot below 40 percent, he was still 3-for-10 overall and hit one three-pointer in each of those games. This means he is a threat whenever he plays, and he doesn’t overshoot it if he’s not feeling it. He doesn’t really have off nights anyway, at least not to where defenses can afford to leave him if AJ is lurking in deep water.
The value placed on shooting in today’s game, especially at the NBA level, makes it no surprise AJ Griffin is turning heads and rising up draft boards. Add that shooting to his frame, athleticism, and crowd-shushing confidence that also appears to be growing game to game, and those heads are about to explode.
AJ Griffin has it all. Hopefully, he can stay healthy and recovered from a rash of early injuries to showcase the potential he has oozing from his fingertips every time he touches the ball.
I once was absolutely sure that Corey Maggette was going to be Duke basketball’s Michael Jordan. I was also thoroughly convinced that Justise Winslow would be the next Dwayne Wade or the superstar Donovan Mitchell is today. Now, I have no doubt in my mind that AJ Griffin will become the greatest Duke basketball player in the NBA of all time. No question at all. Just don’t check back with me later, and it will always be true. It just might be anyway even if you do.
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