ONE MORE PROFILE! ONE MORE PROFILE! ONE MORE PROFILE!
Alright, crowd, quiet down, we heard you all; one more Buzzworthy Picks profile before the Thursday night’s 2021 NBA Draft, as a treat. Last but not least, Syracuse wing Alan Griffin.
Weight: 190 pounds
Wingspan: 6’8” (estimated, no official measurement found)
The son of former NBA player and current Toronto Raptors assistant coach Adrian Griffin, he was born in Waltham, Mass. while his father played for the Boston Celtics. Griffin played alongside Obi Toppin at Ossining High School in Ossining, N.Y. as a sophomore before transferring to finish high school at Archbishop Stepinac in White Plains, N.Y. His younger brother, AJ, is the 27th-ranked player in ESPN’s Top 100 for the Class of 2021 and will attend Duke this fall.
Griffin had offers from local schools Fordham and Iona but committed to play basketball at Illinois, where he spent two seasons before transferring to Syracuse and becoming immediately eligible as a junior.
Strengths: defensive versatility/rim protection, floor-spacing
The first thing that pops out on Griffin’s stat sheet; freakishly-high block and steal rates. Griffin’s 6.6 block percentage is absurd for a wing that played the low block of Syracuse’s zone more out of necessity than by choice, and as the season went on it became clear he was the Orange’s best defensive player.
I’m no X’s-and-O’s expert but to me this is textbook defensive positioning by Griffin. He starts the possession extended out to the 3-point line, calls out cutters to his teammates and is actively aware in help. He rotates to cut off multiple passes while the ball is on his side of the court before ending it with a rejection of fellow NBA draft hopeful Justin Champagnie.
Among players 6-foot-6 or shorter, Griffin’s block percentage was fourth in the nation behind two undersized mid-major centers and Tennessee’s Yves Pons, one of the best athletes in college basketball last season. Georgia Tech big Moses Wright was the only other ACC player to finish in the top-11 in steals and blocks, and Griffin added to that by making the sixth-most 3-pointers (56) in the conference. It’s not often teams find a 6-foot-5 wing with the length and speed to cover large areas of the 2-3 zone that’s skilled enough to knock down triples on the other end.
Early in his career, Griffin’s spot-up shooting efficiency will probably outpace his off-the-dribble efficiency but he’s shown the flashes of space creation and balance necessary to hit pull-up threes. He shot 36.1 percent on 5.5 3PA per game, hit 52 of his 58 total free throws at Syracuse and shot 71.7 percent on 60 field goal attempts at the rim per BartTorvik. I’m not sure what other shooting indicators a team/scout/evaluator could ask for.
Areas to improve: decision-making/feel, free throw/layup generation
Right now, the biggest things holding Griffin back from becoming a real NBA rotation piece are compromised decision-making and feel for the game. Joe Girard III is a 6-foot-1 scoring guard, and thus the Orange did not have a true point guard in the starting lineup last season; most of the onus fell on Griffin, who struggled at times as Syracuse’s de facto primary initiator.
None of his passing metrics are horrible (12.2 assist percentage on a 24.2 usage rate), as he does see the game fairly well, but he does make some highly questionable decisions with the ball in his hands. He had three games with six turnovers and was sometimes benched by coach Jim Boeheim for turning the ball over despite cutting them down significantly as the season progressed (five total turnovers in ‘Cuse’s final seven games).
It meant nothing because the Orange were up 41 points on Boston College with a minute and a half remaining, but what a series of astoundingly bad decisions from Griffin there; he was loose with the ball even though his defender was right in front of him, nearly turns it over, recovers, and even when he’d theoretically saved himself by dishing it to Richmond, he asks for it right back and, for some reason, hesitates before taking it right at two defenders. Again, given the time and score it meant nothing but this is exactly how not to run a late-game stall offense.
Griffin would’ve had the highest free throw percentage in the ACC had he qualified but he only took 58 total free throws all season. He’s an efficient finisher in the paint and at the free throw line but he isn’t able to generate a ton of those looks with a lack of first-step quickness and mediocre strength — he’s more of a load-up, two-footed leaper than a vertical athlete, though he’s shown promising athletic traits defensively even if they haven’t translated for scoring yet.
Griffin can be found anywhere between 50 and 100 on draft boards and he’s sparingly included in mock drafts, so the Hornets should have a good chance at grabbing him in the late-second round or even signing him as an undrafted free agent. Much like Cody Martin, Griffin would come in ready to contribute on defense while offering much more consistent shooting right off the bat. With both Martin twins having non-guaranteed contracts for next season, the back end of the Hornets’ roster could see some movement over the next month.