AJ Griffin is a 6-foot-6, 225-pound forward who is currently expected to be selected with a top ten pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. The latest ESPN mock draft has him going 8th overall to the New Orleans Pelicans, while he’s slated to go 7th overall in the most recent mock draft published by The Athletic.
Strengths: The Case For AJ Griffin
The most tantalizing of AJ Griffin’s attributes is undoubtedly his three-point shooting. As a freshman at Duke, Griffin shot 44.7% from distance and attempted 4.1 threes in 24.0 minutes per game. Not just a catch-and-shoot sniper, he often exhibited silky footwork to create space for his jumper.
With NBA teams always on the look out for three-point marksmen, Griffin’s perimeter shooting could get him on the court early in his professional career.
Another major plus in Griffin’s corner is his youth. He doesn’t turn 19 years old until after summer league. Considering he already has a pro-ready frame at 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds with a 7-foot wingspan, there’s a chance he could develop into a true combo forward capable of playing the three and the four.
At Duke, although he only averaged 10.4 points per game, Griffin played a very mature brand of basketball. His rates of turnovers and fouls were exceedingly low. Since he already has shown NBA teams he’s willing and able to play a specialized role, a lottery team in need of a role player could confidently view him as a plug-and-play option.
While not showing much notable athleticism in college, Griffin may have latent upside in that department. As a 15-year-old, he was one of the most explosive athletes in his class.
After a very successful sophomore season in high school, Griffin suffered injuries that kept him out for a majority of his junior and senior seasons. Prior to his lone season at Duke, he suffered another injury that caused him to begin his campaign with restrictions. If Griffin can regain the athleticism he flashed as a high school sophomore and stack that on top of his three-point shooting, there’s a chance that he could develop into a special player.
Character-wise, Griffin gets high marks from everyone. He has a reputation as a humble, hard-working kid with maturity beyond his years.
Weaknesses: The Case Against AJ Griffin
Let’s begin with those aforementioned injuries. As a junior in high school, AJ Griffin suffered a non-contact knee injury that has been described as a dislocated knee. He also suffered ankle and back injuries in the following year. The injury prior to his Duke freshman campaign was another knee injury.
Perhaps Griffin can bounce back athletically — but there’s also a chance that his most athletic days are behind him. At 18, that has to be classified as a worrisome concern for NBA teams.
If Griffin’s athleticism doesn’t improve, he’d be a below average athlete at the professional level. He’s strong and coordinated but he has minimal explosion and lacks quickness. That athleticism deficiency was plain to see at times at the college level.
For a player who hopes to hang his hat on his shooting, Griffin’s shooting form is also a bit concerning.
Griffin has an awkwardly wide stance that you don’t see often in the NBA. Additionally, his release is on the slower side and he doesn’t get much lift. Even if you believe in his accuracy, there’s are legitimate questions regarding how frequently he’ll be able to launch threes against NBA level athletes and if he’ll be a spot-up threat on Day 1 without making adjustments to his form.
As a freshman, Griffin was a shooting specialist — and that was the extent of his role. His defense oscillated between lackluster and nonexistent, which partially explains his low foul rate along with his pedestrian rates of steals and blocks. While Griffin kept his turnovers at an extremely low mark, he also racked up few assists and very rarely got to the free throw line.
AJ Griffin’s 2022 NBA Draft Outlook
AJ Griffin is a safe bet to go in the lottery. Even if teams become concerned after seeing details of his injury history and he slips out of the top ten, he’s unlikely to slip much more than that. He’s a shooter who could theoretically help an NBA team in his first year, which isn’t something that can be said often about a teenager.
AJ Griffin and his Fit on the San Antonio Spurs
While the Spurs could definitely use another shooter, I’m becoming less and less convinced that AJ Griffin is a player the Spurs would pick in the lottery. I had him 12th on my initial Big Board but I’ll end dropping him even more on the forthcoming Big Board 2.0. While he’s similar to Joshua Primo in that he’s a high character kid who can shoot but doesn’t have a clear-cut path to stardom, the injury concerns are likely too much to swallow for a team in San Antonio’s position.
Griffin is most valuable to a team who can slot him into a role similar to the one he played at Duke. The Spurs, on the other hand, should be more interested in upside. With Primo, while he didn’t exhibit star potential in college, there was hope that he could blossom once his role was expanded. Griffin, by comparison, is more of a known prospect who has been on the NBA’s radar for years. The potential return of his high school era athleticism gives him some upside but probably not enough for the Spurs to brush away the injury concerns and roll the dice on him.