Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Fantasy sports, just like life, are full of peaks and valleys. Nobody knows this better than Clippers forward Blake Griffin.
Given the Clippers' success over the last few seasons, most would wrongly assume that everything has been smooth sailing on the Griffin front. Though Griffin has never endured a season where his scoring average slipped below 18 ppg, the 24-year-old has certainly gone through his fair share of growing pains in his first four seasons in the league.
Griffin's rookie campaign, delayed a year because of a broken knee cap, was one for the ages. His 22.5 ppg average was the highest by a first-year player since Allen Iverson pummeled opponents to the tune of 23.5 ppg in 1996-97.
Four years later, Griffin's numbers are about the same. His scoring is up a modest 1.3 percent since his rookie season while his three-point percentage has gone down only slightly (28.2 percent compared to 29.2 as a rookie).
But when you look at the two seasons in between Griffin's rookie year and the current 2013-14 campaign, well that's where things start to get interesting.
Griffin's scoring average tumbled to 20.7 ppg in 2011-12, an eight percent dip from the year before. That season coincided with the beginning of Lob City, a movement that started when Chris Paul was traded to the Clippers.
Believe it or not, things got even dicier for Griffin in Year Two of Lob City. That season, Griffin and company won a franchise record 56 games en route to the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference.
Unfortunately the team's success didn't translate into better fantasy numbers for Griffin, who watched his scoring and rebounding averages plummet for the second year in a row. Griffin's 18.0 ppg average represented a 13 percent reduction while his meager 8.3 rpg was a 23.9 percent drop from what he posted in 2011-12 (9.9 rpg).
Griffin's career arc had suddenly taken a bizarre detour. Once destined for greatness, it was fair to wonder after Griffin's third season whether he'd wind up on the same clearance rack as Emeka Okafor and Tyreke Evans in a few years. Okafor and Evans are both notorious for peaking too early.
Somehow, Griffin has turned things around and is now roughly the same player, at least statistically, that he was as a rookie. But what the heck happened in between?
A lot actually. Despite scoring fewer points, Griffin's overall efficiency improved following his breakout rookie season. His field goal percentage shot up from 50.6 to 54.9 percent, good for seventh-best among qualified shooters. A year later, his percentage dropped slightly but was still among the Top-13 in the NBA (53.8 percent).
At this point, it's probably pretty obvious what took place. Griffin wasn't playing poorly; the Clippers were just using him less frequently.
As a rookie, only four players in the league logged more minutes than Griffin. By his third season, that number had increased to 39. That year he averaged 32.5 mpg. That's five and a half minutes fewer than he saw as a rookie, which would explain the 20 percent drop in scoring over that span.
In Griffin's rookie season, the Clippers finished 18 games below .500. Basically, they had nothing to lose by sending Griffin out there for 40 minutes a night.
But when Paul arrived, the team improved and head coach Vinny Del Negro (he's since been fired) began to monitor Griffin's minutes.
The combination of Griffin's reduced playing time and Paul's takeover of an offense that used to be Griffin-centric doomed fantasy owners. Once a lock for the top-ten, Griffin came in at No. 21 in our 2013-14 preseason rankings.
Today, he's at No. 14.
Again, Griffin's rise to the top has had nothing to do with his own individual improvement. Sure he's added some range to his game (his three-point shooting is up 10 and a half percentage points from last season) and he seems to be getting better at the free throw line (career-high 71.5 percent). But most of his success this season has been circumstantial.
In the month of January, Griffin has averaged a whopping 25.4 ppg. Why, you may ask? Because Chris Paul (separated shoulder) hasn't been around to run the point.
Once again, Griffin is the center point of the Clippers' offense and it's showing up in the stat sheet. The 16.3 field goal attempts per game he's averaging this month are his most since April 2011.
That doesn't explain Griffin's lackluster (at least by earlier standards) rebounding totals, but DeAndre Jordan's emergence sure does. With Jordan gobbling up almost 14 rpg, there's barely been anything left for Griffin to get his hands on. There isn't a whole lot fantasy owners can do about that.
You might want to fasten those seat belts. The roller coaster ride known as Blake Griffin's career is just getting started.