The Oklahoma City Thunder have the second, 12th and 30th picks in the 2022 NBA Draft, which gives them a plethora of options to explore when they enter next season.
One of those options – likely at the 12th pick – is Duke forward AJ Griffin.
Griffin, previously a five-star recruit from Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, New York, entered his freshman season with the Blue Devils with high expectations. Alongside freshman phenom power forward Paolo Banchero, he was a guiding force for Duke’s run to a Final Four appearance against North Carolina in March.
In his lone collegiate season, the 6-foot-6 forward averaged 10.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.6 blocks per game. Griffin was also an efficient shot maker, shooting 54.7 percent from the field and 44.7 percent from beyond the arc.
Here’s a scouting profile on the Duke forward:
Best Trait: Griffin’s Excellent Perimeter Shot
It’s no lie that Griffin is an excellent shooter, and he displayed that all season.
With just under four minutes remaining in the second half against Virginia on Feb. 23, up only 52-51, the Blue Devils phoned the White Plains, New York native, and he answered. Flaring off the right corner, Griffin received a pass on the elbow and quickly pump faked a pursuing defender.
With no hesitation, the freshman forward then side-stepped towards the top-of-the-key and nailed a rigid, high-arcing three-point jumper to give his team a four point advantage. Griffin’s three point barrage didn’t end there, however.
He nailed another one on the elbow just a possession later.
AJ Griffin is simply huge for a wing with knockdown three-point shooting ability. Two big ones save Duke late vs. UVA: pic.twitter.com/4laLJkwWqW— Ricky O'Donnell (@SBN_Ricky) February 24, 2022
Griffin finished the game going 4-for-11 with 13 points, six rebounds and one assist, alongside a 3-for-7 clip from 3. In the closing moments Griffin displayed his jumpshot – in a defender’s face and off a side-step dribble – that makes him one of the more intriguing prospects in this year’s draft.
His shooting allowed Duke to clinch a decisive 65-61 win over Virginia.
Big time shooting display from Duke's AJ Griffin at the CAA Pro Day. The 18-year old Duke product showcased his tremendous physical tools and high skill-level in front of a who's who of NBA executives in Southern California. pic.twitter.com/GpCOxG7nDs— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 28, 2022
Despite a naturally wide base on his shot, the freshman forward still has a smooth, beautiful release that allows him to put just enough English on the ball, floating it right through the net. Griffin’s 220-pound frame also makes him significantly difficult to defend off of screens.
Whether it’s off the ball as a shooter or on the ball as a primary playmaker, Griffin’s size allows him to muscle through smaller guards and forwards. His physicality also makes him a threat to finish at the rim.
AJ Griffin completely changed the game with this unreal stretch to close the first half. pic.twitter.com/yb6adfvlSs— BlueDevilStop (@BlueDevilStop) March 12, 2022
With all the physical intangibles, Griffin could become a prototype 3-and-D player that team’s thrive off of in today’s NBA. That makes him more than worth it if the Thunder were to grab him with the 12th pick in the draft.
Worst Trait: A Lack of An Explosive First Step
Griffin has all the tools to become a primary rotational player in the NBA.
What sets him back from becoming a star is his lack of a quick, explosive first step.
Griffin struggled to explode off the pick-and-roll as the primary ball-handler during his freshman season at Duke. He’s nowhere near a high flier, and most of his game remains at a low center of gravity – not a lot of above-the-rim action, as he’s primarily a three-point shooter and mid-range creator.
With that disadvantage, Griffin’s game will likely thrive off the ball as a shooter or as a faceup forward, who can create in the post or become a face up shot maker. Regardless, NBA defenses won’t be primed to use help defense against the forward because of his lack of burst.
Every shot, assist, rebound, steal, & turnover from @DukeMBB wing AJ Griffin's (@whoisAG21) 2-5-22 game against North Carolina https://t.co/HHAOcCWF17— The Scouting Rapport (@ScoutingRapport) February 6, 2022
Griffin isn't especially explosive, but he's so strong with the ball that he always gets wherever he wants to go. #NBADraft pic.twitter.com/2msN6k6Eb3
Ultimately, Griffin will still be high on many teams’ draft boards – including Oklahoma City’s – because of his shooting and frame.