Ahead of Coach K's final season, Duke men's basketball is bringing in several new players to Durham. In this series, we analyze film on each of the Blue Devils' new signees and transfers for the 2021-22 season. Previously, we took a look at Bates Jones, Theo John and Jaylen Blakes. Next up, we look at AJ Griffin.
There’s athletic, and then there’s AJ Griffin.
The vast hype that Paolo Banchero is receiving has overshadowed the fact that his 6-foot-6 classmate could be the next freshman highlight reel to suit up for the Blue Devils. No one will ever reach the overall entertainment value of Zion Williamson, but Griffin can certainly get a crowd going with his own style of play.
With the ball in his hands, the New York native can make things happen in a hurry, utilizing a blend of slick ball-handling, an ability to change gears quickly and lethal explosiveness to get to his spots with ease. Add in a smooth jumper—one that should only improve with practice and real-time reps—and you’ve got a guy that can sleepwalk off the team bus and drop 20 against elite college competition.
Griffin also has a knack for attacking the offensive glass, and not just to snatch a rebound and kick it back out to the wing. When the Archbishop Stepinac alum flies into the lane, the rim is in danger, evidenced by multiple putback slams in his high school days.
When operating off the dribble, Griffin’s footwork looks fairly polished. Getting to the basket with a Euro-step or creating space for a balanced turnaround are just some of the tools that the freshman has in his back pocket.
On the opposite end, guards have to be wary of Griffin’s presence, as he can effectively help off-ball and snuff out a drive to the rack. Plus, the four-star prospect has the quickness and length to guard multiple positions, so switching could be a practical solution when Griffin is on the court with other versatile defenders.
From a role standpoint, look for Griffin to occupy a steady chunk of the minutes at the small forward spot, but his varied offensive skillset could give Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski some flexibility there. All in all, Griffin projects to be a top-three scorer for the Blue Devils and someone who can get it going in the blink of an eye.
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Max Rego is a Trinity junior and sports managing editor for The Chronicle's 117th volume.