Duke men's basketball 2021-22 player review: AJ Griffin

Freshman forward AJ Griffin was one of five Blue Devils to appear in every game this past season.
Freshman forward AJ Griffin was one of five Blue Devils to appear in every game this past season.

With Duke’s season officially in the books, the Blue Zone breaks down each player's season, including comparisons to their preseason projections. We previously looked at Jaylen Blakes, Bates Jones, Joey Baker, Theo John and Trevor Keels. Next up is AJ Griffin:

AJ Griffin

  • Year: Freshman
  • Height: 6-foot-6
  • Position: Forward
  • This year’s stat line: 10.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.0 APG, 24.0 MPG
  • Blue Zone’s projected stat line: 9.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 24 MPG

Season breakdown: Coming off of a few serious injuries that kept him limited late in his high school career, it was hard to know what to expect from Griffin. And then during the preseason when he sustained another injury that had him working in a brace, it was hard to know if he would even be ready for the start of the season. We were well aware of his shooting ability, a skill that would push him toward the top of the nation in 3-point shooting by the end of the season, as he dropped in 44.7% of his shots from beyond the arc. The New York native started out the season slow, working off that early injury and progressing into an eventual starting role by the first matchup against Wake Forest, one that he would go on to hold until the end of the season. His best performance, however, came in Chapel Hill, when he dropped 27 points on the Tar Heels on 3-for-6 from long range in Duke's big win against its rivals.

The rest of the season was marked by a little bit of inconsistency. His defensive game was frustrating at times—he would show his ability to get stops but sometimes made poor decisions on when to help off his man, leading to easy buckets for opponents. Griffin’s shooting led Duke to huge wins throughout the season, including a notable late-game surge against Louisville to secure a comeback win. His scoring became a little less reliable in the post-season. He would often hit the timely three but could disappear for long stretches of games. Against Arkansas in the Elite Eight, however, he dropped 18 points on 77.8% shooting, clearly his best outing of the postseason. 

Results relative to expectations: Griffin was highly touted as a recruit and was one of the earliest to commit to the 2021 class. While sustaining his injuries throughout high school, however, expectations dropped for the five-star prospect. The Blue Zone projections represented that apprehensiveness, keeping his scoring totals and his minutes relatively low. 

In the end, he was a decent point-scorer and just about matched our expectations for his season averages. Griffin struggled at times to create his own shot, often looking a bit hesitant to put the ball on the floor, leading to much of his scoring coming from beyond the arc. When he was on, he was on big and it lead to huge games like the one against North Carolina. Those games came a little infrequently, however, leading to the 10.4 points per game he would finish with. Still a highly rated prospect for NBA teams, Griffin certainly has a bright future, especially now that he has proven he can put together a season with minimal impact from injury. 


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