AJ Griffin receives significant interest from the Knicks


AJ Griffin receives significant interest from the Knicks

AJ Griffin sat on the sidelines and couldn’t help himself. His mind wandered to pictures of him throwing dunks and taking long jump shots on the NBA court.

He was only in the third grade at the time and was accompanying his father Adrian, an NBA assistant coach.

“When you go to the games, you see things behind the scenes,” Griffin told the Post in a phone interview. “Just seeing it early on made my dream come to life. When you’re surrounded by basketball your entire childhood, it’s hard not to fall in love with basketball.”

Soon that dream will become a reality, and it could happen near his home in Ossining, NY. Griffin, a 6-foot-6 guard who is considered one of the best shooters in the draft, could drop to the Knicks at 11, and they’ve shown a lot of interest in him. The Knicks brought him in for individual training, attended his pro day in Los Angeles and have spent a lot of time checking him out, sources say. Additionally, his father, now the executive assistant with the Raptors, previously worked with Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau at the Bulls.

Griffin is familiar with several players on the team, most notably RJ Barrett and Obi Toppin. He has met Barrett a few times and played youth basketball with Toppin, a Westchester native like Griffin.

“It would be pretty cool to play for your hometown,” Griffin said. “I played twice at MSG last year and it’s just an experience like no other.”

NBA draft
AJ Griffin
NBAE via Getty Images

Griffin is one of the most talked about prospects invited to the green room, a projected lottery pick that was once seen as a top 10 ban. According to several scouts, there are questions about his consistency and athleticism in relation to his injury history.

He had back problems as a second grader in high school, dislocated his left knee the following year and sprained his right knee before this season with Duke. He was a part-time starter for the Blue Devils that year, averaging 10.4 points and 3.9 rebounds while shooting 44.7 percent from 3-point range.

“There are some concerns about the injuries,” said a scout. “But he’s 6-6 with a chiseled frame and he’s shot 45 percent from 3.”

Counterpointing the criticism is that Griffin was on a loaded team that asked him to fill a specific on-court shooting role, Duke assistant coach Chris Carrawell said. He’s had some monster games: 27 points in a win in North Carolina, 21 in an ACC Tournament semifinal win over Miami, 18 in the Elite Eight against Arkansas. Griffin didn’t have a high school senior season due to COVID-19 and had to deal with the early knee injury this year that slowed his progress.

“Everything has its timing and you just keep working,” Griffin said. “I see progress.”

He added: “I feel like I have a lot more to show [than I did in college].”

ESPN college basketball analyst and draft guru Fran Fraschilla didn’t see the same athleticism in Griffin in Duke as he did in high school, but attributed some of that to the injuries and sees an extremely high ceiling for Griffin, who doesn’t turn 19 through August.

AJ Griffin puts the ball in the basket for Duke.
Getty Images

“He definitely has everything you need to be a very good NBA player,” Fraschilla said. “I just think it’s going to take a couple of years.”

Griffin has been in the game all his life and, as the youngest of three siblings, was pushed from a young age. For years he lost to his older brother Alan and sister Aubrey. They also played Division I college basketball, Alan in Illinois and Syracuse and Aubrey currently in Connecticut. It forced him to work harder and instilled in him a competitive spirit.

As a newcomer to Archbishop Stepinac, Griffin was considered one of the best candidates in the country and was one of the most sought-after recruits nationwide when he committed himself to Duke. He has won at every level, helped Stepinac win a state championship as a freshman and the city title game the following year, contributed to Dukes Final Four last season, and won a gold medal with USA Basketball’s U-16 team in FIBA Americas won while he was at high school.

It’s all gotten to this point — Draft Night Thursday at the Barclays Center — when Griffin becomes the first Stepinac graduate to be selected in the first round, joining his father in the NBA.

“It will be like no other,” he said. “Sharing this moment with my family is just going to be an amazing time and it will definitely be a memory I won’t forget.”

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