Blake Griffin is hoping to return from London with much more than just a gold medal.
As one of the final selections to represent Team USA in the Olympics, Griffin will not only have the opportunity to compete against the best players from around the globe, but practice daily with the best players in the NBA.
While Griffin has played at an All-Star level for the past two seasons, the flaws in his game were exposed during his first post season appearance.
In 11 games, the 23-year-old forward saw his rebounding average dip significantly, from 10.9 per game in the regular season to 6.9 in the playoffs.
Part of the reason for the drop off was a result of a sprained left knee suffered in the fifth game against Memphis but the downward trend in rebounding was a continuation from the regular season.
His shooting percentage dropped four points, scoring went down one point and because of his 63.6 percent shooting from the foul line, the Clippers were forced to play Kenyon Martin and Reggie Evans for extended periods of time late in the game.
Often in the fourth quarter, Los Angeles relied heavily on point guard Chris Paul as the offense grew stagnant.
Griffin averaged 4.1 points during the fourth quarter in 11 playoff games, but in crunch time situations his turnover ratio jump significantly and he failed to record an assist.
After signing a five-year $95 million extension to remain with the Clippers, Griffin is hoping to round out his game.
Two summers ago, several rising stars were able to do just that as Team USA sent secondary stars to represent the country at the 2010 FIBA World Championships.
The carryover from spending a summer in an intense basketball environment was immediately on display the following season.
Kevin Love only started only 59 games in two seasons before joining Team USA and even though he only played sparingly in the tournament, his approach to the game had completely changed.
The following season, Love posted the first 30 point, 30 rebound game in 28 years, averaged a league-high 15.2 rebounds per game and his proficiency in 3-point shooting resulted in a six point increase to his scoring average, up to 20.2 points per game.
As the lockout came to a close, Love lost 15 pounds, won the 2012 3-point shootout and solidified himself as an MVP candidate as he averaged 26 points and 13.3 rebounds per game as the Timberwolves flirted with a playoff berth.
The anchor in the middle of Team USA was Tyson Chandler, served as the defensive catalyst for Dallas as it won the 2011 NBA championship. Last season, he was named Defensive Player of the Year during his first season with the Knicks.
No player was more dominant in the FIBA tournament than Kevin Durant, as he shot 63.2 percent from the field, averaged 22.8 points and 6.1 rebounds per game and carried the offense when necessary.
Durant has continued to thrive, especially in the post season, as he is averaging 28.1 points per game in 43 appearances.
As the Thunder reached the NBA Finals, Durant’s scoring average increased in each series and he led all scorers by averaging 30.6 points per game in the Finals.
Each player will join Griffin in pursuit of a gold medal in London this summer.
Griffin beat out Anthony Davis, the collegiate Player of the Year and first overall selection of the 2012 NBA Draft for one of the final three roster spots.
In an effort to show there are no lingering pain in his knees, Griffin earned one of the final roster spots by putting on an aerial display in practice.
When his raw athleticism isn’t working, Griffin tends to excessively rely on his spin move and it often leads to him hoisting out-of-control shots.
Last season, he shot 37 percent from outside of the key, a number that must improve significantly, along with his foul shooting if he wants to continue to progress.
Even with his tremendous leaping ability, Griffin has only blocked more than two shots in a game on three occasions during his career and has yet to average one block per game for an entire season.
With Chandler serving as the lone true shot blocker on the team, Griffin will need to hone his defensive prowess to earn additional playing time in the Olympics.
The tournament starts in 20 days and Griffin’s desire to take his game to the next level must be on full display for the world to see.