Posted Dec 2 2011 7:00AM
To get ready for the 2011-12 season, NBA.com StatsCube breaks down the critical numbers for all 30 teams.
The Los Angeles Clippers franchise has an ugly history, with just seven playoff appearances and nary a trip to the conference finals since they were founded as the Buffalo Braves in 1970. In the five seasons since they last saw the postseason, they've averaged just 29 wins.
But with one of the most electrifying players we've seen in the last decade, the Clippers may now have more hope than they've ever had in their 41-year history.
The next step is building a winner around Blake Griffin, which may take time and patience. As highlight-heavy as his rookie season was, his team was wildly inconsistent and didn't come close to sniffing the postseason.
Pace: 95.5 (11)
OffRtg: 101.8 (23)
DefRtg: 106.3 (19)
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
The Clippers have ranked in the bottom 10 offensively in each of the last five years, and they've been below average defensively in each of the last four. But what was strange about last season is that, during the course of 82 games, they were all over the map on both ends of the floor.
Clippers month-by-month efficiency
The Clippers were the Jekyll & Hyde team of the year. They had a top-10 defense in December and a top-10 offense in January, but couldn't sustain that level of play in either case. If you look at the glass as half-full, the Clippers were four games over .500 when you take away their awful start and ugly February.
But continuity was an issue. No Clippers lineup played together in more than 31 games or for more than 328 minutes. Their two most-used lineups each included Baron Davis, who dealt with injuries early in the season and was sent to Cleveland at the trade deadline.
Those two most-used lineups were both pretty strong, especially offensively. Their most-used lineup after they traded Davis, with Mo Williams running the point, was awful on both ends of the floor. But it didn't include Eric Gordon, who was still nursing a wrist injury when the trade was made.
Clippers most-used lineups
It can be argued that no team has a brighter future than the Clippers. In Griffin, they have a franchise player who averaged 22.5 ppg and 12.1 rpg as a rookie and is only 22 years old. In Gordon, they have another 22-year-old who averaged more than 22 ppg last season. And in DeAndre Jordan (who's a restricted free agent), they have one of the most athletic centers in the league who is only 23.
The Clippers were pretty good, especially offensively, when they had their three young stars on the floor. The three were a plus-72 together in 976 minutes, with the Clippers scoring almost 110 points per 100 possessions in that time. Gordon was a better shooter when Griffin was in the game, and Griffin was more efficient when he was playing alongside Jordan.
Only one team (the Memphis Grizzlies) took a greater percentage of their shots or scored a greater percentage of their points in the paint than the Clippers. L.A. outscored its opponents in the paint by 4.6 points per game, the fourth-highest margin in the league. And that was with Chris Kaman, an All-Star center just a season earlier, playing only 32 games.
Griffin and Jordan did almost all of their work in the paint. In fact, no player in the league scored more points in the restricted area than Griffin, while Jordan was the only player in the league to score at least 500 points without a single one coming from outside the paint.
Most field goals in the restricted area
If Jordan would have taken more shots, he would have led the league in effective field goal percentage and ranked fourth in true shooting percentage. The lack of shots wasn't his fault, of course. The Clippers didn't exactly draw many plays up for Jordan, evidenced by the 33 percent of his points that were second-chance points. That was the second-highest rate among players who scored at least 500 points.
That strength in the paint got the Clippers to the line. They ranked fourth in the league by attempting 27.5 free throws per 100 possessions. But they didn't make the most of those opportunities, ranking 29th in free throw percentage.
Griffin ranked second in the league with 695 free throw attempts, but made just 64 percent of them. And Jordan made just 45 percent of his 217 freebies.
It's good to be strong inside the paint, but you also need perimeter shooting to space the floor. And the Clippers ranked dead last by making just 35.5 percent of their shots from outside the paint last season.
Lowest field goal percentage outside the paint
|League average: 44.0 percent|
Gordon, of course, is one of the best young shooters in the league and only played 56 games last season. So if he's healthy, the Clippers' perimeter shooting should be better. But if Al-Farouq Aminu is their small forward of the future, he'll need to take a big step forward with his jumper. Aminu shot just 56-for-207 (27.1 percent) from outside the paint in his rookie season.
If NBA games ended after 24 minutes instead of 48, the Clippers would have won at least 41 games last season. (They were tied at the half twice.) But they lost 16 of the 41 games they led at the half, because they were the worst second-half team in the league.
Over the course of the season, the Clippers got outscored by more than 10 points per 100 possessions in the third quarter and by almost seven points per 100 possessions in the fourth. The drop-off was on both ends of the floor, but the numbers clearly show that the Clippers' defense got progressively worse as the game went on.
Clippers efficiency by period
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