2017-18 Kia Season Preview
One Team, One Stat -- LA Clippers lose a star, but address their biggest problem
NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2017-18 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at bench struggles with the LA Clippers.
Last season, no team in the league had a bigger drop-off from its starters to its bench than the LA Clippers.
The Clippers’ regular starting lineup outscored its opponents by 16 points per 100 possessions, the fourth best mark among lineups that played at least 200 minutes together. The lineup of Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan scored 115.6 points per 100 possessions (a mark better than the league’s best offense) and allowed only 99.8 (a mark better than the league’s best defense).
Though Griffin and Paul each missed 21 games last season, the Clippers’ starters were the third most-used lineup in the league, playing 871 total minutes together. That unit played so many minutes because it was very good … and because the Clippers’ bench was not.
The Clippers ranked ninth in bench scoring at 38.2 points per game, but points scored don’t determine how good a bench is. The bench ranked 25th in regard to pace-adjusted point differential.
It didn’t help that Doc Rivers didn’t really stagger the minutes of Paul and Griffin. In the 50 games they played together, Griffin was on the floor for 95 percent of Paul’s minutes and Paul was on the floor for 89 percent of Griffin’s minutes. The second unit was left to itself with the team’s two All-Star playmakers resting at the same time.
To compare, with coach Terry Stotts staggering their playing time in Portland, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum were on the floor for less than 70 percent of each other’s minutes in the games they both played.
For the second time in the last three seasons, Paul had the league’s biggest on-off-court NetRtg differential among players who played at least 1,000 minutes. The Clippers were 20.2 points per 100 possessions better with Paul on the floor (plus-14.9) than they were with him off the floor (minus-5.3).
That stat doesn’t bode well for this year’s Clippers, because Paul is now forever “off the floor” and is one of three guys gone from that fantastic starting lineup. But in trading their best player, the Clips did improve their depth.
They got at least two (and maybe four) rotation players in the deal, and then added Danilo Gallinari and Milos Teodosic in July. Willie Reed is another addition who provided quality bench minutes in Miami last season.
They probably won’t have a lineup nearly as good as last season’s starters, but they should be stronger from 6-10 than they’ve been over the last several years. And maybe that’s enough to keep them in the top five or six teams in the Western Conference.
CLIPPERS NOTES – GENERAL
- Went to the playoffs in each of Chris Paul’s six seasons with the team after doing so just four times in the franchise’s first 33 seasons in California.
- Rank third in (regular season) winning percentage, second in offensive efficiency, and eighth in defensive efficiency over the last five seasons. Other teams in the top 10 in all three over that time: Golden State, Miami, Oklahoma City and San Antonio.
- Were the league’s best second quarter team (plus-13.1 NetRtg) and were 7.1 points per 100 possessions better in the first halves of games (plus-8.0) than in the second halves of games (plus-0.9). Only Minnesota (10.8) had a bigger NetRtg drop-off from the first half to the second half.
- Were the only undefeated team with a rest advantage. Went 13-0 and scored 120.0 points per 100 possessions when they didn’t play the day before and their opponent did.
CLIPPERS NOTES – OFFENSE
- Have ranked in the top six in offensive efficiency each of the last six seasons and in the top five in effective field goal percentage in each of the last five seasons.
- Scored 109.1 points per 100 possessions in 33 games (and were 21-12) against the league’s top 10 defenses, the league’s second best mark against that group. Only Golden State 111.1 was better.
- After two straight seasons of ranking last, they ranked 28th last season in the percentage of their shots that came from the paint at 41.5 percent, up from 39.3 percent in 2015-16. Dallas (35.8 percent) and Cleveland (40.0 percent) were the two teams less likely to shoot in the paint.
- According to SportVU, 33 percent of their 3-point attempts, the second highest rate in the league, were pull-ups. But they also ranked second in pull-up 3-point percentage at 36.3 percent.
- Ranked third in effective field goal percentage both in the first 12 seconds of the shot clock (57.2 percent) and in the last 12 seconds (50.6 percent).
- Assisted on just 50.6 percent of their baskets in their first round series loss to Utah. That was the second lowest assist percentage in the playoffs and down from 57.0 percent in the regular season.
CLIPPERS NOTES – DEFENSE
- Forced their opponents to take 24.9 percent of their shots, the highest rate in the league, from mid-range. And their opponents shot just 37.8 percent, the second lowest mark in the league, on those mid-range shots.
- Were 7.5 points per 100 possessions better defensively at home (where they allowed 102.1) than they were on the road (where they allowed 109.5). That was the second biggest home-road DefRtg differential in the league (behind only that of Detroit).
- Had a top-10 defense in the first (ninth) and second (sixth) quarters, and a bottom-10 defense in the third (22nd) and fourth (22nd).
- Ranked 26th defensively (allowing 112.6 points per 100 possessions in 26 games) against the league’s top 10 offenses.
CLIPPERS NOTES – LINEUPS
- As noted above, last season was the second time in the last three years that Paul had the league’s largest on-off-court NetRtg differential. In ’14-15 (and when he had the third highest differential in 2015-16), the much bigger differential was on offense. But last season, his presence was almost as important on defense, where the Clippers were 8.8 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor. With DeAndre Jordan on the floor & Paul off the floor, the Clips allowed 111.2 points per 100 possessions, a rate which would have ranked last in the league.
- Jordan (15.1 – fourth), Griffin (13.0 – fifth), Redick (11.8 – eighth) and Mbah a Moute (10.7 – 13th) also ranked in the top 15 in on-off-court NetRtg differential among the 277 players who played at least 1,000 minutes for a single team last season. Near the bottom of the list were Raymond Felton (-15.0 – 276th), Jamal Crawford (-13.6 – 275th), Marreese Speights (-9.7 – 26th) and Austin Rivers (-9.5 – 267th).
- Outscored their opponents by 117 points (20.0 per 100 possessions) in just 305 minutes with Paul and Jordan on the floor without Griffin. Were a plus-26 in 342 minutes with Griffin and Jordan on the floor without Paul.
- With Griffin getting injured in Game 3, the starters played just 47 minutes together in the playoffs. But they were outscored in those minutes.
CLIPPERS NOTES – INDIVIDUAL
- Patrick Beverley recovered 1.9 loose balls per 36 minutes, the highest rate among players who played at least 1,000 minutes.
- Sam Dekker scored 25.2 percent of his points on fast breaks, the third highest rate among players who averaged at least 15 minutes in 40 games or more.
- Danilo Gallinari attempted 52 free throws for every 100 shots from the field. That was down from 62 in 2015-16, but still ranked as the sixth highest free throw rate (behind only those of three centers, James Harden and Jimmy Butler) among 174 players who attempted at least 500 field goals last season. None of the five guys above him shot as well as he did (90.2 percent – fourth in the league) from the line.
- Montrezl Harrell had an effective field goal percentage of 65.4 percent, the third highest mark among players who attempted at least 300 shots last season.
- Wesley Johnson‘s effective field goal percentage (43.8 percent) and true shooting percentage (44.8 percent) were career lows. The latter ranked 319th among 325 players who attempted at least 200 shots from the field.
- For the fourth straight season, DeAndre Jordan led the league in effective field goal percentage (among players who took at least 500 shots) by a pretty wide margin. His effective field goal percentage over that time is 70.1 percent, 8.1 percentage points better than the next highest mark (Kyle Korver – 62.0 percent) among players with at least 2,000 field goal attempts.
- With the new rule regarding intentional fouls, Jordan attempted 74 free throws per 100 shots form the field last season, down from 122 the season before. That was the biggest decrease in free throw rate, by a wide margin, among 156 players who took at least 250 shots in 2015-16 and 500 in ’16-17.
- Jordan ranked second in rebounding percentage among 222 players who played 20-plus minutes in at least 40 games, grabbing 24.4 percent of available boards while he was on the floor. Austin Rivers (4.4 percent), J.J. Redick (4.4 percent) and Jamal Crawford (3.4 percent) all ranked in the bottom seven.
- Rivers recorded career highs in usage rate (20.3 percent), effective field goal percentage (51.8 percent) and true shooting percentage (54.5 percent) last season. It was the first time his effective field goal percentage was above the league average (51.4 percent in ’16-17).
- Lou Williams ranked second in threes off the bench (161) last season, and also had 168 more free throw attempts off the bench than any other player.
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NBA TV’s Clippers preview premieres at 6:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Oct. 4. See the full preview schedule here.