One Team, One Stat: Clippers keep offensive streak alive without Paul
NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2018-19 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the LA Clippers, who continued to score efficiently after the departure of Chris Paul.
The Clippers are the only team that has ranked in the top 10 in offensive efficiency in each of the last seven seasons.
Only one other team — the Toronto Raptors — has ranked in the top 10 in each of the last five seasons. The Golden State Warriors’ current streak is just four straight seasons in the top 10 offensively. James Harden and the Houston Rockets? Two straight seasons.
The Clippers’ streak began with the trade for Chris Paul in 2011. The point guard led the Clippers to six straight trips to the playoffs (after the franchise got there just seven times in its first 41 seasons) and ran the offense that ranked in the top 10 every year he was in L.A.
But the streak continued last season, with Paul having moved to Houston, with J.J. Redick having moved to Philadelphia, and with Blake Griffin having been traded to Detroit in late January. The Clippers ranked 10th offensively at the time of the Griffin trade (108.3 points scored per 100 possessions) and ninth offensively thereafter (110.8).
The Clippers lost two of the league’s best shooters in Paul and Redick, who rank first and second in mid-range field goal percentage (both at 48.3 percent) among players with at least 750 mid-range attempts over the last five years. Redick (43.5 percent) is the second best 3-point shooter (minimum 750 attempts) over the same timeframe.
Without their backcourt of the previous four seasons, the Clippers were one of five teams that ranked in the bottom 10 in both 3-point percentage (23rd) and the percentage of shots that came from 3-point range (23rd) last season. But they made up for the losses on the perimeter by improving in the paint.
The Clippers went from ranking 28th in the percentage of their shots that came from the paint (42 percent) in 2016-17 to first (55 percent) last season. The jump (13 percent) was more than double that of any other team. The Clippers led the league with 60.5 points per game in the restricted area (41.5) or on free throws (19.0).
The bigs led the way. LA scored 1.27 points per possession, the best mark in the league, on pick-and-roll roll-man possessions, with Montrezl Harrell (1.40) and DeAndre Jordan (1.25) ranking second and fifth, respectively, among 63 individuals with at last 100 roll-man possessions. There may be seven-footers all over the league stepping out beyond the arc, but the Clippers’ pair proved that you don’t need to shoot 3-pointers to be an effective offensive center.
Third on the Clippers in total points in the paint was Lou Williams. While playing a career-high 2,589 minutes, the reigning Kia Sixth Man of the Year also set a career high for points in the paint per 36 minutes (for the second straight season).
Williams often carried the Clippers offensively. They scored 12.9 more points per 100 possessions with him on the floor (111.2) than they did with him on the bench (98.3). That differential was even bigger (15.6 points per 100 possessions) after the Griffin trade.
Tobias Harris averaged 19.3 points per game (pretty efficiently) in his 32 games arriving from Detroit, and the Clippers seemingly have the deepest guard rotation in the league. But if they’re going to keep their top-10-offense streak going, they may be counting on Williams more than they did last season.
Jordan has moved to Dallas and has been replaced by Marcin Gortat. The Clippers’ new center remains one of the best screeners in the league, but among those 63 players with at last 100 roll-man possessions, Gortat ranked 62nd at 0.88 points scored per possession.
Williams just had the best season of his career, and at the age of 32, he may have to pull off a repeat performance to keep the Clippers competitive in the Western Conference.
Note: Stats marked with an * below are based on possession estimates. All other stats are based on true possession counts.
CLIPPERS NOTES – GENERAL
- Have never reached the conference finals in the franchise’s 48-year history. The next longest streak belongs to the Washington Wizards, who have gone 39 years without reaching the conference finals.
- Only team that has seen a drop in NetRtg (point differential per 100 possessions) in each of the last four seasons. Also one of four teams — the Hawks, Bulls and Mavs are the others — that have seen a win decrease in each of the last three seasons.
- Were the only team that got better with each ensuing quarter, from minus-3.8 points per 100 possessions in the first to minus-2.1 in the second, minus-0.8 in the third, and plus-6.1 in the fourth.
- Outscored their opponents by 7.4 points in the paint per game, the biggest differential in the league.
- Had the league’s biggest differentials in both winning percentage and NetRtg (point differential per 100 possessions) between games against teams that finished with losing records (26-7, *plus-7.6) and games against teams that finished with winning records (16-33, *minus-5.1).
CLIPPERS NOTES – OFFENSE
- Have ranked in the top six in free throw rate (FTA/FGA) in each of the last five seasons.
- Had the league’s best fourth-quarter offense, scoring 112.8 points per 100 possessions in the final 12 minutes of regulation.
- Saw the league’s biggest post-break drop in the percentage of their shots that came from 3-point range, from taking 34 percent (14th lowest rate) before the All-Star break to only 27 percent (second lowest rate) after the break.
- One of three teams — the Hornets and Grizzlies were the others — that shot better on above-the-break 3-pointers (36 percent) than they did on corner 3-pointers (34.2 percent).
CLIPPERS NOTES – DEFENSE
- Saw the league’s second biggest increase in the percentage of opponent shots that came from the restricted area or 3-point range, from 60 percent (third lowest rate) in 2016-17 to 65 percent (16th lowest rate) last season.
- Allowed a league-high 15.4 fast break points per game.
- Had the league’s worst clutch defense, allowing 122.5 points per 100 possessions with the score within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime. Opponents shot a league-high 42 percent from 3-point range in the clutch.
- Allowed 82 second-chance 3-pointers, tied (with New Orleans) for second most in the league, fewer only than the 89 that Phoenix allowed.
CLIPPERS NOTES – LINEUPS
- One of five teams that didn’t have a lineup that played at least 200 minutes together. Most-used lineup played just 163 total minutes.
- No lineup with five players still on the roster played more than 12 minutes together last season.
- Had the league’s most improved bench, with an *aggregate bench NetRtg of plus-2.7 (fifth), up from minus-3.8 (25th) in 2016-17.
- Were outscored by 1.2 points per 100 possessions in 1,430 minutes with Williams and Jordan on the floor together, but were a plus-5.5 per 100 possessions in 1,159 minutes with Williams on the floor without Jordan. Williams had the team’s best cumulative plus-minus (plus-120), while Jordan had its worst (minus-129).
CLIPPERS NOTES – INDIVIDUAL
- Jawun Evans averaged 3.8 deflections per 36 minutes, most among 35 rookies that played at least 750 minutes last season.
- Danilo Gallinari played in only 21 games last season and his effective field goal percentage of 46.9 percent was a career low.
- Marcin Gortat had an effective field goal percentage of 51.8 percent last season, down from 57.9 percent in 2016-17. That was the fourth biggest drop among 126 players with at least 500 field goal attempts both seasons. Avery Bradley (from 53.3 percent to 47.4 percent) saw the fifth biggest drop among that same group.
- Montrezl Harrell shot 72.1 percent in the restricted area, the fourth best mark among 56 players with at least 300 restricted-area attempts. After the All-Star break, he averaged 21.7 points in the paint per 36 minutes, 4.7 more than any other player (minimum 200 post-break minutes).
- Harrell had an effective field goal percentage of 66.0 percent after the All-Star break, the best mark among 120 players with at least 200 post-break field goal attempts.
- Tobias Harris was one of five players to average at least five points per game on drives and at least five points per game on catch-and-shoot jumpers. He committed a turnover just 3.4 percent of the time on drives, the second lowest rate among 102 players who averaged at least five drives per game.
- Harris led the league with 81 first-quarter 3-pointers.
- Wesley Johnson took 55 percent of his 3-point attempts from the corners. That was the the fifth highest rate among 238 players who attempted at least 100 threes.
- Luc Mbah a Moute took 50 percent of his shots from 3-point range, up from 29 percent in 2016-17. That was the second biggest jump among 206 players with at least 300 field goal attempts both seasons.
- Mike Scott shot 56 percent from mid-range, the second best mark among 146 players who attempted at least 100 mid-range shots. John Wall (28 percent) had the second worst mark.
- Scott recorded 4.5 times as many personal fouls (148) as he did steals + blocks (33). That was the highest such rate among players who played at least 1,000 minutes last season. Milos Teodosic (3.7) had the third highest rate.
- Teodosic passed 52 percent of the time on drives, the highest rate among players who averaged at least five drives per game.
- Sindarius Thornwell shot just 46 percent in the restricted area, the second worst mark among players with at least restricted-area attempts.
- Lou Williams was the league’s leading fourth-quarter scorer at 7.9 points per game. His effective field goal percentage climbed with each quarter, from 44.7 percent in the first to 57.2 percent in the fourth.
- Williams shot 37.9 percent on above-the-break 3-pointers, but just 28.7 percent from the corners. The latter was the worst mark among players who attempted at least 100 corner threes.
NBA TV’s Clippers preview premieres at 6 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Oct. 9.
* * *
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.