Could LA Clippers Finish Season as Greatest Offense Ever?

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistNovember 12, 2013

MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 3: Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers shoots the ball against the Miami Heat on November 7, 2013 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice: Copyright NBAE 2013 (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)
Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

If you're looking for offensive explosions, just tune in to a few Los Angeles Clippers broadcasts.

Not only are these particular residents of the Staples Center hemorrhaging points, but they're also scoring them at historic rates. Chris Paul has been absolutely en fuego, and Blake Griffin is finally becoming the player we all got so excited about during his rookie season. 

Led by Doc Rivers, this has become an uptempo offense capable of scorching the nets to such an extent that the scoreboard operators might need backup on hand in case they get too tired. 

Is there a chance that the Clippers finish the 2013-14 season as the greatest offense to ever suit up in the NBA? It's possible, but you'll have to read on to find out how likely it is. 


How the Rest of the NBA Stacks Up

Mar. 1, 2012; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) drives to the basket as Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) defends during the third quarter at the Rose Garden. The Heat won the game 107-93. Mandatory Cre
Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

The Clippers seem to have a stranglehold on the "best offense in the NBA" title, but it's not by any means a secure one. 

Right now, no team is averaging more points per game. That's a given. 

LAC is averaging 109.9 points per game, and that makes it one of five teams topping 105: 

  1. Los Angeles Clippers, 109.9
  2. Dallas Mavericks, 107.0
  3. Minnesota Timberwolves, 106.3
  4. Houston Rockets, 106.1
  5. Miami Heat, 105.1

However, the disparity isn't as large as you might think because the Clippers' total is artificially boosted by the fast pace they're playing at. Even though CP3 and Doc Rivers have played notoriously slow basketball throughout their respective careers, they're getting out and running whenever possible. 

Offensive rating measures points scored per 100 possessions, and it's what we call a pace-independent stat. 

Believe it or not, the Clippers aren't No. 1 so far in terms of offensive rating, per Basketball-Reference

  1. Miami Heat, 112.8
  2. Portland Trail Blazers, 112.7
  3. Los Angeles Clippers, 112.5

After that trio, there's a pretty large drop-off to the rest of the NBA. The Dallas Mavericks check in at No. 4 with an offensive rating of 108.6. 

The Heat and Blazers stand out because they both do more with less. While the Clippers have the No. 6 pace in the Association, Miami and Portland check in at Nos. 19 and 22, respectively. And yet, they're still scoring nearly as many points as LAC because they're just that efficient. 

Portland's offense is so good because it values every possession. High percentages and low turnover rates rule the day. Meanwhile, the Heat just shoot the stripes off the ball, boasting the league's best effective field-goal percentage by a huge margin. 

Nov 11, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) is defended by Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love (42) at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Clippers, though, have the most sustainable offense of the bunch, which is why they're the focus here.

Although they've had the third-best offensive numbers thus far, they're elite at all of what stat people refer to as the "four factors" of offense: effective field-goal percentage, turnover percentage, offensive rebounding percentage and free-throw attempts per field-goal attempt. 

Take a gander at how each of the three teams in question stack up among the 30 squads in the NBA for each of the four factors: 

Los Angeles Clippers38117
Miami Heat120304
Portland Trail Blazers55422

The Clippers are the only ones without a true weakness.

Miami is careless with the ball and awful at rebounding. Portland has trouble getting to the foul stripe and earning easy points. LAC does it all well.  

If you add up the ranks in each category, the Clippers have the lowest sum (29). Miami comes in at 55, and Portland is at 36. 

That's why even though Los Angeles is only third in offensive rating, the Clippers are still the ones about to be compared to the historical greats. 


Historical Comparisons

PORTLAND, OR - 1986: Alex English #2 of the Denver Nuggets stretches against the Portland Trail Blazers during a game played circa 1986 at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by do
Brian Drake/Getty Images

At first glance, it appears as though the Clippers aren't even close to boasting the best offense in NBA history. After all, they're scoring "only" 109.9 points per game through their first eight games of the season. 

It's an impressive number, no doubt. As shown above, it's the No. 1 mark in the league by a rather comfortable margin. 

But in terms of the all-time greats? It falls well shy. 

According to Basketball-Reference, these are the three most prolific offenses of all time, at least in terms of points per game: 

Pretty impressive, right? The Clippers aren't even at 110, and these three teams are well over 120. 

But we have to account for pace. 

In 1981-82, each team shot with incredible frequency, and every single squad hit triple digits over the course of the entire season. LAC this year would have had the No. 9 offense in terms of points per game that year. 

The same story held true in both 1966-67 and 1961-62. During the former season, the worst offense belonged to the Detroit Pistons, who scored 111.3 points per game. During the latter, the bottom-feeders were the Chicago Packers, checking in at 110.9. 

We don't have pace data all the way back in the 1960s, so I can't give you the older teams' offensive ratings, but it's safe to say that they aren't just rocketing above the Clippers' current mark. Everyone was scoring at a high level. 

PORTLAND, OR - 1986: Alex English #2 of the Denver Nuggets passes against the Portland Trail Blazers during a game played in 1986 at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by download
Brian Drake/Getty Images

Fortunately, we have numbers to work with in 1981-82.

Led by Alex English, Dan Issel and Kiki Vandeweghe, all of whom averaged at least 20 points per game, the Nuggets boasted an offensive rating of 114.3. It's a ridiculously impressive number and one that tops Los Angeles' 112.5 during the 2013-14 campaign. 

The Clippers still have a long way to go. Not only do they have to sustain their current level of production, but they also have to improve. 

That's iffy at best. 

Nothing points toward an immediate decline in the Staples Center. 

MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 3: Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers looks to pass the ball against the Miami Heat on November 7, 2013 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and
Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

Chris Paul is playing at levels that make him look like more of a point god than a point guard, but that's what happens when you put him in this current situation. I broke it down in detail here, but CP3 has landed in the perfect spot, surrounded by complementary players in a system that lets him run while being coached by a point guard-friendly head coach. 

The bigger question of sustainability revolves around Blake Griffin. 

After a putrid postseason that put the finishing touches on a lackluster season, Griffin has averaged 22.1 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game this year while shooting 57.1 percent from the field. He's finally putting it all together, hitting mid-range looks and flashing some new post moves. 

To those wondering whether he can keep it up, I posit the following: Why not? 

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 9:  Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers looks on against the Houston Rockets on November 9, 2013 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or usin
Bill Baptist/Getty Images

Griffin has always been brimming over with potential, but he's been quite disappointing ever since his historically excellent rookie season. Now it appears as though he's taking that next step we expected a few years back and truly becoming one of the league's most dominant players. 

If you scan up and down the scoring numbers on the LAC roster, nothing appears to be a significant aberration. The biggest question would be whether or not Doc Rivers will allow the team to keep running at such a fast pace, as he's always been known as a slow-it-down kind of coach. 

So, why did I say it was iffy for the Clippers to take down the '81-82 Nuggets/any other historically great offense that you want to bring up? 

While the pieces are in place to sustain this type of excellence, there isn't much potential for upward mobility. 

Who's going to get better and suddenly start contributing more to the offense? CP3 and Griffin have just about maxed out their offensive abilities this season, and the same can be said about DeAndre Jordan. J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford and Jared Dudley are already lighting it up from downtown, and the bench players have all just about met or exceeded the expectations. 

Plus, it's not like Rivers is going to be focused on squeezing any extra production out of the offense. All of his attention must be concentrated on defense, or else Los Angeles is going to be doomed to another early exit from the postseason. 

Let's enjoy these Clippers for exactly what they are: an offensive juggernaut with the potential to be the best point-producing unit in the NBA during the 2013-14 season.

They don't have to emerge as the best offense of all time in order to be loads of fun.


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