J.J. Redick Takes Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers to the Next Level

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J.J. Redick Takes Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers to the Next Level
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Clippers offense is an entirely different animal in 2013-14. And that's saying something, because they were already in the top 10 in points per game last season.

So what's the difference?

Well, specifically, it's 8.9 points. That's the statistical bump. They averaged 101.1 points per game last season; they're at an even 110 this year.

The reason for the difference could very well be the new starting shooting guard, J.J. Redick.

He may not have had the biggest night in L.A.'s 110-103 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night (26 points, including 5-of-7 from three). Blake Griffin went for 30 points and 12 rebounds, and Chris Paul added 12 points and 13 assists. But Redick's contributions in this one and throughout the season have been invaluable. 

We can start to evaluate Redick's game by looking both at team offensive rating (ORtg), which is the number of points a team scores per 100 possessions, and defensive rating (DRtg), the number of points they allow per 100 possessions.

When Redick is on the floor, the Clippers' offensive rating is 115.7. Tops on the team. Their defensive rating is 101.4. That's also the best on the team, as long as you're counting rotation players.

And how about when Redick is off the floor? The ORtg drops to 100.7, and the DRtg rises to 113.5.

So again, what's the difference? Why are the Clippers so much better when J.J. Redick is on the floor?

The answers are pretty simple. First, he can shoot. Second, he knows how and, perhaps more importantly, where to move without the ball.

We could devote an entire article on the reasons for the superior defense with Redick on the floor. For now, we'll just say that the backcourt of Paul and Redick is undoubtedly more engaged defensively than Darren Collison and Jamal Crawford.

On offense, Redick opens up the floor for both Paul and Griffin in half-court sets and in transition. Because he shoots 40.4 percent from three-point range, defenses can't clog the lane when Paul and Griffin set up a pick-and-roll.

Against the pre-Redick Clippers, teams could just sag into the paint and try to cut off driving lanes for Griffin and passing lanes for Paul. It wasn't always effective, as L.A. was the ninth-highest scoring team in the league last year, but it was the best course for opponents.

When Redick is on the floor, and especially when Crawford joins him, defenders would be silly to try to pack the lane. And yet, sometimes they still do. When that happens, Redick is adept at moving into open seams or passing lanes.

He often starts pick-and-rolls sets near the break of the three-point line. When Paul turns the corner and defenders collapse on him, Redick shifts up to the wing, creating a perfect inside-out passing lane for Paul.

And just take a look at how good he is from there:

NBA.com

Once he burns a team a few times, as he did against the Nets, defenders can no longer collapse off him. Naturally, that leaves more space for Paul and Griffin to operate in the lane. And the more space they have, the more damage they do.

A lot of the looks Griffin had at the rim Saturday night came against one defender when, before Redick came along to command attention, he might have had to deal with two or three opponents. This doesn't just apply in half-court settings.

In fact, it might be even more effective in transition.

Take for example a three-on-two break. If it's Paul, Griffin and a non-shooter on offense, the defense can key on the rim and hope to stop the break. Throw Redick into the equation, and now the defenders have a very difficult decision.

Here again, Redick is a master at knowing where to move and how to manipulate the defense without the ball. If he sees Griffin filling the left lane, he'll go spot up on the right wing. If the defense takes a half-step at the shooter, they could be burned by a lob at the rim.

The other benefit of Redick's skills is how it takes advantage of the passing abilities of Paul and, what may be a surprise to some observers, Griffin. As reported by Broderick Turner in the Los Angeles Times on Saturday, Griffin said, "I love passing. I love trying to set guys up. A nice assist is just as good as a nice dunk or a nice finish."

It's one of Griffin's most underrated skills. This season the big man is averaging 3.3 assists per game. When defenders collapse on him around the rim, he's more than willing to find shooters on the perimeter, and Redick makes people pay for leaving him alone.

The extra space and movement created by Redick has helped both Griffin and Paul raise their scoring and assist averages. That isn't entirely Redick's doing, of course. Teams league wide are playing at a generally faster pace, and Paul and Griffin deserve some credit for the increase in their own production.

But the added dimension of Redick's movement and shooting to this offense cannot be ignored.

The Clippers have championship aspirations this season, and that's certainly a level above and beyond where they've ever been. Getting there may have a lot more to do with J.J. Redick than you think.

 

All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference or NBA.com unless otherwise noted, and are current as of Nov. 16, 2013.

For 140-character pearls of wisdom from Bleacher Report's Andy Bailey, follow him on Twitter: @AndrewDBailey.

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