For the past three years, Chris Paul has been the best player on the Clippers. Of course, everyone knows that. There's no arguing against it.
But since Paul injured his shoulder on Jan. 3, the Clippers just keep winning, reeling off six victories in eight games without their starting point guard.
You can credit a lull in the schedule, Blake Griffin's dominance or Darren Collison's more-than-solid replacement play for the Clippers' recent hot streak. Or you can give some dap to J.J. Redick, considering the Clippers' offense has completely changed since his return from a fractured wrist on Jan. 10.
Redick suffered that injury at the Sacramento Kings during the end of November. And it took him almost six weeks to return, six weeks which didn't go completely smooth for the Clippers.
The Clippers currently rank fifth in the NBA in offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions), but the offense became merely average during that month-and-a-half without its starting shooting guard. Over the 21 games that Redick missed, the Clippers ranked just 13th in the NBA in offensive efficiency.
With Redick there, the movement is different. The style is different. Even the play-calling is different.
Doc Rivers calls it "The Redick Playbook". It's a specific kind of offense that's unique to Redick when it comes to Clipper basketball.
"There's so much motion," says Jamal Crawford on the offense now that Redick is back. "He puts so much pressure on the defense when he's running around like that."
When Doc Rivers came to L.A., one of the main changes he tried to implement was adding more movement to the Clipper offense. He wanted to run a motion offense—and Redick was the perfect player for that.
Without Redick, the motion became so limited. The play calls became so limited. Actually, the Clippers basically stopped running any sort of floppy set once Redick left the lineup.
Floppy is something the Clippers love to run with Redick, but for so long, they couldn't. The set sends a shooter under the basket and allows him either to run off a stagger screen on one side or off a single screen on the other. Usually, Redick is that shooter.
With Redick gone though, there wasn't anyone in the lineup who could run those sets as successfully. So floppy—and many similar types of plays—stopped. The playbook changed.
Willie Green can spot up, but he isn't the type of player you run plays for in your offense. Matt Barnes is a great cutter, but isn't great when he has to take long, off-balanced shots. Most of his cuts tend to go toward the basket, not away from it.
Jamal Crawford, meanwhile, is more of a ball-handler than an off-ball cutter. Darren Collison, when he would play off the ball with Chris Paul, was the same way.
"A lot of our plays are programmed for [Redick's] strengths," Jared Dudley explains. "So coming off a lot of two-down curls, pin downs. He moves well without the ball. The ball usually finds energy."
The Clippers had to find a new way to energize with Redick gone.
We didn't see as much floppy. We didn't see as many flex or baseline cuts. And we saw more instances of Paul or Crawford trying to create offense in not-quite-as-effective ways.
The most obvious asset Redick brings the Clippers is his shooting, especially from long range. He has hit 39 percent of his three-point attempts over his career. He's made 88 percent of his free throws.
Redick can make shots. That, we know. But maybe the most underappreciated part of his game is his conditioning.
There are great shooters out there who are different types of players than Redick. Usually, those are stationary shooters, guys who like to camp out in the corners and wait for the ball to come to them in a wide-open situation.
Redick, though, actually moves. He exhausts defenders who have to run through screens to defend him. It's not easy to chase a constantly speeding car through rush-hour traffic—but such is the life guarding J.J. Redick.
In that particular role, the value doesn't always come in made shots. It also comes in creating movement, which gives a defense some sort of uncertainty in future plays.
"When his guy is tired and doesn't want to chase him, that means someone else has to help," Crawford reveals. "That's when things open up."
It's a philosophy like that which can explain the value Redick brings an offense, even when he doesn't make his shots.
Closing in on the four-minute marker of the second quarter against the Indiana Pacers, the Clippers went to that floppy set. Redick goes down low and runs off a screen from Jared Dudley and then another from DeAndre Jordan. He creates space and gets to the wing, but misses the three:
Lance Stephenson is one of the physically stronger defenders in the league and does his usual good job getting through those Clipper screens. He gets to Redick in time to make some sort of a closeout.
Even in the midst of a blowout, though, that Redick miss actually provided the Clippers with some future value.
Only a few minutes later, the Clippers go to another floppy-ish set. Dudley doesn't end up setting a hard screen on anyone, but Jordan tees up Stephenson, who is sprinting his way out to the three-point line:
Stephenson has seen the trend. He knows Redick is a three-point shooter and he recognizes the similarity in this set to the one the Clippers ran only three minutes earlier. But this time, Redick improvises.
Instead of going all the way out to the three-point line, he curls inside and sets himself up for an open, running jumper from the free-throw line as Stephenson takes the wrong angle to contest the shot.
It's Redick's movement. It's changing everything.
In the 21 games Redick missed, the offense didn't run those plays. It didn't force the Lance Stephensons of the world to adjust. It didn't place any sort of doubt in a defense's mind.
With the Duke alum back on the floor, that all changes. He's perfect for the Doc Rivers offense. There's a reason "The Redick Playbook" exists.
Take Redick's ability to make a defense move, and pair that with Doc Rivers' play-calling excellence after timeouts, and you have something special.
Redick is basically playing the same role this season that Ray Allen played in the Celtics' offense for all those years in Boston. He's running off screens, coming off pin downs, getting to the wings and firing up shots from 23 feet.
Now, with Redick back in the lineup, Rivers has the option of using those skills to his advantage in his after-timeout play calls, like on this possession against the Dallas Mavericks:
The Clippers trailed 127-123 in that game and were in the midst of a 17-4 run at the time. In need of a quick three, Rivers decided to go to his best shooter.
The Clippers are one of the only teams in the league who can run that play. It depends on Blake Griffin's speed and agility, which allow him to set two screens on opposite sides of the floor in a nanosecond's time. And it depends on Redick's ability to shoot on the move.
That's not a play the Clippers can run with anyone other than Redick—and it's one of the many plays they couldn't have had in their arsenal with Redick out of the lineup. At the very least, it wouldn't have been a go-to call in Redick's absence; it wouldn't have been preferential in a four-point game with only 40 seconds remaining.
In five games since Redick's return, the offense has jumped back up to the land of the elite, averaging 114.4 points per 100 possessions, a number that would rank it No. 1 in the NBA by almost four points over the course of the full season.
The Clippers' offense is back—and we're still waiting on the return of Chris Paul. Once the best point guard in the league gets healthy, we might be able to say that the league's best offense resides in L.A.
Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in fifth grade, but he maintains that his per-36 minutes numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work at RotoWire.com or on ESPN’s TrueHoop Network at ClipperBlog.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz.
(All statistics valid as of Jan. 21. All quotes obtained firsthand.)
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