5 Statistics That Are Defining Los Angeles Clippers' Season so Far
Statistics are an important part of analyzing a team’s strengths and weaknesses. The Los Angeles Clippers are no different, as the statistics clearly align with the problems that plague the team on the court.
Looking at point totals, or wins and losses, is an easy way to claim a team is good or bad. However, which statistics on the micro level define the macro results?
Does a team score a plethora of points each night because it plays at a fast tempo or because it scores efficiently? Is a team winning because of its defense or despite it?
There are five key statistics that corroborate what is visible when watching the Clippers play, analyzing their final scores and measuring wins and losses. These statistics tell the story of why they're struggling and point to areas that are either strengths or areas for improvement.
Effective Field-Goal Percentage
The league's top-ranked offense from last year is rounding into form again, thanks to unbelievable shooting efficiency.
Effective field-goal percentage takes into account the value of making a three, as it is obviously worth more than any other shot. Considering the Clippers are second in the league in both field-goal and three-point percentage, it is only natural they lead in effective field-goal percentage at 54.2 percent, according to NBA.com.
Despite struggling offensively early in the season due to poor ball movement, the team has adjusted and is now a terror offensively. The ball consistently swings around the floor, making it nearly impossible for defenses to shift and rotate in time, leaving shooters open all over.
Meanwhile, Chris Paul is directing the offense masterfully, and Blake Griffin is on pace to set a career high in assists. It also helps that J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, and Jordan Farmar are shooting over 35 percent from deep, along with Paul and Griffin. Yes, Griffin is now a threat from behind the arc.
Point differential is one of the most important statistics to measure a team's effectiveness. The average margin of victory, or defeat, is important when measuring a team’s consistency.
Wins and losses matter a great deal in the grand scheme of things but are only a piece of the puzzle when comparing and contrasting just how well each team performs.
Although the Clippers currently sit fifth in the conference, they are fourth in the league with a plus-6.7 point differential, according to ESPN.com. The offense has performed up to expectations, and the defense has been above-average, which has led to five 20-plus-point victories.
Additionally, the Clippers are on pace to match last season’s point differential of plus-6.9, which finished second in the league to the San Antonio Spurs. Basically, if the offense keeps performing as well as it has, and the defense remains slightly above the league average, the Clippers are going to be very difficult to defeat.
Points Per Shot
Perhaps even more impressive than the Clippers’ effective field-goal percentage is the fact that they lead the league in points per shot (1.32), four-tenths of a point ahead of the Dallas Mavericks. A major reason for this has been Paul and Griffin’s unbelievable efficiency.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, both players rank in the top 20 in offensive win shares produced. Additionally, Paul is eighth in points per game among point guards but also ranks fifth in the NBA in points created by assists (21.9) and first in secondary assists per game (2.9), via NBA.com.
Paul is the engine that makes this offense run and is having one of the best seasons of his entire career. His decision-making has been excellent, but his elite shooting and ability to create without turning the ball over have been vital.
Meanwhile, Griffin’s passing talents have also been on full display. While his jumper has improved, and he has become a more lethal scorer, his passing has been remarkable.
Griffin is currently averaging a career-high 4.3 assists per game but is also responsible for creating 10.3 points per game from those assists. That mark is higher than Goran Dragic, Gordon Hayward and Kevin Durant.
The team’s Achilles' heel since, well, forever it seems, has been its presence on the defensive glass. This season is no different, as the Clippers rank 18th in defensive rebounding and 17th in differential, according to ESPN.com.
DeAndre Jordan leads the league in rebounding, again, but Griffin is currently averaging a career-low 7.7 per game. A case can be made that Jordan is grabbing so many defensive rebounds that there are just fewer available around the rim for Griffin to grab. However, the rest of the team is lacking as well.
Matt Barnes, for example, is only pulling down 3.0 rebounds per game, which would be his worst mark in nine years. Additionally, J.J. Redick is on pace to record his lowest rebound total in eight seasons. Basically, the entire team is to blame, not just Griffin.
The problem is partially due to slow defensive rotations and a lack of rebounds to grab. The Clippers are 29th in rebound chances available, via NBA.com. This is alarming, because according to Basketball-Reference.com, the team is fourth in defensive rebound percentage.
Part of the reason there are so few rebounds available is because teams break down the Clippers defense and score easily at the rim. Based upon NBA.com, opponents shoot 53.5 percent around the rim against the Clippers, the 19th-worst mark in the league.
Rebounding is a concern, but it can be attributed to a lack of rebounds available because of poor rotations, which lead to easy baskets at the rim.
Opponent Free-Throws Attempted Per Game
Committing bad fouls has been a common theme for the Clippers this season. Late defensive rotations are to blame, but so are wild shot-block attempts and an overall lack of defensive awareness.
As a result, the Clippers allow 25.6 free-throw attempts per game, which ranks 25th in the league, according to ESPN.com. The team is giving away free points because it is not in a position to defend adequately.
Because of the poor rotations, DeAndre Jordan has reverted back to his bad habit of chasing blocks, instead of holding his ground and defending the rim. This is a problem that Jordan has been focusing on correcting over the years.
When rotations are late, or someone botches a defensive assignment, Jordan is the one who must attempt to cover his teammate's mistakes. When he can’t rotate back to cut off penetration or recover from the weak side to block a shot, the team is forced to foul or concede a layup.
Opponents are shooting so many free throws against the Clippers that the team’s rebounding totals are being affected. Good defense leads to a rebound, which ends a possession and allows the offense to leak into transition.
If the Clippers can limit their fouls while improving their rebounding and defense, they have a shot to win the conference this season. However, if these blemishes remain all season, it will likely result in another early exit this spring.