From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Los Angeles Clippers, who have as bright a season outlook as they’ve ever have.
41.6 percent - Clippers opponent 3-point percentage with Willie Green and Caron Butler on the floor together last season.
That 3-point defense would have ranked last in the league by far, almost three percentage points worse than the Bobcats. But with neither Green nor Butler on the floor, Clippers opponents shot just 33.3 percent from 3-point range, a mark that would have ranked second in the league, only behind the Pacers.
As the starting wings, Green and Butler were defending better shooters (and better shot creators) than their second-unit teammates. But 41.6 percent is pretty awful and overall, the Clips ranked 26th in 3-point defense, a number that held them back from being as good as they could have been. Their opponents shot a remarkable 45.4 percent from 3-point range in their 26 losses.
Clippers opponent 3-point shooting
|Butler + Green||151||363||41.6%|
|1 of the 2||210||521||40.3%|
|At least 1||361||884||40.8%|
The Clippers basically had two different teams last season, a starting lineup that was great offensively and a bench that was much better defensively. Green and Butler weren’t the only defensive questions with the starters, of course. The first unit (with Green starting 60 games and Chauncey Billups starting 22) was below average as a whole, and the need for Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan to improve on that end was addressed in this space early last month. Without the bench bigs they had last season, the Clippers need their starting frontline to improve defensively if they’re going to contend for a championship.
But the departure of Butler and less playing time for Green (as long as J.J. Redick is healthier this season than Billups was last season) should also help. Green often got caught on screens and Butler often got caught ball-watching or over-helping, as some of these plays, from games where the Magic and Lakers combined to shoot 11-for-16 from 3-point range with Green and Butler on the floor, show…
The Clippers defended the basket well. Their opponents attempted just 30.9 percent of their shots from the restricted area, the fifth lowest rate in the league. And their opponents shot 59.7 percent there, the 11th lowest rate in the league. They actually ranked second in defending 2-point shots and were a top 10 defense overall.
But they can get better by not fouling so much – they ranked 29th in opponent free throw rate – and defending the 3-point line better.
Phoenix opponents shot 37.2 percent from 3-point range with Jared Dudley on the floor last year (there’s some Michael Beasley influence in those numbers), and Orlando/Milwaukee opponents shot 34.6 percent with Redick on the floor. Doc Rivers‘ Celtics, meanwhile, ranked in the top five in 3-point defense each of the last six seasons. So a new scheme and more focus on that end could make a big difference.
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions