NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – JANUARY 18: Montrezl Harrell #5 of the LA Clippers reacts against the New … [+]
The Clippers may be a smaller team, but that hasn’t stopped them from playing like a big one.
Much has been said about the LA Clippers’ size. They like to play extreme small ball off the bench with Montrezl Harrell, and JaMychal Green. Harrell is a 6’8” center, and Green is a 6’8” combo center/forward. The team also has a more conventional 7 foot center in Ivica Zubac that starts games. Due to their unique rotations, analysts have constantly stated that size may be a problem for the Clippers. However, the team has collectively excelled in a manner in which a ‘big’ team does. They rebound the ball, get second chance points, score in the paint, and defend the paint. All of that comes from a total team effort, including players like Kawhi Leonard and Patrick Beverley.
Rebounding (3rd Overall)
Make one thing clear, the Clippers do not underperform in the rebounding department. In fact, the team is 3rd best rebounding team in the NBA, averaging 48.2 a game. The only two teams that are better at rebounding are the Milwaukee Bucks, and Brooklyn Nets. The Clippers’ rebounding percentage is also fourth in the league. In contrast, many analysts like to talk about the size of the Lakers. That same Laker team is 15th in rebounding.
The Clippers put that same level of effort on the offensive rebounding end too. LA is the second best team in the NBA at grabbing offensive rebounds, averaging 11.5 a game. The only team better than the Clippers at securing offensive boards is the New York Knicks. That hustle carries into made baskets for the Clippers.
Second Chance Points (1st Overall)
Simply put, the Clippers are the best team in the NBA at scoring second chance points. Much of that has to do with the fact that they’re one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the NBA, and one of the best rebounding teams overall. If a team truly had a size problem, they wouldn’t be able to dominate the boards like this – they would be the ones getting dominated.
On the defensive side of the glass, the Clippers are a top 10 team at limiting second chance points. They rank 8th overall, with only a .1 point differential separating them from 6th place.
Points In The Paint (8th Overall)
While the Clippers aren’t the greatest team at scoring points in the paint, they’re still a great team at doing it. LA is ranked 8th overall at scoring points in the paint, averaging 49.5 points a game. The team has an ability to get into the paint, regardless of who they’re facing.
Defensively, the team is ranked 6th overall at limiting opponents’ points in the paint. Again, this is a better defensive number than their ‘big’ Laker counterpart. The Clippers may be a smaller team, but they can both score and defend like a big one.
Guarding Big Men
This could be considered the scariest category for the Clippers. However, the team does a good job at making a collaborative effort in guarding big men. Let’s take a look at the average performance of some of the NBA’s best big men against the Clippers.
Anthony Davis against Clippers: 24.5 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 42% FG (2 games)
Anthony Davis season average: 26.6 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 50% FG
Rudy Gobert against Clippers: 12.3 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 62% FG (3 games)
Rudy Gobert season average: 15.4 PPG, 14.5 RPG, 63% FG
LaMarcus Aldridge against Clippers: 11.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 41% FG (3 games)
LaMarcus Adridge season average: 19.1 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 50% FG
On average, most big men play worse against the Clippers. LA is routinely holding centers to a lower point total, rebounding total, and field goal percentage. It’s everyone’s favorite commentary to say that ‘the Clippers don’t have an answer for Anthony Davis’. On the contrary, Anthony Davis is the one struggling against the Clippers.
LA has yet to play against Joel Embiid, nor do they have a large sample size against Nikola Jokic though. Regardless, the numbers don’t lie against the centers they have played more games against.
What is it that a ‘big’ team is supposed to do? A ‘big’ team is supposed to dominate the boards, defend the paint, get second chance points, and make life harder against other big men. If you were to check off these categories, the Clippers literally fulfill all of them. There are no fluke outlier categories for the Clippers, they legitimately perform in every department. They aren’t getting lucky, it’s happening nearly every game for LA. So the next time someone says the Clippers have a size problem, take a look at the numbers. To quote Patrick Beverley, ‘Men lie. Women lie. Numbers don’t.’