One of the things that has been percolating in my mind for some weeks now is how the Clippers’ jump shot selection will change in the upcoming season. It’s almost an impossible thing to quantify given the amount of roster turnover that has occurred. (Granted, the starting lineup is largely intact; in fact, if you ignore Chauncey BIllups’ injury, the Clippers return a starting unit in consecutive years for the first time since the ’90/’91-’91/’92 seasons.)
Lamar Odom is the great question mark on the Clippers’ roster, especially considering he will likely consume the minutes of Kenyon Martin and Reggie Evans, neither much of a threat to create shots for themselves or others. On top of that, he comes off the worst season of his career, which was immediately preceded by the best season of his career. So we’re going to set aside Odom for the purposes of this investigation.
Something that can be looked at more comparatively are where the shots of Mo Williams, Randy Foye and Nick Young came from:
Outside of shots at the rim, the now departed Clipper wings took by far the majority of their shots from the 3-point line; in particular, from above-the-break on the left and right. This makes sense on a couple of different levels: a) the Clippers were 5th in 3-point attempts (21.8 per game), and b) Mo Williams and Randy Foye came in around league average or above average from 3-pointers above-the-break while Nick Young was lethal from the corner 3:
But those players are gone now. And until Billups is fully recovered, the task of filling last season’s prolific 3-point shooting falls on almost an entirely new wing platoon. The offseason acquisitions brought in to address the deep shots? Jamal Crawford and Willie Green. So let’s look at a 3-year snapshot of their shooting performances, starting with Crawford:
It’s been well documented that Crawford had a down year during his layover in Portland. But one trend that you can discern over the past three years is that Crawford is pretty reliable from the corner-3, the right corner in particular. This would translate pretty well for the Clippers as Nick Young was primarily used for his corner-3 prowess (I believe it was 3 in a row Young hit at the height of the Game 1 Memphis comeback).
In fact, Crawford’s weakest year from the corner came 3 years ago during his 6th man of the year campaign when he was right around league average from the corners (average being ~37%).
In the case of Willie Green, he was absolutely lethal from the corners last season, shooting over 50% from either side in 50 attempts. But looking across the three years, you can see that Green’s production was a bit uneven. Even in his year with Chris Paul in New Orleans, Green did not show the shooting bump that he displayed last season. So it might be unreasonable to expect Green’s banner year performance to increase or even be sustained.
One thing that does reveal itself, though, is that Green is also proficient from the right corner (ironically posting his worst percentage during his Hornets tenure).
This is good news as the corner-3 is widely regarded as one of the most efficient shots to take due to it being the closest shot that awards an extra point (attempts at the rim and free throws are the two other high efficiency shots). And it seems like the Clippers were aware of advantage of the corner-3 as they attempted the fourth most last season at 6.18 per game. But they were just under league average (only 36%) from the corner despite their high attempts. This is an area for the team that Crawford and Green hope to improve.
But there’s a caveat to this: if you look at Crawford and Green’s accuracy charts, neither have been stellar above-the-break, an area the Clippers excelled at with Mo Williams and Randy Foye. Conversely, Crawford and Green are corner shooters, shots that tend to come assisted as a result of position and spacing.
Kirk Goldsberry of the terrific blog Court Vision Analytics recently tweeted out some spatial evidence intimating the best ways to procure corner 3-pointers are via drive-and-kick or some kind of set involving the high post:
This suggests that Crawford and Green would be optimally utilized if they are set up for their shot, either by design or the playmaking of another Clipper. Trouble is abound if they need to be shooting above-the-break; doubly so if they need to create their own shot above-the-break.
And the Clippers won’t be filling that departed above-the-break proficiency with their newly acquired small forwards:
Grant Hill was decidedly not a 3-point shooter last season. And considering the Suns’ offense was predicated on Nash driving and finding open spot up shooters, there is no reason to think Hill would somehow become more proficient in any Clippers offense.
Matt Barnes is slightly more interesting as he posted a respectable 42% from the left side 3-point line on 64 attempts. But he was a cringe-worthy 26% from the rest of the line.
In reality, Caron Butler is the only reliable 3-point shooter among the troop of small forwards. And as previously mentioned, his numbers were actually distorted because of a brutal March in a compressed schedule (Butler’s April 3-point percentage was a solid 39.7%). Otherwise, based on last year’s performances, the majority of the small forwards should see their shots either cutting to the rim or playing the midrange game.
The implication from these player charts suggest the Clippers should change one of two things for the upcoming season: either shoot less above-the-break 3s (or possibly 3-pointers in general) in response to the loss of last season’s sharpshooters or develop their deep ball threat differently to focus even more on the corner 3, maximizing the abilities of their new acquisitions.