Settle down, Blossom’s best friend forever. Yes, we like you and your sassy disposition, but we’re talking about six plays the Clippers run that the ClipperBlog staff likes this season. What are the best things on the menu this year for the Clippers? What did we miss? Let’s go to the list:
Chris Paul/Blake Griffin High Pick and Roll – Fred Katz
If there is one play that the Clippers consider their bread and butter, it would have to be the pick-and-roll with Paul and Griffin. In fact, some people actually accuse the offense of play-calling monotony for its seeming obsession with rolling off screens, but that kind of offense makes sense for a Chris Paul-led team. If you have Paul, you want to put him in a position to make decisions on the floor because usually, he will react quicker than the defense. Once Griffin heads to the basket, Paul isn’t obliged to send the rock his way. The more moving parts there are, the more likely the opposition is to make a mistake and that’s when Paul’s vision becomes so important. He can pass out for a three, send the ball into Griffin, who is one of the best roll men in the league, or even go for his patented side hop.
Griffin could actually use some work on finishing his screens – sometimes he rolls to the basket a tick too soon and fails to finish what he started – but when you have a player with elite athleticism, who led the NBA in dunks last year, and that shoots 75.3 percent at the rim, that means advantage: Clippers.
Horns set with Bledsoe at the point – Charlie Widdoes
The objective of any set is to maximize the capabilities of your personnel. And because I refuse to acknowledge that “give Chris Paul the ball and let him create” is an actual play, I’ll contend that letting Bledsoe initiate offense is the best way for the Clippers to do that. Bledsoe should be a part of the starting unit, but it wouldn’t make sense to insert him, just to stick him in the corner.
In the horns, he creates options. Rather than have Paul handle and marginalize Bledsoe, we flip the script to take advantage of Bledsoe’s quickness and Paul’s shooting below the break of the 3-point line. Let’s go with Caron Butler as the other wing.
While he’s plenty dangerous passing to one of the bigs and cutting off the ball, it starts with Bledsoe penetration. He can go off the dribble or use a screen from DeAndre Jordan, who actually makes contact when setting a pick. As he rolls, he draws attention that creates room Blake Griffin filling in at the free throw line. Say he can’t get all the way to the basket and the lob to DJ isn’t there, the next option is actually quite appealing, and an underappreciated part of Bledsoe’s repertoire: the baseline pass to the shooter (Paul) in the opposite corner. Bingo!
Blake Griffin in the Pinch Post – Jovan Buha
Catch the pass. Reverse pivot. Jab step. Read the defense. And go. That’s Blake Griffin’s pinch post game. When facing up, Griffin is a triple-threat to shoot, pass or drive. On the right side, he likes to drive right and bulldoze into his defender – normally drawing a foul – or drive left and spin back for an arching hook shot. Conversely, on the left side, Griffin tends to settle for more jumpers, as he has yet to develop a strong left hand.
Of course, the key to Griffin’s success in the pinch post is his developing jump shot. Defenders routinely sagged off him last year, clogging his driving lanes and passing angles. Although he improved his shooting from 15-19 feet to 36.5 percent last season, per NBA.com, Griffin needs to hover around 40 percent to be considered a viable threat.
Because Griffin is so athletically gifted, he tends to get away with playing off-balance and with reckless abandon. That may work for him in the paint or on a drive, but it isn’t effective with shooting. Almost all of his made jumpers come from an assist – 74.1 percent from 15-19 feet – when he can spot-up, gather himself and set his feet. Griffin struggles when shooting off the dribble, because he often lacks symmetry and cohesion. For Griffin to take his game to superstar proportions offensively, he needs to first increase his jump-shooting accuracy, and then become comfortable shooting off one or two dribbles.
Cross Screen for DeAndre Jordan – D.J. Foster
Consider it a salad play. A post opportunity for DeAndre Jordan might not always offer instant gratification, but it’s a great long-term option. In games DeAndre Jordan scored over 10 points last season (19 times), he averaged 9.78 rebounds, 2.68 blocks, and 60% free throw shooting. In games he scored less than 10 points? 7.6 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, and 47% free throw shooting. The eye test supports the stats. Like everyone else, Jordan plays with more energy and confidence when he gets to watch the ball go through the hoop.
The Clippers made a habit of going to Jordan on the game’s first few possessions, but the key to making this play a real option throughout the whole game has a lot to do with Blake Griffin. For all the talk of how Jordan needs to help Griffin offensively, it swings the other way as well. After all, what’s the best way to get yourself open? Set a mean screen. Griffin can find a lot more space to operate the moment he starts taking pride in setting strong screens. And if he doesn’t catch on? Give the task to the dirtiest point guard screener this side of Salt Lake city (Stockton alert!) to free Jordan up for that right-handed baby hook he loves so much like Derek Fisher does for Pau Gasol here:
Left side screen roll – Andrew Han
I’m not really sure what it is about the left, but seemingly all the Clippers’ guards run a slightly more efficient pick-and-roll from the left side versus the right. Chris Paul was a reliable 0.903 PPP (Points Per Play) in left pick-and-rolls, 0.881 PPP on the right. Billups produced 1.000 PPP in left side pick-and-roll situations, 0.850 PPP on the right. Bledsoe was 1.250 PPP on the left or right side, but he had twice as many pick-and-rolls on the left. (Just for good measure, Jamal Crawford was 0.839 PPP on left side pick-and-rolls, 0.625 PPP on the right side.)
Of course, coupled with the stats on Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in left side pick-and-rolls (1.176 PPP and 1.000 PPP respectively) and almost every option on the left pick-and-roll will yield a positive result. (And to mitigate the slight dip by Clipper guards on the right? They should probably always dump the ball to the roll men, especially DeAndre: Griffin – 1.118 PPP, Jordan – 1.733 PPP). But mostly, I just want to watch more of this:
Lamar Odom’s Variety Pack – Jordan Heimer
When Lamar Odom is sharp, he’s a unique playmaker, in terms of size, ball-handling, and court-vision. His decisions, at least yesterday, were sharp. Sometimes, that isn’t enough – when your body won’t cooperate, it doesn’t matter how sound the decisions are – but if I’m Vinny Del Negro, I have to be encouraged. Lamar seemed engaged. To ensure that he stays engaged, I’d want to design a whole Lamar Odom variety-package of plays for the second team. Remember what worked about Lamar in Phil Jackson’s triangle: it utilized his versatility. He could handle the ball, run the pick and roll as either an initiator or a finisher, play a secondary roll off the ball either as a spacer or a slasher.
What you don’t want is to almost exclusively use Lamar as a “stretch 4.” Despite a few seasons where he thrived from 3, his shot has never been the strongest aspect of his game, and has looked shaky thus far in the preseason. The triangle gave Odom a lot of leeway to read the D and make decisions. From a limited preseason sample, I’d say that Lamar’s decision making may offer the Clippers the most value this season.