Over the weekend, most of the ClipperBlog writers ventured on a magical excursion to a land of sports statistics, business, metrics, and analytics. This mystical place – also known as Boston, MA – was home to the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, an annual conference put on by the business school at MIT to educate the rest of the sports world on how analytics continue to progress in the industry.
But the Sloan Conference didn’t come without some setbacks.
Constantly attending panels, talking sports with people smarter than us, and generally going out for TrueHoop get-togethers forced most of us who attended to watch Clipper games in the most dreaded way possible – tape delay.
NOT TAPE DELAY! IT’S LIKE RELIVING THE OLYMPICS! IT COULDN’T BE!!
Oh, but it could.
Thank the NBA gods for League Pass or we wouldn’t have otherwise been able to see the Clips garner their 43rd win in Cleveland. 16-point games against non-rival, non-conference, non-foes are simply the ones you don’t want to miss. And during the Thunder game was the same deal.
Many of us, mainly the Andrew Hans and Jovan Buhas of the world, made the late-Sunday afternoon travel back to Los Angeles, a trip that overlapped with the ABC matinee. Again, no live viewing experience for the bunch and that meant no ClipperBlog Live. Actually, it meant a whole weekend of no ClipperBlog Live – and that just wasn’t fair to anyone.
So in order to make up for our selfishly wondrous venture to the Bay State, ClipperBlog will answer your questions – just not in the form of CBL. So here’s the first ClipperBlog mailbag of the season, the ClipperBag if you will (yep, I’m fully aware the name needs work). Here are some questions that were tweeted in over the weekend:
Hector Acevedo (@ElHectorAcevedo)
How would the Clippers fare if the North Korean basketball scoring system was implemented by the NBA?
This is like when I was a little kid and my younger brother and I used to create games to play in the house. We had Snag (a game that involved tennis rackets, superballs, and a great deal of diving), Nerf (anarchy with a nerf ball), ‘Round the Globe, which was later shortened just to Globe (a glorified version of Around the World on the basketball hoop on my closet) and probably some other ones that I’ve blocked out of my mind because they were horrifyingly aggressive and maniacal.
If you don’t know North Korean basketball rules, check out what Dennis Rodman learned over the weekend while hanging out with his “friend for life”. It’s notably odd, but kind of fun to imagine.
These rules would probably intensely affect the Clippers on both ends of the spectrum, right?
Three points for a dunk. Well, Lob City is the king of those.
Eight points for a basket within the final three seconds. The Clips don’t often get blown out and have the best crunch-time player in the league (Chris Paul) along with one of the best individual shot creators in the league (Jamal Crawford).
Minus-one for a missed free throw. DeAndre Jordan, Ronny Turiaf, and Lamar Odom will now proceded to cry hysterically.
Alexander Vonhungen (@avonhun)
The team started off the season 3-0 vs SAS, OKC and MIA, since that time they have gone 0-5. What changed?
I’ve heard this question posed often recently and while it’s not inaccurate, it is actually a bit misleading. First of all, that 3-0 start against the top three teams in the league came with two wins over the Spurs and one over the Heat. L.A. was hot for both of those Spurs wins that came quite early in the season (they started and ended a six-game winning streak to improve the Clippers’ season record to 8-2). The Heat game was also part of that early-season six game streak.
Second of all, Oklahoma City is good. I mean, that team is really, really good and when the Clips play some of the individual, in-game match ups they chose to play (more on this later), the Thunder have a bunch of ways to exploit the Clipper defense. 0-3 to the Thunder isn’t preferable, but remember that head-to-head isn’t everything. The Clips won three of four against the Thunder last season and look who ended up faring better come playoff time.
And third and finally, you can’t just look at the raw outcomes of those games. Context has to be a factor. When the Clips went 3-0 against the Spurs and Heat, two of those games were in Los Angeles. (The win in San Antonio was so impressive that it might be the Clips’ best win of the season, but you can’t expect any team – regardless of quality – to go into San Antonio and consistently come out of there with wins.) The win against the Heat early in the season came at home in a game in which Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade shot a combined 5-for-23 from the field. Meanwhile, the loss came in Miami (as a part of the Heat’s current 15-game winning streak) in Chris Paul’s first game back from extended injury, one in which he looked particularly rusty. And as for the loss to the Spurs – well, the Spurs are just playing out of control. It’s all about context so no, I don’t think there is major cause for concern because of any of these results.
Steve Connacher (@shaggah21)
Did OKC exploit Clippers age? We should keep Bledsoe as a long-term asset, build around CP3, Jamal and youth.
Keeping Bledsoe means you have to consider playing him at shooting guard, something the Clippers haven’t loved to do this season. If Bledsoe’s Clipper destiny is to play 18 minutes a night as a backup point guard, it actually does make sense to shop him. He can bring back value and if the value that comes over plays more than 18 minutes per game, he might be able to be a greater contributor even if he doesn’t provide the quality that Bledsoe does.
Jake Carlisi (@huthutraul)
How much hype is there around Ben McLemore and Shabazz Muhammad? Could a deal be made for either centered around Bled?
And here’s where that quality might be. The Clippers held off on centering a deal around Bledsoe at the trade deadline for expensive, big names and the NBA Draft might be the reason why. Here’s the problem though: Even if you do get a high pick for Bledsoe, this draft class is weak, maybe the weakest we’ve seen since 2000. Every “superstar” whose name will come up in the top 10 picks this year has at least one distinguishable flaw that even the non-nitpickers can point out.
Nerlens Noel is coming off a major ACL injury and has a raw offensive game.
Ben McLemore has a tendency to disappear. (If you’re not a college basketball fan and you’re not sure what I mean, watch last week’s Kansas-Iowa State overtime thriller starting at the 10-minute mark in the second half. The announcers didn’t call McLemore’s name once except for when they spoke about how they hadn’t even mentioned him.)
Shabazz’s stock, meanwhile, is falling. DraftExpress.com, basically the basketball mecca of NBA Draft sites, actually has him going third overall to the Wizards, but NBADraft.net now has him going fifth overall to Sacramento. ProBasketballDraft.com has him seventh to Cleveland. ESPN’s NBA Draft guru Chad Ford has moved him all the way down to eighth on his Big Board. It’s not looking great for the 6-foot-6 Shabazz, who some scouts say is undersized for a small forward but under-athletic for a shooting guard. But that could actually be good for the Clippers.
Realistically, Eric Bledsoe isn’t going to garner a top-five pick. With the way the new CBA works, teams don’t want to have to pay the luxury tax and that makes rookie contracts that much more valuable. Getting Ben McLemore or Marcus Smart on a rookie deal is way more appealing than getting Bledsoe on the cheap for one year and then ponying up loads of money to try to keep him. But what if Shabazz falls to eighth? Or 10th? Or 12th? A team in need of a good wing might be able to swing that and that’s an area of the draft in which Bledsoe could bring back picks.
ESPN should do a sports science on the nuts chop, don’t you agree?
Why do players not wear cups?
I assume your real name isn’t actually qlippers – it would have to be Qlippers.
Some of the highlights from this Sports Science might include:
- Stomach ache rate
- Fertility percentage
- Fist velocity
Seriously, I have no idea how Ibaka wasn’t ejected after that one. In a nut-chopping situation, I feel like anyone with those particular organs should immediately sympathize with the chopee. Every guy who has been hit in that area at some time or another grimaced the second they saw the clenched fist of a 6-foot-10, 235-pound man furiously hammer Griffin’s groin. At least next time Joey Crawford refs a Thunder game we can make jokes about Serge Ibaka being the reason for Crawford’s waddling running form.
Do you actually believe that Serge Ibaka is 23 years old? I wanna see a birth certificate.
I had no idea Donald Trump’s Twitter handle was @Clippstream.
What’s up with the rotation? Bledsoe can’t play 9 minutes. Hill & Billups back seemed to throw things off.
Jonathan Eng (@jon_eng4)
How useful would starting Bled to check Westbrook have been instead of Chauncey?
Self-promotion alert. I actually wrote about Bledsoe’s inexplicable minutes total against the Thunder after the 108-104 loss on Sunday. I don’t know if starting Bled is the answer, though. He hasn’t started a game at shooting guard all season and beginning that trend three-quarters of the way into the year not only seems inconsistent, but it also seems so unrealistic that it’s not even worth analyzing as a legitimate talking point.
As for the minutes total, that’s the real issue. As ClipperBlog’s D.J. Foster has mentioned a few times, the Clippers have a chameleonic identity, molding to fit the style of their opponents and then picking them apart at their own meticulous game. That’s an odd way for a contender to play, but it can work.
The identity issue becomes a problem when you’re 62 games into the year and you still don’t know your substitution rotations. If the Clippers had to play game one of a first-round series against Golden State tomorrow, who would be in their nine-man rotation? How many minutes would Bledsoe or Odom or DJ or Turiaf or Hollins or even Butler and Billups play? There isn’t consistency and that’s especially true with the bigs…
This Guy (@RolandTGunner)
Turiaf over DJ down the stretch? That’s a new low for him. Turiaf worse at FT. Safe to assume DJ is officially in the dog house?
Lewis Dobie (@LewtheLegend)
Will DJ get some meaningful 4Q minutes against someone not named Utah down the stretch?
Alfredo Rodriguez (@WammyGiveaway)
Is one of LAC’s weaknesses perfection? VDN keeps all his lineups to a tee, from personnel lineups to punctual switches. He refuses to make any in-game changes unless it is an “in case of emergency” situation. Say if DJ has no fouls and Griffin is fouled out, but VDN prefers Odom and Hollins/Turiaf/Hill over DJ because of veteran experience and free throws. What if they get fouled out, and VDN’s forced to bring DJ out? There is also a theory that DJ’s free throws only improve during crunch time in the 4th quarter.
Again, rotation inconsistency.
DeAndre Jordan’s minutes total is becoming more and more puzzling as the season chugs along. It’s just odd that an organization that signed him to a four-year/$42 million deal a couple of years ago won’t let him close out games even though he’s actually improved from the time that he signed that contract.
Only adding to the strange is that Vinny Del Negro has said he likes to look at lineup data, which could be why he consistently likes to play the same lineups. (Giving a bunch of different lineups a large enough amount of playing time gives them a statistically significant sample size, allowing Del Negro to use lineup data appropriately with more lineups than he otherwise would.) But look at the two potential closing lineups. The Clippers most often close with a lineup of Paul-Crawford-Barnes-Odom-Griffin.
That group has put up quality production in its 131 minutes of floor time together, posting a 112.9 offensive rating and a 103.1 defensive rating, good enough for a strong 9.8 net rating. It plays well, no doubt.
But how does that compare to the closing lineup with DJ on the floor?
(Hint: It doesn’t.)
The Paul-Crawford-Barnes-Griffin-Jordan lineup has a ridiculous 123.1 offensive rating and a just as obscene 90.2 defensive rating. That’s a 32.8 net rating in 103 minutes, the highest net rating of any five-man lineup that has played more than 100 minutes in the NBA.
So let’s go over these two options one more time. The Clippers’ closing lineup could be the best (statistically significant) lineup in the NBA. Or it could have Lamar Odom.
Yes, this lineup data isn’t everything, but surely it’s something and before playoff time, the Clippers have to find out if this is real or just a mirage. The “What-If” questions are the worst when something bad happens to your team. Trust me. As a Yankee fan, I ask the “What if Mariano Rivera hadn’t blown Game 7 of the 2001 World Series?” question all the time. And this is 12 years after the fact. It’s after seeing the Yanks win five championships in the Rivera era. But every Yankee fan still asks it.
If the Clips lose a playoff series with Odom on the floor with the closers instead of Jordan, the same sort of What-If query could plague them. They shouldn’t want that. So figure out Jordan as a closer now and let’s see if this almost-unrealistic lineup production keeps up.