By: Rajan Nanavati
The current success and current Q-Rating of the Los Angeles Clippers is a testament to the concept of addition by subtraction.
After a 4-4 start to the season, the Clippers are riding a 7-2 streak since November 1st, and would actually be the 4th seed in the always-competitive Western Conference if the playoffs were to start today. They’re ahead of the Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, the Los Angeles Lakers in the standings, and even more impressively, just a half game back of the Golden State Warriors.
While we’re barely through 20% of the NBA season, what the Clippers are doing right now is highly noteworthy. As of Wednesday morning, they’re the third-highest scoring team in the NBA, only behind the Milwaukee Bucks and the New Orleans Pelicans; you’ll note that the two teams ahead of them have something the Clippers definitely don’t — a leader in this year’s NBA MVP race. As a team, the Clippers are shooting 48.5%, which is 8th-best in the NBA; that’s certainly an appreciable mark. But, again, what’s more interesting is the fact that they’re shooting 38.5% as a team from behind the three-point line, only behind Golden State and Indiana.
It’s rather ironic to see Los Angeles putting up such statistics just barely more than a year removed after seeing their three most well-known players – Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan – leave Tinseltown. You can almost see the freedom they have from those guys in the way they’re playing right now. Without having to cater to anyone of those egos, the Clippers can come together in a basketball collective type way.
Tobias Harris is the lead singer that you don’t have to worry about trying to break away from the group and go solo. Everyone knows that Lou Williams is the go-to guy when you need a crunch time bucket or someone to take (and make) a shot with the game on the line. Finally healthy, Danilo Gallinari is fulfilling his role as the skilled offensive sparkplug. Montrezl Harrell is the energetic glue guy that every good NBA team needs. Patrick Beverley is the enforcer who ensures no opponent dares step out of line. They have size (Marcin Gortat and cult-hero Boban Marjanovic), defensive specialists (Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Avery Bradley), and even tantalizing rookies (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — who’s looked great in the early going — and Jerome Robinson) that can come in for a spell while they’re not watching and learning from the vets.
If you project out their current .647 win percentage, that would translate to 53 wins. Not only would that be more than 1.5-times their projected win total (35.5) by the major sportsbooks prior to the start of the season, but it would’ve been good enough for third place in the conference – and the 5th most wins in general – according to last year’s standings.
Sure, there’s a lot of basketball to be played, and a lot of things can happen between now and April. But even then, as most people know, the Clippers have put themselves in the unique position where they can attract as many as two star players to the team, with the potential salary cap space for two “max contracts.”
But at least as of right now, the Clippers are succeeding with the guys they have, and in spite of the guys who are no longer here.