If you happen to look at the current NBA standings, you would notice that Golden State does not have the Western Conference’s best record. It’s not Houston either, which isn’t even in the top eight right now. No, the best record in the West belongs to … the Los Angeles Clippers? That can’t be right. Can it?
Yes, It’s Right With seven wins in their previous eight games (prior to a Wednesday night game with Portland), the Clippers are now 13-6 and, yes, they own the Western Conference’s best record. They have a pair of wins over Houston already and one over the two-time defending champion Warriors. They have beaten Russell Westbrook and the Thunder and even have a victory over the highest scoring team in the NBA – the Milwaukee Bucks.
How Is This Possible? So, not long ago the Clippers had a star-studded team that featured Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and DeAndre Jordan. All three are gone, Jordan being the last to leave at the end of last season. The Clippers lineup now features exactly zero players that anyone would consider star-caliber. So, how are they leading the West?
Simply put, the Clippers are shooting the lights out. Los Angeles is fourth in the NBA in true shooting percentage and they are sixth in offensive efficiency. Those two statistics have resulted in the Clippers scoring 116.8 points per game, fourth-best in the league.
Where It Starts The Clippers’ success starts with Tobias Harris, who came to L.A. in the trade that sent Griffin to the Pistons midway through last season. The most surprising statistic regarding Harris is this: There are currently 31 players in the league who have taken at least 300 shots. The names include guys like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and LeBron James. Harris leads them all in effective field goal percentage. Harris is making shots from everywhere. At 6-foot-9, he scores inside, he hits short jumpers, and he can step outside the arc and hit the 3-pointer. His true shooting percentage thus far is a seemingly unsustainable 61.8 percent.
While Harris averages 21.5 points a game to lead the Clippers, he is not the only one. Acquired in the offseason, Danilo Gallinari is raining 3-pointers for the Clippers. The 6-10 forward is actually shooting better from 3-point range than he is from inside the arc. Gallinari is making 45.6 percent of his 3s and 40.1 percent of his 2s. He is second on the team in scoring averaging 18.6 points per game.
It doesn’t stop at Harris and Gallinari either. Power forward Montrezl Harrell averages 15.8 points and 7.4 rebounds a game. Harrell has essentially replaced Jordan’s scoring at a fraction of the price ($12 million over two years). Harrell’s shot chart is the exact opposite of Harris’s and Gallinari’s. The former Louisville star is making nearly 68 percent of his shots, almost all of them from inside the arc.
The Reality It is unlikely that the Clippers will continue their torrid shooting pace. They are still chasing the Warriors, but if they can keep up their scoring efficiency the Clippers will make the playoffs. That is something most NBA experts did not envision at the beginning of the 2018-19 season.