What numbers say about the Clippers’ loss of Chris Paul
January 5, 2014 § Leave a comment
The Los Angeles Clippers suffered a massive blow on Friday when Chris Paul went down with a shoulder injury that could sideline him several weeks. The injury shouldn’t jeopardize their season — they’re sitting at fourth in the Western Conference with a pretty easy January schedule — but the six-time All-Star point guard will be very difficult to replace in the meantime.
A passing virtuoso, Paul’s ability to make plays for his teammates is well-known. But his league-leading 11.2 assist-a-game average doesn’t tell the whole story. According to the SportVU tracking data provided on NBA.com’s stats site, Paul leads the league in practically every statistical category related to passing.
He averages 2.2 secondary assists a game (or “hockey assists,” meaning the pass that leads to another player’s assists), which just edges out Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio and Chicago’s D.J. Augustin for tops in the league. Raw assists can be a misleading statistic, because they are dependent on the player making the shot, which isn’t in the passer’s control. But Paul also leads the league in assist opportunities per game at 20.9, more than two opportunities better than the Washington Wizards’ John Wall.
Paul is tied for fourth place in passes per game leading to free throws for a teammate, and leads the league by some distance in both points created by assists per game (25.2) and per 48 minutes (34.7).
Paul’s backup, Darren Collison, has played 18.9 minutes a game this season, starting in one of the 35 games he’s played this year. He’ll see a much greater level of responsibility while Paul is out, but the Clippers have relied so heavily on Paul this season that Collison hasn’t had much of a chance to play with the rest of the starting lineup.
According to nbawowy.com’s lineup tool, Collison has played a total of 500 minutes without Paul on the court this season. The Clippers have scored 104 points per 100 possessions with Collison running the show, and giving up 102.8 points per 100 possessions. This defensive mark is slightly better than Clippers lineups featuring Paul but not Collison (which give up 104.3 points per 100 possessions), but much worse offensively. With Paul on the floor and Collison on the bench, the Clippers score 111.1 points per 100 possessions.
One thing in the Clippers’ favor, is their January schedule is relatively friendly. They play the Indiana Pacers on the road on January 18 and face the Golden State Warriors in Oakland on January 30, but the rest of their games for the month are mostly against Eastern Conference lottery teams. If Paul comes back in three to five weeks, as Clippers coach Doc Rivers speculated on Friday, the Clippers should still be in position to compete for a high playoff seed.