Since opening the 2015-16 season on a four-game winning streak, the Los Angeles Clippers have lost four of their last six games and are beginning to look like one of the more disappointing teams in the early going.
We’ve addressed the bench’s early-season struggles, and we knew visiting the Dallas Mavericks was going to lead to a tough night for DeAndre Jordan and company, but to make matters worse the team’s had to deal with injuries to several key players, including star point guard Chris Paul.
After playing all 82 games last season, Paul’s already missed three of the Clippers’ first 10 games, most recently missing Saturday night’s bounce-back win over the Detroit Pistons. Battling a groin injury, Paul’s remains questionable for the foreseeable future, but even if he does play we’re not sure how effective he’ll be.
It feels silly to say someone with a line of 15.7 points, 8.0 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game is struggling, but this is CP3 – the best point guard in recent NBA history, which of course Stephen Curry’s trying to change – we’re talking about. Not only are all of his traditional numbers down, but Paul’s shooting a lowly 41 percent from the field and 28 percent from three while turning the ball over on 16.2 percent of 100 possessions, per Basketball Reference. Comparatively speaking, Paul’s stat line since joining the Clippers has been 18.6 points, 9.9 assists and 4.1 rebounds while shooting 48 percent from the field and 37 percent from three to go along with a 12.5 percent turnover rate:
Ultimately, I’m going to say this isn’t anything we should be worried about. Per Basketball-Reference, Paul’s still among the top two on the team in net rating (+16.1 per 100 possessions, behind only J.J. Redick’s +17.5), and he’s a part of six of the Clippers’ top seven three-man lineups, also per Basketball-Reference.
And he’s still doing things like this:
I suppose it’s worth mentioning that Paul got off to a “slow” start last season too, averaging 15.6 points, shooting 42 percent from the field and 33 percent from three through five games. Again, these aren’t numbers you’d particularly associate with a struggling player, but Paul’s arguably the NBA’s most efficient point guard of all time, with a career offensive/defensive rating of 123/104, according to Basketball-Reference. This season he’s posting ratings of 107 and 107.
Again, in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t anything worth worrying about. The Clippers’ starting/most-used unit is still outscoring opposing lineups by 16.6 points per 100 possessions, outshooting opponents from three and winning the battle of assists and turnovers, all things that clearly are directly impacted by Paul. I was worried that he and Lance Stephenson may not be able to coexist, but they’re the Clippers’ second-best two-man lineup in terms of outscoring opponents and assists per 100 possessions, and they also happen to be the team’s best two-man lineup in terms of both field goal and three-point percentage.
Regardless of his injury and shooting woes, a little deeper research proves that Paul’s still the most effective player on the team in several categories directly associated with what’s made them so good since acquiring him back in 2011. Paul’s slow(er) start might give his fantasy owners qualms moving forward, but Clippers fans shouldn’t press the panic button on their franchise point guard just yet.