Clippers

Harden Has Unlocked the Clippers

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It has been 37 games since the infamous James Harden trade.

After starting off their new chapter with five-straight losses, the Los Angeles Clippers now sit at fourth in the West, less than a handful of games out of the first seed.

How did the Clippers transform themselves from a team ridiculed for acquiring a player NO ONE wanted into one of the deadliest threats out west?

Let’s dive in.

THE STARS ARE PLAYING OUT OF THEIR MINDS

Before getting into the X’s and O’s of why its working, the most important thing contributing to this teams success is that its three best players are BALLING out.

While the team has been sensational so far, Harden, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George all have posted ludicrous numbers in hot streaks of their own.

During the Clippers’ nine-game winning streak in December, Kawhi averaged 29.3 points per game on 73% true shooting. His TS% was the highest for any player with 100+ FGA during that time period.

Leonard’s equally tenured star, Paul George, averaged 24.9 points per game on 64% true shooting in 12 games from Dec. 16th to Jan. 10th. During this span, PG hit 50 of his 108 attempted three pointers, tying him with C.J. McCollum for first in the league over this span.

The Beard’s stretch spans from Nov. 29th until Dec. 18th, where the Clippers only dropped one game and were undefeated to start December. Harden himself boasted the BEST offensive rating in the entire NBA. Couple this with his mind-blowing 4.33 assist-to-turnover ratio and his 72.4% true shooting, the Clippers looked unstoppable.

Harden’s style of play fundamentally changed the Clippers and it is doing wonders.

THE DRIBBLER NO MORE

Harden has the Clips running like clockwork, all while using the good ole’ pick and roll.  Everyone knows that Harden is a great passer which is essential to running a pick-and-roll offense. However, perhaps his most underrated quality is that he is cool, calm and collected.

The Clippers have not had a star player who is as smart as Harden and takes care of the ball since Chris Paul back in the Lob City days. Which is quite a refreshing experience after the erratic days of Reggie Jackson, John Wall and pre-Harden Russell Westbrook.

Another welcome alteration to the Clippers’ offense is that the ball does NOT stick.

Why explain in words when you can watch Kawhi give the ball up for it to be immediately zipped from Harden to a wide open PG13.

For all the off-court drama that follows Harden, he has always put in the work with his teammates. While on the Sixers, Harden took Tyrese Maxey under his wing and helped guide him down a path to becoming a more complete player. Maxey is still singing Harden’s praises despite them being on different teams.

This season, Harden has his sights set on Ivica Zubac.

UNLOCKING BIG ZU

After joining the James Harden training camp, big Zu is playing better than he ever has.

While at first glance Zu’s numbers are quite similar, Zu is playing vastly more confident and engaged on both ends. So far this season, Zubac is holding opposing players to 48.7% at the rim, which ranks him second in the NBA for players defending at least five shots at the rim per game.

Zu’s ludicrous numbers place him in the ranks of defensive monsters such as Rudy Gobert, Anthony Davis and Joel Embiid when it comes to protecting the rim.

In addition, Harden and Zu have been a near-seamless fit. They possess the same chemistry as Jackie Moon and Clarence did at the END of the movie. While Harden and Zu have only played part of a season together, their chemistry is developing rapidly.

CATCH-AND-SHOOT P

Once upon a time in 2018, Paul George once said “I can play in any offense and play off any player.”

Night in and night out he proves himself right.

George has been nothing short of stellar this season. He has sacrificed for the greater good of the team and is being rewarded by the basketball Gods. Don’t take my word for it— the numbers speak for themselves.

PG scores the fourth-most points per game from screens (2.4 points/game) at a 44.6% clip tallying for 1.17 points per possession just above league average (1.15 points/possession). Keep in mind that PG is scoring at a rate above league average JUST from screens.

When it comes down to spot-up shooting, George again ranks among the league’s best. He is scoring 5.9 points a game, spotting up at a 46.9% rate, tallying for 1.29 points per possession. WELL above league average.

Lastly, George has shown how his place in the Clippers’ ecosystem can shift on a game-to-game basis.

When Kawhi is powered on and in killer mode, PG can take step back and be the best second star he is destined to be. All the while he is still capable of being the BEST player on an NBA court.

Just ask the Thunder.

About Josh Douglas

Josh is a fan of shot creators, big guys that play like guards, and on-court accessories. He is an avid supporter of all things Clippers and 76ers. Josh writes about the L.A. Clippers.

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