Pindown screens for an open corner three. Flowing off-ball movement to create open looks. After-timeout plays to create quality shots when the game is on the line. These are the things that the Los Angeles Clippers dreamed of when they acquired Doc Rivers, a guru of set plays and off-ball offense.
J.J. Redick has become his weapon of choice. Redick already had the reputation of being one of the NBA's best off-ball players, and fitting this kind of specialist with Chris Paul was a no-brainer. When Rivers landed in Los Angeles it looked like the pieces had fallen in place for the Clippers to have one of the best offenses in the NBA.
And after a slow start and despite injuries to Paul and Redick himself, that has happened. This has become basketball matchmaking heaven.
Redick's play-type usage and points per possession are very similar to Allen's from the Celtics' last run to the NBA Finals. Redick is not Allen's equal as an overall player, sure, but it's worth putting them side-by-side to see how they fit into Rivers' offense. That Redick's efficiency is either better or close to Allen's in these categories is a testament to how skilled he is at finding an open shot and draining it.
Redick is a technician when he's moving off screens. Having set plays for one of the game's best off-screen players is a perfect way to keep the offense engaged and fluid. DeAndre Jordan can't stretch a defense when he's on the floor, but he can set screens to free up a teammate. Darren Collison isn't half the ball-handler that Paul is, but he can hit the open man when he pops out to the corner.
This is the type of fail-safe the Clippers have lacked since Paul joined the franchise.
- Redick's off-ball movement is a great way to take the burden off the Clippers' point guards without Paul.
The timing and execution is still a work in progress, but the team has taken huge strides in creating efficient looks. The Clippers have ways to score for crucial possessions beyond living and dying by the hand of Paul now. Having to cover both the ball-handler (usually Paul) and Redick stretches a defense thin. The rest of the offense moves without Paul while he picks apart the defense.
Paul is the surgeon, Redick is the scalpel and the Clippers' offense is administering surgery when the two are on the court together. Nearly 86 percent of Redick's made field goals have been assisted this season. Paul specifically assisted Redick a team-high 49 times despite the two only playing in 16 games together this season, averaging out to 3.1 assists per game, according to NBA.com. Even without Paul through much of the season, Redick has been one of the best catch-and-shoot players in the league.
Redick is in the top seven in the NBA in catch-and-shoot points, defined as any field goal attempt from at least 10 feet where the player held the ball for no more than two seconds and never dribbled. He's also playing the second-least amount of minutes per game out of the group.
Redick has performed at an exceptional level since he returned from a hand injury that forced him out 21 games. The Clippers have gone 9-4 since Jan. 10 and are doing it without Paul. The team's schedule was favorable despite a long road trip, but winning games without Paul is a great indicator that it is heading in the right direction.
The Clippers were averaging 110.8 points per 100 possessions before Redick was sidelined with hand and elbow injuries. The offense trended downward, bottoming out at 108.1. but gradually improved over time. Paul's injury came at a time when the team had gotten its offensive rating back up to 109.6. The Clippers' offensive rating has risen nearly two full points per 100 possessions to 111.4 even though Paul has been sidelined, and Redick's healthy return is a huge reason for that.
The offense has trended upward again with Redick's return, now above the average rating the team had before both players were injured. It's not that Redick alone is "carrying" the Clippers' offense, but he opens up the floor for the entire team when he's curling around the perimeter and forcing defenders into split-second decisions. He's scoring a career-high 15.7 points per game while shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc, making him a great diversion. He forces defenders to switch and rotate, and this often allows him to find his teammates with pinpoint passing, a skill he's been refining throughout his career.
It's no surprise Redick has the highest on-court offensive rating for the Clippers. His catch-and-shoot proficiency and court vision when he draws an extra defender make him extremely important to Los Angeles.
Will having a go-to player who works away from Paul put Los Angeles over the top? It'll help in the playoffs when possessions slow down and teams become familiar with one another, but the Clippers still need to put it all together in the regular season before worrying about carrying it forward into a seven-game series. How the team grows together once Paul is back in the lineup will be key now that it has found a groove without him.
Thanks in large part to Redick, the engine is running. CP3 will just need to take the wheel.