TeamSPACE: Pacific Rim

Today we round out the Western Conference, in our third edition of the TeamSPACE 2013-2014 NBA season in review. As we examine each team, some of the key characteristics to look for include (but are not limited to): frequent and unique usage for each player in a lineup, the relative size of each player’s Hunting Grounds, and the degree of overlap in a lineup.

For more on this methodology, click here.

For Part 1 (Southwest division), click here.

For Part 2 (Northwest division), click here.

Today we travel to the Pacific to be specific:

Los Angeles Clippers

Record: 57-25

2013-2014 Los Angeles Clippers

2013-2014 Los Angeles Clippers

Chris Paul, midrange point gawd. The size of Paul’s activity space is really pretty impressive. He is literally just about everywhere inside the 3-point line. But aside from Chris Paul’s relative ball-hoggery (and not necessarily a bad thing), a few other noteworthy items:

  • That’s a lot of Matt Barnes from behind the arc; which is likely related to JJ Reddick’s injuries last season. Barnes is basically active from everywhere from deep.
  • Darren Collison? Almost every one of Collison’s Hunting Grounds is overlapped by Paul (which, as I mentioned last time, is not necessarily a bad thing, nor a good thing). Where Collison doesn’t overlap Paul (corner 3s), he’s encroaching on Barnes. Again, a healthy Reddick changes this drastically going forward.
  • Blake Griffith is demonstrating remarkably similar patterns to Serge Ibaka; both have begun the Boshian trek to the corner 3-pointer.
  • As expected, DeAndre Jordan is a subcontractor in offensive powerhouse, remaining strictly in the paint. As I noted on Twitter earlier this week, Jordan also has the lowest average distance between shot attempts (a remarkably low 1.75 ft – most players are in the 3-6 ft range).

Golden State Warriors

Record: 51-31

2013-2014 Golden State Warriors

2013-2014 Golden State Warriors

This is obviously a ringing endorsement for the jump-shooting brilliance of the Splash Brothers, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Curry is absolutely un-guardable from most areas beyond-the-arc (important side note: we did not need THIS chart to prove that point; we already knew it, but comparing his activity to the rest of this lineup is where this map has value). Klay is equally active, to include every key midrange spot. Andre Iguodala is exhibiting those trendy, Kawhi Leonard-type wing tendencies; this is expected when so much of the offense runs through Curry and Thompson. David Lee has toned down the midrange activity since leaving New York. The most glaring potential concern: no one not named Thompson or Curry has any Hunting Grounds in the area in between the paint and the 3-point arc (more commonly referred to as the “midrange”). Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green are the likely suitors to Iguodala’s minutes, if Steve Kerr’s comments hold true next season.

Phoenix Phantoms

Record: 48-34

2013-2014 Phoenix Suns

2013-2014 Phoenix Suns

Yes indeed, I called the Suns the Phantoms. It’s something I’ve been doing since last year, when I learned from Zach Lowe that in the original naming contest this franchise could’ve been the Phantoms. Name aside, this offense was a thing of beauty and constant entertainment last season. There’s a couple things of interest going on here. First, there is a strong whiff of Houston Rocket Moreyball here, with little to no midrange activity. Second, Channing Frye is doing a pretty darn good Kevin Love impression with the borderline overactive wing 3-point activity. Important note: how will that activity be replaced this season? Similar to Iggy on GSW, PJ Tucker fills the 3-and-D role perfectly, with activity only in the corners and at the rim. Gerald Green is somewhat healthy counter-balance to Fry’s wing activity, however there is substantial overlap in the corners with Tucker. This lineup is largely the product of an injured Eric Bledsoe.

So, here’s where Phantom math gets tricky heading into next season: More Bledsoe, Less Green, Zero Frye, (likely) More Morris twins… and Unknown levels of newly-acquired Isaiah Thomas does not necessarily equal last season’s productivity and spacing.

Sacramento Kings

Record: 28-54

2013-2014 Sacramento Kings

2013-2014 Sacramento Kings

The Kings are full of surprises.

First: the color (player) that stands out the most, in terms of most occupied space, is not named Rudy Gay. It appears to be Ben McLemore. For all of Gay’s criticism, his activity with the Kings appear to improve – more paint activity, more 3-point activity, and more precise midrange areas. McLemore and Gay compliment each other spatially very well, although theoretically Gay should be more dominant than McLemore.

Second: there is a lot of activity from the departed Isaiah Thomas. That much activity is not necessarily a good thing, but it will somehow have to be replaced.

Third: I expected more midrange activity from Boogie Cousins. There is some at the top of the key, but virtually none on the baseline. This midrange activity may increase with Thomas heading to the Valley.

Next season should be… interesting.

Los Angeles Lakers

Record: 27-55

2013-2014 Los Angeles Lakers

2013-2014 Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers without Kobe Bryant are… confusing. The signs of an efficient/well-spaced offense are there – activity from 3-point range, especially in the corners, and low activity in the midrange. However, no one really has their own unique space to operate in. A pair of last year’s Laker’s who potentially could thrive in this design alongside the appropriate alpha-dog (Jodie Meeks, Pau Gasol), are gone. Meeks in particular was shooting from all the right places, in fairly precise Hunting Grounds – he was just constantly overlapped by Wes Johnson and Ryan Kelly. Looking at some of the players in this chart in a vacuum (which sounds dangerous), each could be thriving. However, since each is at stage of his career to be a complimentary piece in a lineup, a configuration of complimentary pieces gets… crowded. And confusing.

Paging, Dr. Bryant.

Check back next week for the Eastern Conference review, where we’ll reminisce about the Heat, and hypothesize about the Pacers late-season decline.

Data and photo support provided courtesy of NBA.com, Basketball-Reference.com, and Austin Clemens.

Matt D'Anna