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The Clippers Aren’t The Clippers Without Chris Paul

This is Back of the Envelope, FiveThirtyEight’s home for shorter, quicker posts.


The L.A. Clippers’ snakebit injury history continued Tuesday night, when all-everything point guard Chris Paul tore a ligament in his left thumb, forcing CP3 to miss six to eight weeks of action. On top of a knee injury that has sidelined forward Blake Griffin since mid-December, Paul’s injury is yet another in a long line of impediments that has kept the Clippers from fully capitalizing on their Big Three of Paul, Griffin and DeAndre Jordan over the years.

Since that trio joined forces in the 2011-12 season, the Clippers have been deadly when all three of their stars share the court, and they’ve even been quite good with two of three in the game. But they quickly become an ordinary team with one or none of the Big Three on the floor — aside from when Paul is out there alone (in which case they have their best efficiency, because CP3 is a point god).

To demonstrate this, I used data from NBAWowy.com to make a little hand-drawn Venn diagram showing L.A.’s point differential per 100 possessions with each combination of L.A.’s stars on — and off — the court since the beginning of the 2011-12 season:

cp3_injury_venn_d_fixed

(Source: nbawowy.com)

Predictably, the Clippers’ other stars don’t function as well without Paul. Griffin — who isn’t yet cleared to return from his own injury — has scored 1.8 fewer points per 40 minutes with a true shooting percentage 2.9 points lower in Paul’s absence over his career, while Jordan’s numbers in the same categories dip by 0.1 and 2.3, respectively, without CP3. For now, Jordan is on his own, and the Clippers — who were outscoring opponents by 19.6 more points per 100 possessions this season with Paul on the court than off — are in big trouble.

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Neil Paine is a senior sportswriter for FiveThirtyEight.

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