Projecting the NBA using xWARP: Los Angeles Clippers

So, the Clippers. What an offseason, huh? The Clippers had arguably the best offseason in the league this year, save what Brooklyn was able to cook up 3,000 miles away on the opposite coast. To recap: they were able to acquire two capable wing players (Jared Dudley, J.J. Redick) in exchange for a player (Eric Bledsoe) who, despite his massive potential and above average production, simply didn’t figure to play enough to justify what he’ll need to be paid, because of the top 3 player in the NBA playing in front of him (that’s Chris Paul, you guys). They replaced that potential with the less talented, but still capable Darren Collison, the once and future CP3 understudy. They retained Matt Barnes and drafted another 3 and D wing in Reggie Bullock. They’re flush with those types between Redick, Dudley, and now Bullock. Maybe too much so. But, on the plus side, they acquired Doc Rivers to manage all those wings and fix a rotation that works, for the relatively piddling price of a late first round pick. Oh, Byron Mullens is along for the ride, too, but he’s not very good at much besides taking and missing a lot of jump shots while simultaneously being tall. So, really, who cares about Byron? What do the numbers have to say about what we can expect from the Clippers after their offseason to remember?

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57 wins. That’s improvement over this year’s 56 wins, but not much. Why don’t the Clippers look better? Well, they lost Eric Bledsoe who, as it turns out, was a +1.61 player in xRAPM and played 1500+ minutes for them last year. Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick had lower xRAPMs than Bledsoe, as did Darren Collison. Additionally, the Clips lost Lamar Odom who was a +.82 xRAPM and replaced his 1600+ minutes with the terrible Byron Mullens and a combination of wings who will likely be worse than Odom was last year, at least by xRAPM. Plus, Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes project to decline relatively significantly, while Blake Griffin somewhat offsets that with a pretty significant improvement, as he climbs towards his peak years. Subjectively, this prediction seems like it could be a bit low, as the Clips had the MOV of a 59 win team and most NBA heads had them improving this offseason. Plus, Doc Rivers is in a different class as a coach than Vinny Del Negro. But I present the numbers here for you, dear reader, to ponder over.

Sidenote: At the end of all this projectin’ I will try (if I have time) to incorporate the schedules of the teams, the strength in projected MOV of each team, and the value of home court advantage for each team (as determined by Evan Z over at The City) in order to come up with the most accurate predictions that I can. Also, you should check out the ESPN NBA Forecasts, as they are going up over the next few days. Lots of smart people’s thoughts aggregated together = wisdom of crowds = awesome analysis.

Image via flickr user Keith Allison

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