Who's Taking the Shots?

Reading about Steve's post on EJ's true shooting percentage got me thinking about what our shot distribution will look like next year.  This may be the first season in a while that we don't have a player that's odds on to lead our team in shot attempts.  For years, it wasn't much of a question that the offense was going to revolve around Elton Brand.  In his absence, guys like Corey MaggetteAl Thornton stepped up.  Last year, it was BD & Thornton sharing top billing to open the season, before Zach Randolph took over the role, helping to stabilize our offense.  But who will it be this year, and more importantly, who should it be? 

Based on True Shooting % alone, EJ would seem to be the default choice, but does he have the mentality to be a first option?  We know he'll accept the role if he has to, but he seems to prefer laying back a little bit as a 2nd or 3rd option at this point in his career, and until he proves different.

The other players who figure to be in the mix for most shot attempts are Baron Davis, Blake Griffin, & Al Thornton.

With BD being more of a pass first PG, and Thornton's well documented inefficiency, all signs point to Blake Griffin right out of the chute.  Will this actually happen?  I have no idea, but with any luck, our offense will make Griffin & EJ the focal points.

Of course, everything starts with BD.  I've said this more than a few times before, but after all the off-season hype going into last year gave way to the season opener, we watched BD bring the ball up the floor last year without anyone to throw it into down low, other than the turnover prone Kaman, and without any real play makers to hand off to, other than Thornton, who excels more in a transition game, and so all the early losing the team endured seemed almost pre-determined.

Heading into this year, BD will have a lot more talent to help facilitate with both Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon.  And it's really with these three players that make up the core of what the team can hope to accomplish this upcoming season.  They represent our chance at a competitive advantage, and though our options at Center (& the bench) have a chance at being well above average as well, they will mostly help facilitate what the BD-BG-EJ trifecta can accomplish against the rest of the NBA's best.  The good news with these three, is that they all appear plenty motivated, and to have good chemistry from what we can tell so far.  At least EJ & BG appeared to have an instant rapport in summer league, and we know that BD is already a fan of both players. 

The wild card to these dynamics is obviously Al Thornton.  While receiving big playing time as a rookie, AT on average accounted for about 14% of the teams shot attempts two years ago (while he played), which is coincidentally what EJ accounted for last year in his rookie season.  In Thornton's sophmore campaign last year, that number rose to 18%, tying him for second place with Baron Davis at 18%, while Zach did in fact take the most shots when he did play, by taking 21.5% of all shots.  If you sub in Blake Griffin for Zach, and maybe shave a couple of points off of that, it's pretty obvious that you'd like to see Thornton's shot attempts drop the most prominently, and with the addition of Butler, that may very well become true.  Next, BD could stand to shoot a bit less, and most importantly, EJ's shot attempts have to go up to somewhere near 20% along with Griffin. 

Here's an optimistic shot distribution projection for 09-10:

Blake Griffin - 19%

Eric Gordon - 18.5%

Baron Davis - 15.5%

Thornton - 11%

Kaman - 11%

Camby - 8%

Bench - 17%

*Note: During our famed 2005 season, Elton Brand took about 23.5% of the teams shots.

In looking at all these numbers, something did strike me as kind of interesting.  Before last season, the Clippers averaged 78 shot attempts per game the previous 4 years (04-05 thru 07-08) with a range from 77.1 to 78.6.  Last year, that number rose to 81.7, an up-tick of about 5%.  For how frustratingly slow our offense seemed last year, it was still the quickest it's been in the dunleavy era.  With the more athletic Blake Griffin running the floor in place of Randolph, that figure is naturally likely to increase once again.

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