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Measuring the Clippers Against the NBA's Elite

In the comments section of the recent Clips Nation roundtable, Citizens Byarin and Adithya got me thinking: If we only looked at games played among the NBA's Elite, where do the Clippers rank?

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Clippers v. the West Elite

The first attempt at this analysis started with only the Western Conference's elite class: Dallas, Golden State, Houston, the Clippers, Memphis, Phoenix, Portland, and San Antonio. For those that didn't see the comments section of the roundtable, the first iteration looked a bit like this:

Top 8 In the West


  1. To draw a line in the sand, I designated teams as "Elite" if they had 30+ wins, as of the date of this article.
  2. "Diff" refers to Average Point Differential, which is the average margin of victory in each game, and historically a great indicator of future team success.
  3. "Change" refers to the difference in Average Point Differential between Elite and Everyone Else.

My Observations
  • When playing one another, the West's Elite teams had 3 leaders of the pack in Memphis, Golden State, and your LA Clippers.
  • The Clippers were just as dominant against the West's elite as the invincible Warriors were, and that team's insane point differential seems to be driven by their wins over weaker teams.
  • Of course, Memphis stood out the most, having by far the best record versus the rest of the West Elite, mainly due to their nonstop fouling physical style of play and top-tier post presence.

Clippers v. the NBA Elite

But this analysis wasn't really complete, as it unfairly discounted the Eastern Conference Elite teams — Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Toronto, and Washington. So I reran the analysis, now with 13 teams, and came up with the following second iteration:

My Observations
  • Predictably, Golden State and Atlanta sit atop the rankings (both in differential and in wins), with Memphis trailing slightly behind.
  • The Clippers took a big fall, thanks to their 0-6 record against the East Elite (a pair of losses to Atlanta, and one loss to each of Toronto, Washington, Cleveland, and Chicago). 
  • While the Clippers overall have a losing record against the Elite, they've lost lots of close games and absolutely dominated other ones, resulting in a positive average Margin of Victory (again, a better indicator of future success than win percentage). And, as expected, they've completely destroyed non-Elite teams, second only to the Warriors in this measure. 
  • Portland, Dallas, and Washington all stood out as teams that look very strong against bad teams, but come up short against Elite competition (In Portland's case, to a lesser degree than the other two teams). 
  • Records are a funny thing: Houston and Toronto are almost identical to the Clippers in the Win-Loss columns, but the point differentials tell a very different story that really separates the Clippers from the pack a bit.

As always, there is far more to infer from this analysis than what I've covered above, so feel free to discuss in the comments (or let me know if you caught a mistake!).