Welcome back to Stock Watch, a regular feature where we’ll check in on which Clippers are playing well, not so hot, or just can’t crack the rotation.
This was a tough category, given that the Clippers lost two of three this week, posting their worst offensive game of the season against Memphis, followed by their worst quarter of the year against Miami. LA seems to have lost a little bit of its mojo at the quarter pole of the season, but Tobias Harris is definitely finding his mean streak, and that’s not such a bad thing.
The reigning Western Conference player of the month probably had a week he would like to forget, as he was charged with two technical fouls in addition to the team suffering two losses. But Harris was still the best player on the Clippers over the last three games (excluding Marcin Gortat, who was a DNP-CD and avoided the stink of the Heat loss), and has been throughout the season. He has struggled shooting, but it has been a welcome sight to see Harris continue to attack. He isn’t taking bad shots either; they just aren’t going in. Harris has taken 19 shots at the rim and 16 threes, compared to six long twos and seven short mid-range shots, so that shot profile bodes well going forward. Even in a dispiriting loss to Miami, it was exciting to see Harris get two dunks as proof of his aggressive mindset.
On the other end of the floor, Harris is continuing to be active on the defensive glass. He has the second-best defensive rating on the Clippers behind Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. LA has been faltering on the defensive end, but Harris has only improved.
Everyone’s favorite bundle of energy has not unfortunately seen his production level match his intensity over recent weeks. Harrell has been getting a lot of buzz as a Sixth Man of the Year and Most Improved Player candidate, but the Clippers have not been doing well in his minutes. In the last week, Harrell’s net rating dipped below zero for the first time all year.
Part of the problem is Trez’s free throw shooting. His percentage from the foul line started at 73 percent in October, then 63.6 in November, and now 35 in December. Harrell is in the 99th percentile among all bigs in drawing fouls (from Cleaning the Glass), so he is leaving a lot of points on the line. His lack of range is also making it easier for opponents to defend him, because they know Trez doesn’t like to venture beyond the paint. Harrell needs to diversify his offensive attack and figure out how to recapture his early-season free throw form, or else the team will continue to have difficulty scoring with him in the game.
Defensively, Harrell has shown meaningful improvement protecting the paint. His numbers look a little worse than expected because he spends a lot of his minutes with Lou Williams, causing the Clippers to concede a ton of threes while he’s on the floor, but defense has not been Trez’s problem.
Keep an eye on:
Boban has been called upon more regularly in recent weeks; he has played real minutes in six of LA’s last 10 games. His numbers always look impressive — his per-minute stats are so ridiculous that his teammates call him a cheat code. Boban even outpaces microwave scorer Sweet Lou in points per minute this season.
Head coach Doc Rivers said before the season that Boban had always been a great offensive player, but the challenge was figuring out how to make him playable on defense. Boban can catch anything around the basket and can finish over just about anyone; he shoots just under 80 percent from the free-throw line; and he grabs an astounding number of offensive rebounds to keep possessions alive. Per Cleaning the Glass, the Clippers are 2.3 points per 100 possessions better on offense when Boban is on the floor, excluding garbage time.
Interestingly, Boban has been even more valuable as a defensive player, as the Clippers surrender 9.0 fewer points per 100 possessions with the big man in the game. His large frame deters opponents from taking in shots in the paint, and they finish only 57.4 percent of shots at the rim against Boban, which ranks in the 84th percentile of all centers. Teams shoot better on mid-rangers when Boban is in the game, but that’s a sacrifice LA is willing to make.
But Boban hasn’t played in a Clippers win since Nov. 28 against Phoenix, meaning his individual productivity hasn’t really translated into team success. Perhaps Rivers needs to give Boban more minutes, or deploy him in different situations. Either way, LA still hasn’t cracked the code of how to optimize its most unique weapon.