With so many mouths to feed in the backcourt, the Clippers decided over the summer to trade Austin Rivers to the Wizards in exchange for Marcin Gortat. Gortat’s prime years are in the rearview mirror, but the Polish Hammer still gave the Clippers a capable center to replace DeAndre Jordan, who was pretty clearly on his way out as a free agent once the calendar flipped to July.
About a week after shipping Rivers out of town, the Clippers somewhat surprisingly inked Avery Bradley to a 2-year deal worth $25 million. Bradley played just 6 games before going down with a season-ending injury after coming to L.A. in the Blake Griffin trade in February. He had a down season between Detroit and Los Angeles, but the Clippers were apparently optimistic that they could get the quality Boston version of Bradley back on a short, affordable contract.
Bradley has battled some injuries again this season, but he has played in 18 of the Clips’ 24 games entering Friday. He’s had a few decent games, but his disastrous combination of sketchy shot selection and downright poor shooting has been absolutely brutal to watch. Bradley is shooting just 37.6% from the field so far, and he’s made just 27.8% of his looks from beyond the long line. Bad and badder.
Rivers was a frustrating player to watch at times while he was here, but at least he showed marked improvement in his shot selection over the years. Here is Rivers’ shot plot from his first full season in a Clipper uniform (2015-16, via Swish2.0):
Here’s Rivers’ shot chart so far this season as a member of the Wiz:
Austin has taken a grand total of one (1) mid-range shot all season, and he made it. His shooting on the whole this season hasn’t been much better than Bradley’s (38.8%), but at least he’s taking smart shots. Late last month, Fred Katz of the Athletic detailed how Rivers is doing this on purpose. Rivers said in the article (which is very much worth reading, obviously), “I’m gonna shoot hundreds and hundreds more shots this year. I might shoot two mid-range. I’ll probably be the most extreme case of the analytic movement this year.”
Be still, my heart.
Okay, back to Bradley. Here’s his shot chart so far this season:
Barf. Bradley has taken 53 mid-range shots so far this season, and he’s made 21 of them. That’s about 39%. Not only is he taking inefficient shots, but he’s not even making them!
Bradley isn’t a high-usage guy, nor is he a priority in the Clippers’ offense. Fortunately. Bradley’s usage rate is sitting at 16.1% on the year, which is even lower than Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s. L.A. has scored 110 points per 100 possessions this season, which is the fifth-best mark in the league. With Bradley on the floor, the team has an offensive rating of 105.4. That’s quite the steep drop from the season average.
It’s not just that Bradley is taking inefficient mid-rangers, but when he takes some of them. The Clippers fell into an early 10-0 hole the other night in Memphis. Plays like this should make Doc Rivers pull his hair out. Bradley brings the ball up before using a high screen from Marcin Gortat. Instead of doing something worthwhile, Bradley floats to his left before hurling up a contested mid-ranger from beyond the foul line. There were 18 seconds left on the shot clock when Bradley decided to rise for glory:
The shot wound up lightly grazing the rim. Here’s the exact same play from an earlier game against the Mavericks, only with Montrezl Harrell serving as the screener:
Not only are there 16 ticks left on the clock when Bradley hoists up his inevitable miss, but he’s also sharing the court with two of the most efficient scorers in the game (Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari), one of the best scorers of his generation (Lou Williams) and Harrell, who’s shooting about 65% from the floor this season. There is no reason for this shot to ever be taken, yet we are seeing it far too often every single night. Literally any other player on the floor taking literally any other type of shot is a better idea than this if you’re the Clippers.
It’s almost worse when he makes these shots, because it’s positive reinforcement of a faulty plan. Here’s one he made against the Kings. Bradley rumbles around another Gortat screen and gets switched onto a beatable big in Willie Cauley-Stein:
Rather than using his quickness to try and beat the big man off the dribble, Bradley makes the choice to instead rise up and jack a 19-footer without even having a whole lot of airspace beyond the outstretched arms of Cauley-Stein. 14 seconds left on the shot clock, and this wasn’t even an open shot. It went in, but good lord, what a low-percentage look.
It’s worth noting that Gilgeous-Alexander is just standing in the corner with no defender within 15 feet of him, but sure, take that shot instead.
The Clippers have managed to cobble together one of the best offenses in the league despite a bona fide bricklayer playing around 30 minutes a night. Mid-range shots aren’t always bad. Guys like DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge have built All-Star careers with mid-rangers serving as their primary offensive weapons. Of course, making those shots makes quite a bit of difference. It’s almost like Bradley thinks he’s DeMar DeRozan without realizing he’s actually Andre Roberson.
Bradley has gained a reputation over the years as a strong wing defender, which is presumably one of the primary reasons he’s locked into such a big role with the Clippers. He’s athletic and he tends to be able to stay in front of his man. There just has to be something the Clippers can do about his terrible offensive habits. They have way too many other capable options to be watching Bradley routinely torpedoing possessions every night. Maybe Austin Rivers can talk to him about shot selection.