Montrezl Harrell has become one of the best isolation players in the league.
One of the Clippers' staple plays over the last two years has been the Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell pick-and-roll. No matter the talent influx this roster has experienced, that simple action between the two devastating offensive players has been the team's bread and butter.
Last season, it was generally accepted that Harrell relied on the pick-and-roll to generate his offense while Williams was capable of deviating from the script to score on his own. But this season, Harrell has proven that he can also work independently of Williams to score the basketball.
Harrell has isolated on 9.2% of his possessions this season, nearly tripling his frequency from 2017-18. He is scoring 1.17 points per possession on those plays, placing him in the 93rd percentile among all NBA players. The Clippers have needed another release valve on their offensive possessions, especially dealing with so many absences to their star players this season, and Harrell has delivered.
Harrell worked tirelessly on his game during the offseason, and the immediate impact was most visible in his improved floater (or push shot) that he deploys in the lane when the defending big sags back.
Harrell can also just power his way through most bench bigs, posting up and using his quick feet and explosion to get to the basket. He's a tough test for most defenders, even those who have a size advantage.
"I don’t think Trez needs the pick and roll anymore," Doc Rivers said after L.A.'s win over Golden State. "I mean, it helps. Let me just say anybody in the pick-and-roll with Lou, it’s smart offense for that guy setting the pick because he creates so much attention. He really does. But one of our big plays tonight was a post up, it was C-5, we just went to Trez, on the post, and he got the 3-point play. It had nothing to do with pick-and-roll. That is something we wouldn’t have done last year, and credit Trez."
The Clippers aren't great in transition, with one big exception.
Rivers mentioned after the team's game against the Warriors that the Clippers had very few advance passes; they weren't getting the ball up quickly. It turns out transition has been a weak point for L.A. all year.
Only two Clippers rank above average in points per possession on transition plays, and most of the team has been hilariously bad at converting on the break. The coaching staff has bemoaned that players often look to score instead of hitting the open man, and those struggles manifest in the team's efficiency numbers.
Nevertheless, there is one bright spot on the break for the Clippers, and that is Ivica Zubac.
Zubac averages 1.67 points per possession in transition, which ranks in the 99th percentile in the league. He's shooting 90% from the field in these opportunities and drawing free throws 25.9% of the time. To put that in perspective, James Harden earns shooting fouls on 18.2% of his possessions.
The Clippers center does a great job of running the break, beating other bigs down the floor; even when there is a crowd, he has long arms to catch outlet passes and can finish when he keeps the ball high.
Zubac knows the offense will never run through him, so he does his best to get easy baskets whenever he can, whether that's by rolling to the basket, put backs, or getting out in transition.
The team's best spot-up threats are the wrong players
The Clippers have three players who are in the 87th percentile and above in spot-up efficiency. The problem is those three players are Derrick Walton Jr., Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George.
Credit to Walton for finding a way to make himself valuable to the Clippers as L.A.'s 15th man, but he likely won't be playing much for the Clippers down the stretch. That means the team's two best spot-up shooters are their two superstars, which isn't ideal, because those two players should be creating the looks for their teammates. Leonard and George can be spot-up threats for each other, but the Clippers would would be better serve if their role players excelled in this particular playtype.
The two most frequent spot-up shooters on the Clippers are JaMychal Green and Patrick Beverley, and they only average 1.03 and 0.99 points per possession. Patrick Patterson, however, has thrived in this part of his role, scoring 1.14 points per spot-up possession.