Win Shares project Clippers to finish 2nd in West


No, Win Shares isn’t a person.

More of a thing, Win Shares are an advanced basketball metric used to measure how much an individual player impacts the game. For a better, more concise definition, here is an explanation of the stat from Basketball-Reference’s David Corby (via The Score) in 2014.

“Generally, Win Shares is an effort to credit a player’s total measurable contribution to his team’s win total during the season – in this sense, it isn’t shy about being an all-in-one statistic,” said Corby.

In an attempt to predict how the 2015-16 season plays out, Sports Illustrated’s Will Laws used Win Shares to measure each teams potential wins output for the upcoming season. So how did the Clippers project in this exercise? If correct, only the Golden State Warriors will finish with a better overall record  as the Clippers have a Projected Win Shares total of 61.9.

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Even with injury being a factor in the past two seasons, the Clippers have fallen just short of reaching the 60-win plateau in the last two seasons, winning 56 last season and a franchise-best 57 in 2014-15. Now, while retaining its Big 3 and 1/2 in Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and J.J. Redick, Doc Rivers, team president and coach, has done what many believe to be an excellent job in surrounding his immediate core with a good group of reserves — on paper at least, as the group has yet to play a game. Early in the off-season, Rivers traded Matt Barnes, the team’s starting small forward of the past two seasons, and Spencer Hawes to the Charlotte Hornets for Lance Stephenson. In the draft, the Clippers bought the no.56 overall pick Branden Dawson of Michigan State from the New Orleans Pelicans. In free agency, Rivers signed Josh Smith, Paul Pierce, Wesley Johnson, and Pablo Prigioni, and re-signed Jordan and Austin Rivers. Compared to last years bench, this group, which has often been pegged as poor in comparison to other contending teams, has improved from a talent perspective. Combining that factor with the Clippers’ four being one of the best quartet’s in the NBA last season and what you have is Laws’ projection playing out in real life.

The keyword here is on paper, as there are far too many loose variables to deem the Clippers off-season additions as automatics wins.

Can Lance Stephenson improve off a career-worst season?

Can Paul Pierce avoid falling victim to Father Time as he’s a year older after an impressive one-year stint with the Washington Wizards?

Is Austin Rivers… well, still Austin Rivers and not that good?

Which Josh Smith are the Clippers going to get?

Can Doc find a viable option to replicate what Matt Barnes gave this team off-season?

If these answers can be answered in the best way, 61.9 wins may be the under. Unfortunately, we’ve learned it’s very rare things work out to perfection, leading to disappointment.

It should be mentioned that Laws’ exercise is just what it is: an exercise. Very rarely can numbers outright predict how a team performs come the regular season, unless things play out perfectly for that team. The Miami Heat in 2011-12 remind me of a team that lived up to its expectation. The reigning champion Golden State Warriors are a team who surpassed expectations and projects. The Clippers feel somewhere in the middle, with the ability to strike forward or backward at the flip of a dime. Guess we’ll have to wait until November to finally see.

Let us know what you think of the projected 61.9 win total for the Clippers.


Some quibbles and thoughts about the rest of Laws’ projections:

  • In what may be an unpopular opinion, the Pacers winning 39 games feels right.
  • The Hawks dropping to 50-ish wins also feels right.
  • I promise to find and hug a raptor if a healthy Toronto finishes with a better record than Cleveland.
  • 41.2 feels low for the Utah Jazz but questions about their offense could lead them to such, though many believe them to be a near-lock to make the playoffs in the West.
  • Boston beating out Washington and Miami? Hard to see.
  • My thoughts about Utah’s offense = my thoughts about Milwaukee’s offense.

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