Is Five Thirty Eight going to join the Clipper bandwagon?
The “Clamp City” Clippers are the surprise team in the NBA and enter play tonight in first place in the Western Conference. At the start of the season I was more optimistic than most, but considering the tough early schedule and the injury history of Danilo, I was hoping for a .500 winning percentage, not a .700 winning percentage by the end of November. Many people who cover the NBA have taken notice including this excellent article in the Ringer by Dan Devine.
It’s obviously wonderful to have great players, but at the risk of stating the obvious, it’s really nice to not have to give minutes to bad ones. The Clippers don’t really have any of those, and it’s helping.
That being said, one website that hadn’t jumped on the bandwagon was the excellent FiveThirtyEight. What you say, aren’t they the folks who reinvented how we perceive political polling? Yes, but it is run by Nate Silver who cut his teeth at Baseball Prospectus and evidently loves all the major sports so his website also churns out sports-related columns.
FiveThirtyEight is doing NBA forecasting and while the Clippers are moving up in all the power ranking (the Athletic has them at 5), up until yesterday, FiveThirtyEight has refused to join the bandwagon which gave pause to my optimism. However, the new ranking came out yesterday and while the Clippers are still being ranked in the middle of the pack that is a huge improvement over where they were just two weeks ago when they were given little chance to make the postseason. They are now at 59% which is a huge improvement and have finally moved past the Lakers who now have a 50% chance. Hmmm, maybe they have jumped on the bandwagon after all.
Even more telling is that FiveThirtyEight just came out with a new article today that showcased the current NBA Player of the Week Tobias Harris. The story isn’t as much about Tobias or the Clippers as it is about the surprise and disappointments so far in the NBA but the Clippers are listed as one of the biggest surprises. Tobias Harris was acquired last year for Blake Griffin, and many Clipper fans were incensed that they had traded their franchise player for parts. However, these parts have become a huge part of why the Clippers are off to the fourth-best start in their long history. Tobias Harris is playing like an All-Star and while that is going un-noticed in Los Angeles, the rest of the NBA world is paying attention and Chris Herring of FiveThirtyEight explains the numbers behind the Tobias Harris ascension into greatness.
But above all else, the Clips have thrived because Tobias Harris — tied with Giannis Antetokounmpo for the league’s best effective field-goal percentage among wing players with at least 300 shot attempts — has quietly pieced together the offensive profile of a superstar this season. Between the huge leap he’s made and the gains of Victor Oladipo, the Orlando Magic front office has to be beside itself after trading away both players.