An easy scapegoat? Ex-coach Doc Rivers.
Clippers star Paul George on “All The Smoke”:
The way I was being used, I felt like Doc was trying to play me as like a Ray Allen or like a J.J. Redick, all pin-downs. I can do it, but that ain’t my game. I need some flow. I need some mixes of pick-and-rolls. I need some post-ups, just different touches. And so it was just – that last season was just hard overall.
I can see why George’s Clippers teammates rolled their eyes at him.
Here’s how often George finished each play type over the last six years:
- Pick-and-roll ball-handler (red)
- Post-up (blue)
- Off screen (black)
Last season, George averaged finishing a play as pick-and-roll ball-handler every four minutes he played. That’s more frequently than any of the previous five seasons (as far back as NBA.com has data).
He averaged finishing a post-up every 31 minutes on the court last season. That’s more frequently than either of his seasons with the Thunder and his penultimate with the Pacers. His last year in Indiana was barely more often (every 30 minutes).
As far as the dreaded off-screen plays… George did average finishing one every 10 minutes – more than either of his seasons with Oklahoma City (every 14 minutes and every 12 minutes). But that’s also less often than his last two years with the Pacers (every eight minutes and every nine minutes).
Ironically, George was excellent coming off screens. He scored 1.16 points per such finished possession, placing him in the league’s 88th percentile. George scored less efficiently in his preferred play type – .97 points per play finished as pick-and-roll ball-handler and .74 points per finished post-up.
In fairness to George, this data doesn’t cover times George ran an action but didn’t finish the play himself with a shot, drawn shooting foul or turnover. Sometimes, he drew defensive attention and passed to an open teammate. Other times, a quality action can lead to a different action that’s more likely to succeed with the defense bent. Of course, it can also go the other way – the defense shutting down a play before a shot or turnover and forcing the offense to reset with less time on the shot clock.
This data doesn’t account for when in games he ran these plays, either. Rhythm matters.
The data is also from the regular season. In the playoffs, George finished less of each play type – pick-and-roll ball-handler (once average of every six minutes), post-up (once average of every 80 minutes) and off-screen (once average of every 16 minutes). But George had bigger problems in the postseason than shot distribution.
Even granting limitations of the data, there’s still significant evidence Rivers didn’t actually use George as George describes.
George mostly sounds like someone trying to shift blame after hitting the side of the backboard on a 3-pointer.