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We’re big believers of metrics and statistical analysis here on 3 Shades of Blue. Ok, so sometimes Chip believes that it is comparable to magic and sorcery, but nevertheless, we still like crunching numbers. That’s why we enjoy talking to people like David Berri at Wages of Wins. Along the same lines, we also like finding out about players’ tendencies — and how to exploit them. So, after seeing some of the work that Michigan State professor and Harvard researcher Kirk Goldsberry has been doing in charting where players shoot from the most — and best — we simply had to pick his brain about our first round playoff foe, the Los Angeles Clippers.

1. How do you best defend Chris Paul? Is it even possible to make him uncomfortable on the court?

Chris Paul is very difficult to defend. He is one of the game’s best point guards because he is so effective as both a passer and a shooter. I doubt you can make him uncomfortable, though if Tony Allen gets a chance he might be able to. As a shooter he is more comfortable on his right, especially in the midrange; if he has one weakness it’s his left side baseline game, but he is hardly ever active there. He is most effective near the top of the arc, which forces defenders to be honest and also opens up penetration opportunities. If you lay off, he’ll beat you with the 3, if you tighten up on him, he’ll drive right past you. In short, his ability to shoot well in every sector of the court makes him very difficult to guard.

2. What is the one area, outside of 3 feet from the basket, where Blake Griffin can most hurt you? Where do you want him shooting the ball?

Blake struggles away from the basket. He shoots about 20% of his shots from longish midrange areas in front of the basket, a bit behind the free throw line. But he is not effective there; he shoots about 32% there – the league average is closer to 40%. So in general, there are not many areas away from the hoop where he is going to hurt you. Grizzlies fans should be thrilled if Blake rises up for any kind of jump shot.

3. Where on the court is Randy Foye most comfortable shooting the 3?

Near the top of the arc, and along the right wing. He’s shooting above 40% in these areas, and is over 50% in the area just to his left of the top of the arc.

4. Where does Caron Butler get most of his points?

Caron is a really interesting player. He is among the league’s least active close range shooters; in other words, he hardly ever scores at the rim. Over 80% of his shots this year come from midrange or 3-point locations. He gets most of his points beyond the arc, and loves the left side 3-point shot. He is most effective on the left wing 3 where he shoots about 45%.

5. Outside of dunking is there any place DeAndre Jordan is more effective offensively?

This question made me laugh. The short answer is a resounding no; About 95% of his shots occur very close to the basket. He is like the opposite of Caron, and as with Blake, Grizz fans should rejoice if they see DeAndre rising up for any kind of jumpshot.

6. What players off the Clippers bench do the Grizzlies need to be worried about?

With all of their defensive attention devoted to CP3 and Blake, Memphis should be most worried about a bench player who can get hot from the corners or beyond the arc. Nick Young comes to mind as somebody who has the potential to get hot and hit open looks in key moments.

We’d like to thank Professor Goldsberry for giving us some of his valuable time to help us know what to look for tomorrow night when the Clippers hit the Forum. For more in-depth information and some stunning graphical representations of where players like Chris Paul shoot from most often, check out his website at CourtVision. You’ll get to see charts like this:

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