On a draft night that was long on minor trades but short on blockbusters, the Clippers stayed on the sidelines and used their two second round picks to draft a couple of Georgia Bulldogs, power forward Trey Thompkins at 37 and wing Travis Leslie at 47. General manager Neil Olshey, realizing that expectations were pretty high for some sort of move, opened his remarks to the press by saying that the team wasn't going to make a move for the sake of making a move. Their intent is to make a big trade, and that was not available. So they chose to hang onto their assets and will look to make a move at a later time. More on that later.
The nature of the draft, and it's especially true of the second round, is that coaches and GMs always like who they got on draft day. Look at this way - no GM is ever going to come out and say "We really don't like our pick at all; there were several players on the board that we had rated higher, but we took this bum instead." Among the 30 teams in the league, you'll find 30 different opinions on the players available. Since everyone's draft board is different, there are bound to be players available that are rated comparatively highly by your own standards when it's your turn to pick, and as you go deeper into the draft, that's likely to be more true.
So it's not surprising that Olshey and Vinny Del Negro seemed genuinely pleased with their picks, given the position in the draft where they got them.
To hear the descriptions of Thompkins' skill set, he seems almost too good to be true, as someone pointed out on the draft thread. He's got size, range, ball skills. So why is he a second round pick? The fact that he had a down season at Georgia clearly did not help his draft stock. He was not in great shape all season, and had one of the highest body fat contents at the draft combine this year. He had a high ankle sprain at the beginning of the season, which probably hindered his conditioning. But still, you have to question his work ethic if he was out of condition all season.
The Clippers are banking on the influence of Blake Griffin to whip Thompkins into shape. Let's face it - your odds of getting a player that will make the team at 37 are not great, and if this kid's biggest issue is conditioning, that certainly does seem like a correctable problem. The name DeAndre Jordan came up more than once during the post draft discussion as a player who didn't have the greatest work ethic or conditioning in college, but has worked hard to become a solid pro. We'll see.
Thompkins' college teammate Travis Leslie is a different type of pick. Thompkins' skills are very good for his position, but his conditioning and hence his athleticism are questionable. Leslie on the other hand is an athletic freak, considered by many to be the best athlete in this draft, who will need to work on his skills to be able to play shooting guard in the NBA. He played small forward at Georgia, but at 6'4" he's even a bit small to play the two at the NBA level (though his massive 6'10.5" wing span goes a long way towards making up for that). He's got a 40" vertical leap, and he immediately makes the Clippers' internal dunk contest more interesting. This dude dunked on and over DeMarcus Cousins last season.
Travis Leslie from Georgia dunks on DeMarcus Cousins from Kentucky (via getbangedon)
Leslie's got NBA level athleticism for sure, and all the tools to be a solid wing defender, including that coveted length. Whether he can develop as a playmaker and shooter enough to justify a significant role in an NBA backcourt remains to be seen. He does seem to be improving as a shooter; as a freshman at Georgia he shot just 57% from the free throw line, which he raised to the mid 60's as a sophomore, and up to 80% as a junior. Obviously free throw shooting is not evidence of a perimeter game, but it does seem that he's moving in the right direction in his development. This is a pretty raw talent, but the athleticism is clearly there.
By the way, the Georgia connection is not entirely a coincidence. Thompkins was an AAU teammate of fellow Georgian Al-Farouq Aminu. Thompkins and Leslie will likely be out to LA early next week, and no doubt will start hanging out with AFA and his buddy Eric Bledsoe straight away.
Hopefully the CBA can be worked out relatively quickly. The Clippers don't want Thompkins locked out of that training facility for too long.