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Draft Philosophy: Why Doc Rivers Chose C.J. Wilcox

The NBA Draft is a crapshoot, but the Clippers took the guy they believed in.

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

A lot of fans and critics have been quick to bemoan the Clippers' selection of Washington senior shooting guard C.J. Wilcox with the 28th overall pick in the NBA Draft.  However, it's important to remember that at the 28th pick, it's incredibly unlikely that any player you bring in will contribute right away.

Many have been quick to point out that Wilcox plays a somewhat stacked position for the Clippers and will be unlikely to earn minutes immediately, but the reality of picking late in the draft is that nobody you select will be in the rotation from the start.  Every year there's one or two steals in the late first round that can contribute, but it's hardly an effective strategy to expect that, especially for a team that's in a position to contend as the Clippers are.  Even if the Clippers had selected a player at a position where they are more in need of help, would that rookie be the help?  Would fans and coaches feel comfortable heading into the season with the 28th overall pick slated for regular minutes?  Reggie Bullock certainly wasn't ready to play right away as the 25th pick last season, and it seems only fair to bring in a prospect with relatively low expectations and allow him to develop.

So, instead of drafting for need, the Clippers opted to take who they believed was the best player available.  Now, nobody can be certain that Wilcox was, in fact, the best player available at 28.  In all likelihood, someone who went after him will end up having a better career than he does.  But Doc Rivers believed in him, and In Doc We Trust, right?

That, again, is the reality of picking in the NBA draft.  Scouts, coaches, and general managers make picks and draft boards based off of their projections, and as history has shown, even the best officials miss studs, and even the worst can strike gold.  The NBA Draft, as it's so often eloquently put, is a crapshoot.

Of course, a player's skill set and measurements play a huge part into who he will be as an NBA player.  But, don't discount how a player can improve within a system and grow under a certain set of coaches.  NBA general managers meet with the prospects they're considering, and Doc clearly believed in C.J. Wilcox.  During the media conference call with Wilcox, he was eloquent, confident, and had his priorities straight: "Defense was the first thing that [Doc Rivers] brought up, which is definitely something I'm capable of doing.  That comes first...".  He showed all the signs of a young man who is ready to be a professional in this league, and that's what the team would expect from a 23-year-old, fifth year senior.  In a way, the Clippers used the 28th pick on a locker room asset: instead of acquiring a younger player who may have had questionable maturity, the team chose a poised, hard-working, older player.  It might not be a huge deal, but it's certainly not nothing when you're dealing with a player who has a guaranteed salary on the team for at least two seasons.

Speaking of his salary, that might be one of the biggest drawbacks towards taking a player with this pick who it certainly seems the team plans on developing instead of introducing into the rotation immediately.  The rookie scale for the 28th pick is $924,800, and 120% of that (the maximum the team can sign him for) is $1,109,760.  It's certainly a cheap deal, but it's more than the cap hit for the minimum and if the Clippers make a move that sets the apron as their hard cap (if they use the full MLE, BAE, or acquire a player in a S&T deal), every dollar counts when maneuvering underneath the projected 81M hard cap.  If the team had traded the pick or chosen a player who would have gone overseas, they could have avoided that cap hit for the 2015 season.

Overall, the Clippers went with a balanced, patient approach and chose the player that they feel will best serve the team in the long-term instead of making a desperate, need-based pick on a player that likely wouldn't have been good enough to fill the need anyway.  It might not be sexy or exciting, but it's a sound draft philosophy.