Over the past few weeks, Clip Chat has been trying to stave off boredom in these non-basketball months by dreaming up best-case comparisons for every Clippers player. We've covered the starters and the key reserves already; this week we'll finish up the roster by looking at the end-of-the-bench guys.
Caden: Do we really need to cover these guys? We shouldn't really expect anything more than energetic towel waving out of most of them.
Larson: I don't have OCD about many things in my life, really most have to deal with food and how I eat, but it's going to bother me if we don't complete this. Plus, what else are we going to do?
Caden: Alright let's get some of these guys out rapid fire, starting with Pablo.
Larson: I think we can both agree his NBA comparison is José Calderón. They both are extremely willing, and creative, passers that can serve as a steady hand in running an offense off the bench. Both are elite three point shooters; though Prigioni seemed to struggle adjusting in Houston last year, he's still a career 40% bomber from deep. Neither are considered stoppers on defense, although Prigioni is a scrappy, pesky defender who tends to gamble a lot in the passing lanes. That can turn out amazingly, like against the Clippers in Game 7, or it can hurt his teammates and lead to defensive breakdowns.
As a side note — confession: I watched every Clipper game last year, except I still haven't seen Game 7 when they were eliminated. I couldn't watch the game live because of graduation events, and then my roommate spoiled it for me by telling me the score. I was so depressed, especially after their collapse in Game 6, I just couldn't torture myself even more by watching 48 minutes and already knowing the agonizing outcome.
I think Pablo gives the Clippers a really nice alternative to Austin Rivers at the point guard spot, a vet that can bring shooting to the second unit — something they lack almost entirely — while efficiently running the offense. I'm already cringing watching Pablo pass up open threes in order to swing the ball so that Josh Smith can brick a three.
Caden: We've both mentioned how similar Pablo and José are as players. Both are point guards by orthodox standards of the positions, although they will mainly play off the ball. Neither really possess athleticism to attack their man off the dribble, but can initiate the offense and bring the ball up the court, both in transition and in half-court.
However, Calderón is a far superior shooter compared to Prigioni. Calderón shot 42% from deep with 3.4 attempts per game last year, while Prigioni shot 34% as a whole behind the line, and a scathing 27% with the Rockets. That second stat for Prigioni is a bit disconcerting, since he will be playing a similar role with the Clippers. It's a possibility he plays more in the fourth quarter than Rivers, just because Pablo isn't going to make costly mistakes. Defensively he can force a turnover by getting a steal or two, as we know.
You are one of the lucky few Clipper fans. It was a 13-point game, but if felt much larger. It was just an empty game — everybody appeared destitute. It was strange, and an experience not many sports fans have felt, being utterly hopeless in a Game 7.
Larson: Austin Rivers making late game mistakes? You mean something like this??? (I couldn't resist).
Larson: For some reason I love watching Wilcox play. In the 101 minutes he was in action last season, I saw more from him to think he could become a capable NBA player than I ever did from Reggie Bullock. To me, the player C.J. should try and imitate and pattern his game after the most just happens to be starting in front of him. Like Redick, Wilcox has this fluid, silky feel as he runs around the court, coming off screens and pin-downs, or curling for three pointers. As a Husky, Wilcox was billed as a shooter. Armed with a pretty stroke, there's no one better to look up to than Redick in terms of marksmanship.
But in a greater sense, Wilcox would benefit a lot from looking at Redick's early career, when many thought the former NCAA Player of the Year would be a bust in the NBA. Redick constantly worked on his game outside of just his shooting, whether it was by becoming a sound team defender or a capable pick-and-roll playmaker. A benefit that C.J. has over J.J. is sheer athleticism, which could make him capable of becoming a much better defender with superior lateral quickness; Wilcox averaged a steal and a block per game his senior year. At 24 years old, most wouldn't project Wilcox to develop much more with his game, but I expect (hope) to see some major improvements from him next year. Who do you think he resembles?
Caden: C.J. Wilcox reminds me a lot of Anthony Morrow. Both stand 6'5" with large wingspans. They are elite catch-and-shoot players, but can also shoot well coming off screens or off the dribble. They are deceptively athletic, and are effective in the transition filling the wings. Wilcox has just played so little that it's really hard to project how he would turn out given more time. His body frame and style of play would seemingly allow him to see the floor more, especially on a team last year lacking wing players.
Caden: I think if Branden Dawson can get himself onto the floor, the man can make an impact. Chad Ford mentioned his ability to shut down other top prospects in the draft process. Look at his Summer League highlights! Oh my god, is he an athlete or what?! He looks like he can guard anything but a center. I know his outside shooting is nonexistent but he's a positive everywhere else. If his NBA career doesn't work out, maybe he can join Jimmy Graham and Antonio Gates as a basketball-turned-football player. Imagine throwing a fade to Dawson? His hands might puncture the ball on impact.
Larson: Don't think I didn't notice you didn't make a comparison. It's too early to start mailing it in. You're right in that the dude is an athlete, especially with the highlights he showed in Summer League. As a four-year senior from Michigan State, Dawson knows that if he's going to stick in the league, it's going to be by doing the dirty things like playing defense and rebounding, which is all you can want out of a glue guy.
Because of that Izzo connection, some people may want to compare him to Draymond Green, another Spartan that came into the league without a jumper and destined to be a role player. The only problem with that comparison is that there's a huge difference between the 56th pick and the 35th pick in terms of talent. While I think Dawson could be a plus defender, he isn't nearly as versatile as Green on defense. I think he's too slow to be able to defend guards, and maybe wings, effectively. I think Dawson may be like a poor man's version of a young Josh Smith, an athlete that can defend with a ton of energy and rebound, block shots, and dominate in transition. At this point, like Smoove, Dawson also can't throw the ball into an ocean beyond 10 feet, which is something he really needs to practice.
Caden: I want to talk the Clippers's addition of Chuck Hayes. I absolutely love him as a player. He's irrationally in my top-10 players to watch in the league. Is there anybody who physically makes less sense in the NBA than him? Glen Davis comes to mind, but Chuck is smaller, just as ground-oriented, AND PLAYS CENTER. He's a skilled defender, even for his height, and isn't a bad passer. Scoring is difficult for him, since there's always a bit of a height issue, kind of like when you play anybody. His free throw form was so technically terrible that he would draw lane violations quite frequently.
You know who his skill set and attitude reminds me of? Ex-Clipper Reggie Evans. Per-36 it doesn't quite look reasonable, but like I said, I'm going for impact more than numbers. When Chuck is in, he'll be setting screens, handing the ball off to guards, crashing the boards, and also guarding the other team's center. When he makes a play, the crowd explodes, just like Reggie. Something is energizing seeing a limited player excel, and I can say I'm #1 in the Chuck Hayes camp.
Larson: As far as Hayes goes, I like your Reggie Evans comparison a lot — partly just because I love Reggie, and because of how he used to bang as our best defender against ME/\PIS. It's still incredible to me that Hayes plays center at 6'6"; that's a man right there. But I'm not quite sure if he'll even be on the roster. Let's be clear, he's a training camp invite right now, and he could be cut by October 24th if he doesn't seem like he'll be good enough, or if Doc prefers Nikoloz Tskitishvili.
But the non-guarantee of his contract is terrific for the Clippers, as it allows them to keep their flexibility during the season if a better veteran gets bought out and wants to join a competitor. I like the Hayes pick-up a lot, partly because now he'll only guard Blake Griffin in practice, and otherwise because I think it complements the Aldrich signing well. Aldrich is a legit 7-footer that can rebound pretty well and protect the rim some. But he's slow, like really slow, and i haven't seen anything particularly impressive about his post defense. Both of those weaknesses are things Hayes can help provide cover for if the situation arises. Golden State decides to go super small with Draymond Green or Mo Speights at center with their second unit? I don't want Aldrich guarding either of those two, but Hayes is a much better fit. I think if he does make the roster, he is a great, situation-specific, 15th man.
Caden: Can you explain to me what ME/\PIS means? Obviously it's Memphis, but what is it? It's something I see a bit, but doesn't interest me enough to Google it, kind of like the movie Focus with Will Smith and Margot Robbie. I just know the ending will not be satisfying enough, but I've heard you're perfect for the "not satisfying enough" category, so please, enlighten me.
After re-reading our hype of Chuck Hayes, then re-analyzing his numbers, are we over romanticizing his impact? My second conclusion is.... NO!!!! He's a GODDAMN professional. He's worked his way into the league and internally, he will be great in the locker room. Realistically, he's just not going to see the floor consistently. In your hypothetical with the Warriors going small, Hayes won't be the answer at center, it will be Josh Smith or Blake. Although I do pray, to the old gods and the new, that he earns minutes, gets a triple-double in a closeout game against the Warriors, earns himself Finals MVP with an immaculate and dominant performance against the Raptors (his previous team), and shouts "THE NORTH WILL REMEMBER CHUCK HAYES" for an unforgettable postgame interview. That's my best-case Chuck Hayes scenario.
Larson: Wait, did you just change Chuck Hayes's doppleganger from Reggie Evans to the leader of the White Walker as he destroys everyone in the North? We should've just made this a roster comparison to all of the Game of Thrones characters.
As far as ME/\PIS, that is the only correct and proper way of spelling the city that the Grizzlies play for, or at least according to Chris Broussard's sources. Also, I watched Focus because I was bored one night this summer and it was exactly what I expected, not great but fine, and Will Smith and Margot Robbie are both entertaining enough. That's exactly what I want out of these end-of-the-bench guys. You don't have to be fantastic, just be average. That goes for the rest of the bench too.
Caden: Larson, just imagine it. Close your eyes, get our mind's eye churning, and imagine an average bench. What's it like in your vision? Mine has a lot of champagne and custom-made hats and shirts for a certain occasion, one where the losing team's gear gets shipped to a developing country. On paper, this Clippers team controls the strongest, most talented 10-man rotation in the league. Of course, that case can also be made for Golden State, Cleveland and OKC. Is San Antonio even in this discussion? I don't think so, but their perfected system eclipses the deficiencies in their roster structure. GM Doc did his job, now will Coach Doc do his?
Larson: Without a doubt, this is the deepest team the Clippers have ever had. Top to bottom I'll put them next to any team in the league. It'll be really interesting to see how Doc chooses to experiment with different combinations and lineups throughout the season. I believe in Coach Doc, and I think if anything, he knows how to manage egos and players. Let us know what you think of our comparisons.