Brice Johnson: The Clippers’ first round draft pick in 2016, Brice Johnson is probably the most important player on the roster. Even though he barely played in the NBA last season, spending time in the D-League and practicing with the Clips’ regulars means he should be a step above the competition. Considering he was on the Summer League 1st team last year, dominance is expected, especially on the boards and around the basket. Look for him to try expanding his range behind the three-point line, as it is something he has worked on for the past year.
Jawun Evans: Jawun Evans was my 4th ranked point guard in the entire 2017 draft, and the Clippers snagged him at 39. He can do just about everything that a modern point guard needs to do in the NBA—shoot off the dribble, run a pick and roll, and play competitive defense. His attacking game around the basket is pretty extraordinary, as he has a huge toolkit of floaters and scoops to score over taller defenders. The only reason Jawun fell is due to his size, but he can overcome that deficiency on the defensive end with an incredibly long wingspan. Hopefully he will be able to get his shot off against NBA-sized defenders, though it wouldn’t be surprising to see some struggles as he adjusts to the size and athleticism of the competition. I am expecting a slow start and a strong finish for Evans in Summer League.
Sindarius Thornwell: The Clippers have needed a player like Sindarius Thornwell for a while. Tough, gritty, and capable of guarding multiple positions effectively, Thornwell is a great player whose talents might not show very well in the offense-first type of basketball played in Summer League. The thing to be most concerned about in his game is the translation of his three-point shot to the NBA, so keep a close eye on his outside shot and how it looks from the NBA distance. If he’s comfortable out there and draining threes, he might get a shot in the NBA sooner than expected. Have fun watching him play defense too, as he’s energetic and can take over games on that end of the court.
Other Clippers’ Picks/Signs:
David Michineau: The Clippers’ second round pick from 2016 is an intriguing prospect because of his size and athleticism. Those are always traits that play well in the NBA, especially on the defensive end, and that’s probably where Michineau will have to show off, because his offensive game is in the development phase. Michineau shot a mere 39% from the field in France last year and 21.7% from three—he can score well enough around the basket, but doesn’t space the floor in FIBA ball, let alone in the NBA. He’s a good defender though, so expect him to hound opposing point guards and try to attack the basket. If he stands out, the Clippers might bring him over to the G-League this season, though don’t expect any NBA minutes unless he has improved substantially over the past few months.
Isaiah Hicks: Hicks was signed as an undrafted free agent within an hour or so of the draft last month, so the Clippers must like him quite a bit. A teammate of Brice’s at North Carolina, Hicks is a stereotypical energy big man. He finishes lobs around the basket, gets offensive rebounds, and can move well on the fastbreak. Hicks is a very strong candidate to be signed to the Agua Caliente Clippers, where he can get reps in the Clippers’ farm system.
The NBA Veterans:
Kendall Marshall: Kendall was one of the best NCAA point guards in the early 2010s, and was taken with the 13th pick in the draft back in 2012. His career since then hasn’t gone as hoped, with only one strong season as a starter for the Lakers in 2013-2014. Marshall is a great passer and can shoot the ball if open, but he’s unathletic at the NBA level, making it hard for him to defend well or break down a defense. Still just 25, Marshall has very little upside, yet has proven ability to at least run an NBA offense. With Pat Beverley, Milos Teodosic, Austin Rivers, and Jawun Evans signed as Clippers, I think it’s unlikely that he makes the final 15 man roster. However, Marshall could be the perfect candidate to lead the Agua Caliente Clippers, getting all the Clippers’ youngsters into rhythm and setting them up for success.
Hollis Thompson: I think Hollis has the best chance to play real minutes this season for the Clippers of anyone on the Summer League team outside of Brice Johnson. While not signed yet, Thompson has one proven NBA skill, and it’s an important one: shooting three-pointers. A career 38.6% marksman (on a good number of attempts), Thompson is deadly from outside, and a lackluster surrounding game doesn’t deter from the fact that he can legitimately do positive things for an NBA team. The Clippers also need veteran wings, and Thompson has the size and ability to play at both shooting guard and small forward. He’s not great, but as a situational shooter off the bench, the Clippers could do far worse.
Anthony Brown: Brown has played 40 games in the NBA, and averaged a rather respectable 19 minutes per game. The problem: most of those were on horrible Lakers’ teams, and he was not exactly good in his limited minutes. The biggest issue is that he hasn’t been able to score efficiently, shooting a putrid 32.4% from the field and 27.8% from three. Wings who can’t shoot and don’t play top-notch defense simply don’t have value in today’s NBA. Brown needs to show one or the other for him to get a shot on the Clippers’ roster.
Kyle Wiltjer: Wiltjer is a stretch big man who played extremely limited minutes for the Rockets last year in his rookie season. He can really shoot the ball, but the rest of his game is less developed. He’s not a very good rebounder, and his defense could also use work. While there’s always room in the NBA for a big man with range, they need to do other things to stay on the court, or be an absolute sniper from three (Channing Frye). The Clippers could use some spacing from their big men, so it’s possible Wiltjer is at least brought into training camp if he impresses during the summer.
James Bell: Bell is a sharpshooter who has played overseas for several years after going undrafted in 2014. He was the MVP for Israel’s top league in March and April, one of the best players overall. Bell has ideal size for a shooting guard at 6’6’’ and 220 pounds, and is a capable defender at his position.
Jaron Johnson: Jaron Johnson is another shooting guard who likes to take a lot of outside shots. Over three years in the D-League he shot 37.2% from long-distance while taking 5.5 threes a game. He also flashed some playmaking chops, dishing out 3.1 assists per game in the 2015-2016 season. Johnson and Bell seem to be directly competing for a spot in training camp.
Luke Nelson: A local boy! Luke played his college ball at University of California Irvine, where he holds the school record for three pointers made. Nelson is a bit of a tweener in that he’s the size of a point guard but plays more like a shooting guard. He’s not a great passer or defender, but he’s a very good three-point shooter (notice a theme here), and can drain them off the dribble. He needs to prove himself capable of running an offense, as he probably can’t defend shooting guards at the NBA level.
Shevon Thompson: Standing 7’0’’ tall, Thompson is a true center who doesn’t stray far from the basket. For his size, he’s not a particularly good rebounder, nor is he a dominant shot blocker. It’s tough to stop him once he gets the ball deep in the post, as he can simply shoot over most defenders. Shevon actually has a bit of a handle, but he’s more of an old-school center otherwise, and there just isn’t much room for that type of player in the NBA anymore. I’d expect him to get a call to the Agua Caliente Clippers.
Jameel Warney: Another traditional big man, Warney is a power forward that doesn’t take threes, a rarity in basketball nowadays. Instead, he plays around the basket on both ends—he averaged 2.7 blocks per game over his last two years in college, and swatted 1.2 shots a game in the D-League last year. It should be fun to watch him block some shots in the Summer League, but Warney needs to really demonstrate his rebounding and defensive abilities to have a chance at training camp.
Jamil Wilson: A do-it-all forward in college, Wilson expanded his outside game in the D-League, making over 2 of them a game at a 38.6% rate in the 2015-2016 season. He can also pass a little, and was close to making the Dallas Mavericks’ roster back in that 2016 season. A Summer League veteran, Wilson is an interesting candidate to make the Clippers’ training camp, as he is a versatile forward in a similar mold to Danilo Gallinari and Sam Dekker.