Weight: 209 pounds
NBA Experience: 4 seasons (in 6 years)
Contract Status: Partially guaranteed ($26,773) for 2017-2018 season
Expectations: DeAndre Liggins’ path to the Clippers was relatively unconventional. After being drafted by Orlando at the tail-end of the 2nd round, the Kentucky guard bounced around the league, including a half-season in Oklahoma City and stints with the Heat, the G-League (formerly D-League), and even some time playing overseas. Finally last year, he found meaningful minutes playing with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Now you might see his stat-line and be unimpressed, and I wouldn’t blame you. It’s pretty dismal on the surface, and when I saw it I couldn’t help but wonder why I volunteered to write this player preview. (For the record, I volunteered because his name is “DeAndre.”) So if he had such mediocre numbers, why was the then-28-year-old getting rotation-level minutes on a championship contender?
Being the brilliant researcher that I am, I Googled “DeAndre Liggins Cavaliers minutes lol” and the first result was a fantastic Sports Illustrated article that told me exactly why Liggins was getting those minutes: Defense—specifically, his ability to use his 6’11.5” wingspan and quick feet to pester small, fast, sharp-shooting point guards. He was to be Cleveland’s Kyrie-can’t-guard-a-potato-much-less-Steph-Curry insurance.
Hidden deeply in that mediocre stat-line was a single gem: with 0.8 steals per game in 12.5 minutes per game, DeAndre had a steal rate of 3.0% (tied with Tony Allen for best in the NBA last season). And the Cavaliers’ game-plan seemed to work. On the Christmas day match against the Warriors, Liggins started the game and held Stephen Curry to 15 points, 3 turnovers, 36% field goals and 29% from three. And in their rematch 22 days later Curry only shot 35% from the field, partly due to Liggins’ presence. Of course, they lost that second game by 35 points, and after 2 months of mostly DNPs and sub-5-minute-games he was waived to make room for... Dahntay Jones. Yeah.
Liggins was immediately picked up off waivers by the Mavericks, who played him in the final game of the season, allowing them to pick up his (partially guaranteed) team option as a trade piece for the summer. As expected, he was traded to the Rockets for cash considerations, so he could ultimately be included in the Chris Paul trade, landing him on your Los Angeles Clippers.
Well, since this section is titled “Expectations,” I should probably tell you what to expect from Liggins this year for the Clippers: unfortunately, not a whole lot. With Patrick Beverley and Austin Rivers on the team, it’s pretty unlikely the 29-year-old Liggins will see many minutes. Furthermore, with the team just under the luxury tax threshold (including the partially guaranteed portion of Liggins’ contract, but not the non-guaranteed portion), it seems doubtful the team will even keep him beyond training camp. If he really impresses at training camp, the team might dive into the luxury tax to keep him, but with a glut of guards on the squad and the need to avoid the repeater tax, there doesn’t seem to be much point. Still, DeAndre Liggins is a long, scrappy, quick-footed defender that plays hard from baseline-to-baseline and occasionally hits the corner-three, and that archetype has a place in this league. Just not on this team.