Years in NBA: 1
Weight: 240 pounds
Key Stats: Averaged 8.7 points and 4.5 rebounds in 16 minutes per game over 11 games for the Mavs last season, shooting 53.3% from the field. Averaged 22.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.1 blocks in 32.5 minutes per game over 34 games in the G-League last year, shooting 56.5% from the field and 69.8% from the free throw line (5.6 attempts).
Contract Status: Signed to a two-way contract for another season
While the Clippers’ two-way players last year got a ton of playing time in the NBA, the 2017-2018 Clippers also experienced unusually severe injury issues. That roster was also far less deep than the current roster: even a couple injuries to key rotation players this year would not warrant the two-way guys getting minutes.
This is especially true since both Johnathan Motley and Angel Delgado (the Clippers’ other two-way player) are both centers. The Clippers have three centers ahead of them in the rotation: Marcin Gortat, Montrezl Harrell, and Boban Marjanovic. If one of them were to get injured for a length of time one of Motley or Delgado would probably get called up to the NBA, but it would still be unlikely for them to get minutes. That’s because even after the Clippers “actual” centers, they have another player who they want to get center minutes in Danilo Gallinari, and a couple others in Luc Mbah a Moute and Mike Scott who could feasibly play in very small lineups as well.
It’s difficult, therefore, to have any real expectations for Johnathan Motley at the NBA level this year. Last season, he proved he was too good for the G-League, putting up truly dominant numbers for the Texas Legends. When he got time with the Mavericks at the end of the season, he put up nice numbers, though the Mavs were not playing for anything at that point, and it’s tough to take too much away from those kinds of “meaningless games”.
Still, Motley is clearly at the least a fringe NBA player, and aged just 23, he also quite obviously has room to grow. He plays along the lines of a Montrezl Harrell light: a bundle of energy who doesn’t have a ton of offensive versatility, but who’s a capable finisher around the basket and is always on the attack. Motley did flash the semblance of an outside shot last year in the G-League, but it certainly doesn’t look NBA ready quite yet. If he can build that shot out, he could legitimately compete for NBA minutes in the years to come. Even if not, he’s a useful 3rd center who can play a handful of minutes in a pinch and step in to energize a team that needs a boost.
If Harrell does miss time this season, I think Motley is a reasonable option to replace at least some of his minutes. He does play with blinders on, as Trez can at times, and his defense needs work. He’s certainly not someone who the Clippers really need to clear minutes for. As a two-way guy who spends most of his time in the G-League, and who is available at almost a moment’s notice if the Clippers need? He’s a fantastic luxury. Hopefully we don’t see too much of Motley in the NBA this season, because that would mean another injury-ridden year for the Clippers, but if he does get playing time, he should acquit himself well.