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2017-18 Clippers Exit Interviews: Willie Reed

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Reed entered the season as DeAndre Jordan’s backup, but lost his rotation spot and eventually a spot in the NBA.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Los Angeles Clippers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Name: Willie Reed

Age: 27

Years in NBA: 3

Key Stats: 4.9 points and 3.1 rebounds per game in 10.7 minutes per game in 39 appearances for LAC (only played 9 minutes in 3 games for Detroit)

2017-2018 Salary: $1,577,230

Future Contract Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

Summary:

Willie Reed was so close to being one of the feel-good stories in basketball: he was in the NBA D-League for a long time, and almost got NBA opportunities a couple of times but never got to appear in a game until the 2014-15 season with the Brooklyn Nets, where he proved his worth as a fringe roster player, eventually signing a rest-of-season deal before joining the Miami Heat the next summer. And he was good as Hassan Whiteside’s backup in Miami—how good? Well, his averages of 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks per 36 minutes were enough to reportedly earn him a big-time contract offer with the Heat that he allegedly turned down because of some subpar advice from his representation.

So, he came to the Clippers on a minimum salary deal, but an August domestic violence arrest loomed over his time with the team, and despite solid play in the early weeks of the season, he was clearly outplayed by Montrezl Harrell, losing the backup center position. His minimum-salary deal ended up being a throw-in in the blockbuster Blake Griffin trade as a way for the Clippers to dodge the luxury tax. He played just 9 minutes in 3 games for the Pistons before being suspended by the NBA after a league investigation into his domestic violence incident, and then subsequently flipped as salary filler to the Chicago Bulls in another trade. The Bulls immediately released Reed and he didn’t sign with another team to finish the season.

Strengths:

It wouldn’t be terribly inaccurate to describe Willie as a poor man’s DeAndre Jordan, and frankly, it might be even closer to describe him as a poor man’s Hassan Whiteside. That means he’s a good 10-15 minute-per-game backup for either of those guys, partially filling their shoes while they catch a breather. What does poor man’s DeAndre/Hassan mean? Well, it’s obvious: he’s a rim-running above-the-rim shot-blocking center. He doesn’t do much of anything outside of 5 feet, but what he can do is finish lobs, grab some rebounds, and block some shots at the rim. There are always spots in the NBA for guys with that skill set.

Weaknesses:

If Willie’s strength is that he’s a poor man’s DeAndre/Hassan, his weakness is an emphasis on “poor.” He doesn’t block that many shots (2 per 36 is hardly record-breaking), his rebounding is only mediocre compared to the two big men who have started over him, and he doesn’t have the prolific lob-finishing ability of either. It leaves him as a serviceable center, but not talented enough to be a must-play in an NBA rotation, and he doesn’t have the long-term or game-to-game upside of prospects or change-of-pace big men.

Future with Clippers:

It would be pretty surprising if Willie Reed rejoined the Clippers at any point—frankly, I’d be surprised if he played in the NBA again. He has utility as an NBA player—but not a ton of it, and there are athletic young big men available to teams in bunches who don’t have a league domestic violence suspension on their record. Reed’s exclusion from the NBA is no great loss for the on-court product and a big step in the right direction for professional sports, an industry which still has a long ways to go in terms of social responsibility.