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Looking at the Clippers’ 2018 NBA Summer League Roster

The Clippers’ Summer League roster was released yesterday, but was overshadowed by free agency news. Here’s a brief look at each player and what we should expect to see them from.

2017 Las Vegas Summer League - Los Angeles Clippers v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Clippers’ Players/Affiliates:

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander:

SGA has the burden of being the Clippers’ highest draft pick since Al-Farouq Aminu in 2010. While he’s not quite the “face of the franchise”, Clippers’ fans will be looking for a lot from him. Fortunately, he should be able to deliver, in Summer League at least. While his shot is a work in progress, and Summer League favors shooters, SGA’s ability to rack up steals and get out in transition should be a deadly force in the sloppy style of play. Look for Shai to make some nice passes, play hard defensively, and work on his shot. He probably won’t rack up numbers, but he should be fun to watch.

Jerome Robinson:

Much of what I said about SGA also applies to Jerome, though in some ways he might be under more scrutiny due to his selection somewhat higher than expected in the draft. Jerome does have a chip on his shoulder, though, and playing against his fellow rookies should bring that out. Unlike Shai, his high-scoring offensive game is a perfect fit for Summer League, and the ramshackle defenses that are usually trotted out there will be ill-equipped to stop him. Jerome’s going to get buckets, and I wouldn’t put an All-Summer League Team out of reach for him. However, what I’d really like to see from him is some playmaking, and some effort/smart play on the defensive end, because those are what he really needs to work on to get to the next level.

Jawun Evans:

Jawun played well in Summer League last year, and with nearly 800 minutes of NBA play under his belt, along with an entire season practicing and working with NBA players, he should look like he’s too good for the competition. Instead of gaudy stats or overall dominant play, it would be nice to see improvements from Jawun in the areas where he needs work: shooting, and remaining under control when attacking the basket. Still, if he plays well early on, he might not play in the later games at all.

Sindarius Thornwell:

Even more than Jawun, Sindarius should be above and beyond Summer League play: he was fantastic in Vegas last year and played even more minutes than Evans during the Clippers 2017-2018 season. I’d be surprised if Thornwell played the whole tournament, though I would love to see him with an improved shot (notice a pattern here) and some better decision-making on the offensive end (unlikely in Summer League). Sin doesn’t have anything to prove in Vegas, but it should be a good place for him to workshop his game a bit.

Angel Delgado:

Angel was reportedly signed to a two-way deal by the Clippers shortly after the draft, which makes sense. While Montrezl Harrell will probably be back in a Clippers’ uniform, the other two big men on the NBA roster are veteran stop-gaps who presumably won’t be on the team for more than another year. Delgado is a traditional big man with a post-game, presence around the rim, and a lack of much floor game. Still, his bruising style in the paint should net him buckets at Summer League, and he will be physically stronger than most of the guys up against him. Delgado flashed more of a playmaking game in his last two years at Seton Hall, and I’d love to see some of that in action in the Clippers’ sets with big men making decisions at the top of the key.

David Michineau:

The 39th pick in the 2016 draft, this is the French point guard’s third stint in the Vegas Summer League. Michy was in the midst of his best game in Vegas last year when he was forced to leave with an ankle sprain, an injury that sidelined him for the rest of the contests. Already 24 years old, this might be Michineau’s last shot to impress the Clippers, but even if he plays well, there’s not really any room for him on their NBA roster. David probably had his best professional season last year, though he still wasn’t a standout on a bad Cholet team in the French LNB Pro A league. A large, athletic guard, Michineau’s best chance to differentiate himself is through his size defensively and his quickness on both ends. He needs to play strong perimeter defense and attack the basket relentlessly in his minutes in Vegas.

Other Players without Pro Experience:

Bogdan Bliznyuk:

Bliznyuk was the Big Sky Player of the Year in his senior season, and is the conference’s all-time leading scorer. As one might expect, he is a crafty, skilled scorer who is capable of putting in buckets from all over the court. While not particularly quick, Bogdan is fantastic at getting to the hoop using a variety of pump fakes and hesitations, and his size enables him to finish once he gets there. He also has pretty advanced handles for a wing his size and is a solid passer. Really, Bliznyuk just probably isn’t an NBA-level athlete, which is his major downfall. If he can create separation against the larger, more athletic players in Summer League (at least compared to the Big Sky), and is not a horrible defensive liability, he might have a shot at making a training camp somewhere.

Desi Rodriguez:

Rodriguez is another big, muscular wing who can shoot and score around the basket. There are some intriguing facets to Desi’s game with the strongest being his quick, smooth shooting stroke. From the little footage I’ve seen of him, he has also nice defensive instincts, which is a nice plus. Similarly to Bogdan, the questions with Desi are more about athleticism and his offensive game translating to NBA play. His best bet to make an NBA squad is to shoot lights out in Summer League and show an ability to finish in traffic even against NBA-sized players. To be fair, Desi was in one of college’s strongest conferences last year, the Big East, so he’s played against tough competition before. But the NBA, even the NBA Summer League, is a different animal.

Players with NBA Experience:

Grant Jerrett:

Jerrett might be the most familiar name of any non-Clippers player to NBA fans, as he was actually drafted into the NBA, selected 40th overall by the Blazers way back in 2013. Jerrett left Arizona after his freshman year, a decision that looks pretty poor in hindsight, as he only played 51 minutes in the NBA during the 2014-2015 season for the Jazz and Thunder. He’s spent the past three seasons playing in the G-League and China, never making it back to the NBA. Jerrett turns 25 next week, and still fits a useful archetype in the NBA as a big man who can shoot it from outside. He’s also demonstrated some passing skills in the G-League, and those two abilities together are a useful combination. I’ve heard mostly negative things, especially from Thunder fans/bloggers, but his skillset is one of the more NBA-ready of the non-Clippers affiliates on their SL team.

Vince Hunter:

Hunter is the last player on the roster with NBA experience, playing a whopping seven minutes for the Grizzlies over four games last year. He also actually played for the Clippers in Summer League previously, as he was on their 2016 squad in Orlando. Hunter is a throwback, a 6’8” player who doesn’t take threes and plays much more like a traditional power forward. He’s good (he was a G-League All Star in his first professional season back in 2015-2016), but his lack of an outside shot is severely damaging in today’s NBA. On the other hand, he’s athletic, attacks the boards ferociously, and could still work on his game (he’s not even 24 years old). Vince has been on the fringes of the NBA for a couple years now, so maybe his second Summer League experience with the Clippers will be a breakthrough.

The Rest:

Tyler Harris:

The younger brother of Clippers’ player Tobias Harris, Tyler is a bit bigger than Tobi, and also left-handed. He had an interesting college career, playing at no less than three universities (North Carolina State, then Providence, then Auburn). Coming out of school it was said he needed to get stronger and work on his shot. While he’s probably stronger now, his shot, unfortunately, hasn’t come along quite so well. After shooting 34.6% (on 1.5 attempts) from three in his stint in the French league in 2016-2017, he shot only 10% (1-10) while playing heavy minutes for the Windy City Bulls last season. He was a good player for them, and might be a nice find for Agua Caliente, but nothing about his stats suggests he’s an NBA-level player.

Jaylen Johnson:

Jaylen was a teammate of Tyler’s for the WCB last season, and played alongside him as a forward. While Tyler scored more points and shot better from the field, Jaylen outperformed him as a rebounder and passer, and was at least a threat to shoot from deep (29.3% on 2.8 attempts per game). His assist to turnover ratio was actually quite good for a player of his size, and he was the second-leading assist man on the team. He’s not a great scorer (though he does have soft touch around the rim), but that passing and some solid defensive plays make him an intriguing prospect. If he keeps working on that outside shot, he could be an NBA player.

Jordan Mathews:

Mathews is a local boy. He went to Santa Monica High School in Los Angeles, and then played his first three seasons of college ball at Cal (alongside Tyrone Wallace). Mathews is a sweet-shooting guard, making 40.9% of his threes (5.0 attempts per game) at the college level. However, he’s a bit undersized for an off-guard (various reports have him listed at 6’3” or 6’4”, and weighing just over 200 pounds), and he doesn’t possess the handles or vision to play point. Nothing in his stats reflects him doing all that much outside of scoring, and that combined with his size disadvantage makes him an unlikely NBA prospect. Still, if he scorches the nets in Summer League he might draw some interest.

Reggie Upshaw Jr.:

Upshaw is a large wing who went undrafted out of Middle Tennessee State in 2017, and spent his time last year playing in Germany. A solid shooter and scorer who can pull down rebounds and has at least some passing ability, Upshaw seems a bit like a tweener, a guy who can do a bit of everything but perhaps not anything enough at a high level to make it in the NBA. Still, he’s seemingly one of the better-rounded players on the Clippers’ Summer League team, and that’s never a bad thing.

Thomas Wimbush:

Wimbush is a rarity, a player who made it pro not out of a mid-major, but from Division II basketball. Wimbush played at Fairmont College, going undrafted in 2017, and played for the Long Island Nets last season. He’s a bouncy forward who was described as the “best athlete” on the team, which is not light praise in the expanding, improving G-League. Wimbush is a defense-first player with limited offensive abilities, as he mostly gets his points on putbacks, running in transition, or off cuts. His defensive abilities and athletic talents are good enough for the NBA, so it’s really a question of whether he can do enough offensively to stay on the floor.

Other Notes:

  • This is fascinating to me: outside of Jawun Evans at 6’0”, every player on the roster is between 6’4” and 6’10”. Some of those taller guys are definitely more big men than stretchy wings, but I like the idea of going for that middle height-range that’s so prevalent in the NBA right now.
  • Another nugget: the oldest player on the roster is Jerrett, who doesn’t turn 25 until next week. Last year the Clippers had all manner of decorated veterans, some of whom had real, extended stints in the NBA (Kendall Marshall and Hollis Thompson come to mind). They are not doing that this year, instead focusing on younger players, especially G-Leaguers. The reasoning behind this could be that they are looking harder at “diamond in the rough” types, but I think the more likely explanation is that with the crowding of the roster already, none of these guys has a realistic shot at making the final NBA roster. This is especially true with Delgado already on board as a two-way player, and Ty Wallace likely to return, filling in the second two-way spot. Some of these guys have NBA potential, I think, but it’s not likely to be on the Clippers. I’d bet a couple end up on the Agua Caliente Clippers though.