Years in NBA: 1
Position: Combo guard
Weight: 205 pounds
Key Stats: Averaged 9.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.4 assists in 28.4 minutes per game over 30 games played. Shot 44.5% from the field, 25% from three (1.3 attempts), and 78.2% from the free-throw line (2.6 attempts).
Contract Status: 2 year deal for the minimum ($2.9 million), partially guaranteed until January 10
Ty Wallace shocked Clippers’ fans last year with his heady play on both ends of the court. An unheralded G-League player who was signed to a two-way contract midseason, Wallace had some fans from his time at Cal, but almost nobody could have predicted he would be as good as he was in the NBA. He attacked the basket, ran the court in transition, and rarely made mistakes on the offensive side of the court. His defensive talent showed itself as well, though the complexities of NBA defense and the discipline required did get the best of him at times.
More impressively, most of what Ty did seemed like it would be repeatable even as scouting tapes started to come out on him. Sure, some of his little push shots and hooks around the basket might not be as effective, and the same goes for a couple of his moves for separation. But his ability to get wherever he wanted on the court in a smooth, easy way seemed like a natural combination of handles, quickness, and smarts, and won’t go away any time soon. The same goes for the defensive end of the court, where Ty will only improve as he becomes more adapted to the NBA game. The biggest weakness for Ty, by far, is his shooting. Guards who can’t shoot from three even a little bit are an anachronism in today’s NBA. But Ty is by all accounts a hard worker, and shooting is a skill that players can improve significantly on even as they hit their mid-20s.
It was therefore puzzling when it seemed like the Clippers weren’t making much an effort to keep Wallace. Unlike fellow two-way player CJ Williams, Wallace was not signed to a regular NBA contract at the end of the season. In free agency, the Clippers did extend Ty a qualifying offer, maintaining their right to match any offer for him. However, months passed, and as the Clippers drafted two guards and added a couple more in free agency, it seemed like Ty was on his way out. However, when the Pelicans finally sent Wallace an offer, the Clippers matched it, retaining him on a two-year, partially guaranteed deal.
It’s early in training camp—preseason hasn’t even begun yet. But there are small signs that Ty’s spot on the roster still isn’t secure. While he was at the Clippers’ media day, he was not presented to the media, while every other player with an NBA contract was. So far in training camp, judging by videos and reports from media in Hawaii, he’s mostly been on scrimmage teams with the third stringers. Honestly, it makes sense that Ty is on the bubble. He’s a guard on a roster that’s jam-packed with them. He has a small contract that’s only partially guaranteed, whereas 15 other players have fully guaranteed deals, and the 16th is Pat Beverley, who is not going to get waived. And while Ty is an NBA-level player, he’s just not going to get many minutes for this Clippers’ team— if the objective is to make the playoffs. He and Jawun Evans therefore remain the two guys most likely to be cut to trim the roster down to 15 players, though trades are still a possibility as well.
Ty is good. If he sticks on the Clippers’ roster (and I think he should), I’d be interested to see him get minutes off the bench. His energy, defense, and versatility would play well alongside Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell, both of whom are more dedicated scorers. Even if he doesn’t play all that much this season, he’s still young, and he will be on the minimum again next season. Holding onto Ty - who excelled his rookie season and has lots upside potential - makes sense, even if they don’t have a place for him in the rotation. All he needs to do to become a plus rotation player is get his outside shooting from “virtually non-existent” to “fine”. And that’s a level of improvement I think he can manage.
I don’t know what the expectations are for Ty this season. There’s a decent chance he won’t make the roster, and even if he does, he appears to be on the outside of the veteran-laden rotation. But when he does play, expect his energy, basketball IQ, and quickness to make a positive impact for the Clippers.