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L.A. Clippers 2019-20 Player Preview: Johnathan Motley

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The Clippers’ 2-way big man will likely get most of his work in the G League once again.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Toronto Raptors Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Height: 6’10”

Weight: 230 lbs

Age; 24 years old

Position: Forward/Center

NBA experience: 2 years

Key stats: Johnathan Motley averaged about 7 minutes per game across 22 appearances for the Clippers a season ago, and he posted averages of 4.6 points and 2.3 rebounds per contest. In 27 games for the Agua Caliente Clippers, the former Baylor standout averaged a healthy 24.5 points and 10 rebounds per game while shooting better than 55% from the field.

Contract status: Motley was re-signed to a 2-way contract by the Clippers earlier this summer.

Expectations

Motley was re-signed in order to provide some insurance along the frontline. The 6’10” big man has played in just 33 NBA games across 2 seasons, but he has consistently dominated the G League. Motley has shown the ability to score and hit the glass, but there are questions about whether he is capable of holding up defensively against NBA-caliber bigs.

The Clippers have plenty of forwards, but they are relatively thin behind Ivica Zubac at the center spot. Mfiondu Kabengele is the only other player on the roster other than Zubac and Motley listed at 6’10” or above.

Considering he’s on a 2-way deal once again, it’s safe to say we won’t see a whole lot of Motley at the NBA level early in the season unless something goes terribly wrong. Zubac and Montrezl Harrell will eat the lion’s share of the center minutes for the big club, while Patrick Patterson or JaMychal Green can be deployed at the 5 in case of emergency. Harrell, Green, Patterson, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard can all play power forward. Even Moe Harkless can masquerade as a 4 in small lineups.

Motley shot just under 30% from 3-point range in the G League last season on 3 attempts per game. That’s obviously not the kind of efficiency you’d want, but it is at least nice to see that he’s trying to add that wrinkle to his game. He has proven that he’s capable of contributing in the scoring department inside-the-arc, so adding a reliable long range jumper would obviously make him a more appealing asset at the highest level.

The key is his defense. One potential area of weakness for this team will be rim protection, and Motley averaged just under a block per game last season in the G League. Motley’s defensive numbers weren’t all that impressive in college, either, and his defensive timing needs work. His 7’4” wingspan could be helpful, but he’s a tad short and thin for a traditional center. The 4 may wind up being his best position at the NBA level, but the Clippers are well-stocked at that position as it stands.

The Clippers have made good use of players on 2-way contracts in the past (Tyrone Wallace, C.J. Williams, etc.), but Motley’s going to have a very hard time breaking through on arguably the deepest team in the league. Instead, he’s likely going to have to continue to impress in the G League. He has some skills that should translate to the NBA, but it’s difficult to imagine he gets a ton of opportunities with the Clippers this season.