Weight: 207 pounds
Years of NBA Experience: Rookie
Key Stats: Averaged 19.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3 assists per game as a senior at Nebraska, shooting 37% from the field and 31% from deep.
Contract Status: Training camp deal (non-guaranteed minimum-salary deal with an exhibit 10 clause, allowing for conversion to a two-way contract)
James Palmer measures exactly how you want an NBA shooting guard to: 6’6” with a 7’ wingspan, 207 pounds, just 23 years old. On the court, though, the production doesn’t seem quite as ideal. He struggled to make threes at an average rate in college, and in a high-volume role his senior year his true shooting percentage came in at a poor 49.7%. Despite that aforementioned high volume, he only averaged 3 assists per game, balanced by also averaging 2.1 turnovers.
Defensively, Palmer’s measurables imply a high ceiling—but that hasn’t been realized yet. He shouldn’t be a major defensive liability (any more than you’d expect an undrafted rookie to be), but unlike past Clipper prospects Sindarius Thornwell, Jawun Evans, and Tyrone Wallace, defense won’t be an immediate point of strength for Palmer.
Overall, it seems incredibly unlikely that James Palmer will find his way into the Clippers’ 15th roster spot, or even into one of their two-way slots. His own deficiencies aside, the Clippers are simply flush with depth at the wing and forward slots, where he’s behind Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, All-NBA wing Paul George, a laundry list of quality role players like Maurice Harkless, JaMychal Green, Landry Shamet, Rodney McGruder, and Patrick Patterson, and a crew of higher-rated prospects that includes 2018 13th overall pick Jerome Robinson and 2019 48th overall pick Terance Mann.
Where the Clippers have needs—at point guard and center—Palmer doesn’t provide support. The team seems far more likely to stick with Derrick Walton, Jr. and/or Jonathon Motley, both of whom seem more promising as prospects and provide depth at positions of need. Even if the Clippers do hang on to a two-way wing, Amir Coffey seems to have a leg up on Palmer at this point.
Fortunately for Palmer and the Clippers, he should be a very good fit as a rookie in the D-League with Agua Caliente. Palmer was better in his junior season than as a senior—getting a chance to prove himself again the D-League could be a stepping stone towards an NBA future. From the Clippers’ perspective, they get a year-long, up-close look at a prospect and a lot of opportunities to see him in the gym with their own coaches.