Name: Johnathan Motley
Years in NBA: 2
Position: Power forward/Center
Key Stats: Played 22 games for the Clippers, averaging 4.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 0.5 assists per game in 7.1 minutes, shooting 53.4% from the field.
In 27 games with Agua Caliente, averaged 24.5 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 3.0 assists in 34.2 minutes per game. Had shooting splits of 55.3/29.6/70.4, taking 3.0 threes and 7.3 free throws per game.
2018-2019 Salary: Two-way contract (probably around $100,00)
Future Contract Status: Restricted free agent
Awards: All G-League 2nd Team
Johnathan arrived from Dallas in the offseason, acquired with an exchange of rights to international players who will never come over to the NBA, and $50k in cash. With Marcin Gortat, Montrezl Harrell, and Boban Marjanovic ahead of him in the rotation, it didn’t seem like Motley would get to play much with the LA Clippers this year. Sure enough, for most of the early part of the season, Motley was in Agua Caliente playing in the G-League.
However, when the Clippers started to slip in December, fans began to call for Motley to get minutes, as he was tearing up the G-League, and Boban and Gortat were struggling. Finally, in early January, Motley was called up, and played in his first game as a Clipper on January 4th, though he received only 29 seconds. Starting on January 16th, Motley had a run of appearing in seven straight games, reaching double digit minutes in three of them. He demonstrated scoring ability, but was less effective on defense.
The trade deadline saw the arrival of Ivica Zubac as the Clippers’ new starting center, and with him in the picture, Motley’s minutes evaporated. He only played in eight games the rest of the season, with all of those appearances being limited to garbage time. As a two-way player, Motley was inactive for the playoffs, so while he got to sit in with the Clippers during the postseason, he didn’t get any playoff experience. And with that, Motley’s first season with the Clippers ended.
Johnathan Motley can score. He was one of the highest scoring players in the G-League, and whenever he got minutes in the NBA, he scored there too. Most of Motley’s scoring is done around the basket: he goes up strong, has a very quick jump, and is aggressive seeking contact. In some ways, he plays much like a larger Montrezl Harrell, as he thrives in scoring in the pick and roll, on the block, and in “garbage” buckets off second-chance opportunities. Just like Trez, there’s more to his game than just power and effort – he has a soft touch, and is more than capable of some nice finesse moves. Importantly, Johnathan also flashed the nascent ability to shoot threes. He took three of them per game in the G-League, not a bad number at all, and hit them at a rate that suggests he could eventually become an average shooter from out there. If he’s able to add that to his arsenal, his future becomes a whole lot brighter.
Motley’s energy and activity also makes him a solid rebounder. He certainly has the size and athleticism to get boards, though he can sometimes get bodied by bigger players on the glass. The fundamentals of boxing out aren’t always in place either, and that’s something Johnathan will need to work on to make it to the next level. But really, he does play with a lot of energy all over the court, and as we saw with the 2018-2019 Clippers, effort and hard work can go a long way.
Motley is not a very good defensive player. At 6’10, weighing 230 pounds, he’s undersized as an NBA center, and can’t hold his own in the paint against post players. He also just lacks instincts as a rim protector – despite his relative size, length, and athleticism, he averaged less than one block per game in the G-League against lesser athletes than the NBA. On the perimeter, he’s not very quick laterally, and has trouble staying with smaller guys. Because of this, he doesn’t really have a position defensively. That’s an issue for any player, but especially for big men, where defense is more impactful.
On the offensive end, Motley’s main downfall is lack of playmaking. He averaged three assists in the G-League, but turned the ball over 3.6 times per game, negating that passing. He often dribbles with his head down, missing open players, and making him easy to strip in traffic. His scoring ability would be complemented greatly by better passing, and it’s something he definitely needs to work on.
Future with Clippers:
Johnathan’s future with the Clippers is murky. He definitely looks like an NBA-caliber offensive player and has real skills, but it’s unclear what position he can defend in the NBA, and is already 24. They could certainly bring him back on a minimum contract this summer, since it’s unlikely he’ll have a large market. On the other hand, young big men as talented as Motley is are always valuable, even with defensive question marks. It’s possible that Johnathan returns to the Clippers, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Final Grade: B-
Johnathan got a few more minutes with the Clippers than most people probably predicted to start the season, and for the most part acquitted himself well. A lot of his playing time came in blowouts, but he was active, played hard, and scored with ease. He was fun to watch, contributed at least a little bit to the Clippers season, and did so at very low cost. Hopefully he’s able to carve out a real role for himself in the NBA, with the Clippers or elsewhere.