The Los Angeles Clippers 2018-19 season can’t be boxed in by one overall theme. However, if you want to diagnose what went right for L.A. last season, it’s that they were typically the aggressor in games and showed a type of grit not often seen in today’s NBA. The Clippers were a team that shocked everyone involved in the league (except for some of us diehards or “blind” believers) and took an approach that will never antiquate, yet in a finesse league, was overlooked. This “grit and grind” & “clamp city” approach led to 48 wins and a tough first-round exit to the best team of the 2010’s in the Warriors. It truly was a season for the ages, and one that most Clipper fans will put up there as one of the best in franchise history.
While L.A. is heading into a future that looks extremely bright, it’s a future that has yet to be determined. The identity that they tagged onto Staples Center this season was reliant on the bruising defense of Patrick Beverley, the endless hustle of guys like Montrezl Harrell and JaMychal Green, and a relentless bench filled with players like Garrett Temple, Ty Wallace and Mike Scott. Nabbing guys like Temple and Green in the second of the three trades made at the deadline — for the unimpressive Avery Bradley — shored up a lineup that was playoff ready and showed it. Now comes the hard part: holding onto the players (Green, Temple, and Beverley in particular) that made up this tough identity. Especially when the Clippers are prioritizing stars in free-agency and not the current roster.
This summer is the most important summer in franchise history. It reminds me of the 2017 summer. However, instead of convincing two stars to stay in free-agency (CP3 and Blake), the franchise has to convince one or two stars to come to the City of Angels. Along with holding onto the RFA’s and UFA’s who made this team special, this summer will more than likely make or break the immediate future for the Clips. It will also determine the teams’ identity for the foreseeable future. If they can pick up a guy like Kevin Durant, the offense will more than likely revolve around a more finesse, spread em’ out style in 2020 and beyond. With a guy like Kawhi, you can hold onto the “grit and grind” label attached to the Clips last season, and someone who goes out, does his job, and produces at a high level. Of course, this is just postulation at this point, but there is a world where the Clips have a totally different look about them next season.
This is where drafting in the second round gets a little tricky. Without knowledge of free-agency outlook until June 30th, picking at this juncture is partially based on both the team as currently comprised and what the Clippers hope for in the future. Also, do they pick based on need? For prospecting down the line? Will these late picks even play next season given the jam in the backcourt and need to win now? Will these picks be used as potential trade chips? There are a lot of unanswered questions before Thursday, June 20.
With the 48th and 56th picks, most teams pick whomever they believe is the best available player at that juncture. However, with two drafts under their belts, Lawrence Frank and Jerry West have shown that best available isn’t necessarily their strategy. They truly seem to do their research and pick players who fit the direction in which the team is going. Instead of taking a big swing for a guy like Michael Porter Jr. last year, they picked up two unheralded, yet high character players in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson. Both contributed, and both will hopefully be cornerstones of the franchise moving forward. The year before, in 2017 when the Clippers traded into the second twice for the 39th and 48th pick, they grabbed two college vets in Jawun Evans and Sindarius Thornwell, both of whom played some big minutes in 2017-18. What will the 2019 draft behold? Well let’s quickly look at one of their most immediate needs, wing depth.
Wing depth: See the paragraph I wrote for the Clippers’ free agency needs here. Essentially, with Wilson Chandler likely walking and Luc Mbah a Moute waived, the Clippers have no wings, and they will need some, even if they get a superstar wing like Kawhi in free agency.
Starting today. I will be profiling 3-4 players for each need. Tuesday will be bigs. Wednesday will be scoring guards. Thursday will be scrappy/identity fit types. I will only be looking at guys that the experts project as mid-to-late second-rounders or undrafted, as the two picks the Clippers have are in the latter half of the second. Now, lets take a look at four wings (and some honorable mentions) the Clippers should target in the second round.
Zach Norvell Jr. - Gonzaga
College stats (2018-19): 14.9 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.3 SPG. Averaged 30.7 MPG. Splits of .435/.372/.867
Measureables: Height: 6’5”, Weight: 205, Standing Reach: 8’5”, Wingspan: 6’6”
Mocks/Big Boards: The Ringer - 47, ESPN - 63th on big board, Sports Illustrated - 47th on big board
Workout with Clippers: No
Comps: Slower, yet more athletic E’twaun Moore, Josh Richardson, more athletic Joe Ingles
Pros: Zach Norvell Jr. is a net scorching lefty wing who comes from a winning pedigree at Gonzaga. He is a stat sheet stuffer with a sweet stroke and a great ability to finish at the rim, especially when going left. For an off-ball wing, he can find the open man on a drive and doesn’t play heads-down. His rebounding abilities also stand out, despite a shorter wingspan, because he uses his strong frame and solid leaping abilities to snatch. His athleticism also allows him to finish over bigger men. His movement off the ball is what will make him potentially dangerous for defenses at the next level, as he is adept at finding holes in perimeter defense and making defenders pay for helping off of him. He improved in nearly every statistical category from his freshman to sophomore year (except for FG%, however, he shot more in his 2nd season), showing that he can take the necessary steps to get better. He’s an average defender, but can keep his man in front and hold his own both on the perimeter and inside.
Cons: Despite showing a diverse range of skills for an elite program like Gonzaga, people are worried about his role in the NBA. Although a good leaper, Norvell isn’t the quickest player laterally or straight ahead. He lacks true burst off the dribble to get to the rim against better defenders, and needs to tighten up his handle. His role projects to be a solid 3-and-d player, but he needs to work on the latter of the two, especially if he wants to become anything other than a spot up shooting bench player. He needs to get more physical defensively, not get lost on that end, and become quicker laterally. He possesses a good looking shooting stroke and has shown that he can knock down three’s, but he will need to up his mid-range game and handle to become a better all-around wing.
Brian Bowen - Australia
Professional Stats (2018-19 - 30 games): 6.3 points, 3.1 rebounds, 0.6 assists in 15.4 minutes. Splits of .451/.342/.762
Measureables: Height: 6’7”, Weight: 200, Standing Reach: 8’7”, Wingspan: 6’10”
Mocks: The Ringer - N/A, ESPN - 73 on big board, Sports Illustrated - 79 on big board
Workout with Clippers: No
Comps: Rip Hamilton, taller Kent Bazemore
Pros: The story of Brian Bowen is long, intense, and quite literally spans the globe. After being caught up in the Louisville recruiting scandal, Bowen dropped from the program, and decided to try South Carolina. When that didn’t work out (due to his having to sit out two semesters), he decided to put his name into the 2018 NBA draft. When that didn’t go as planned, Bowen took his talents all the way to Sydney, Australia and played for the Sydney Kings. This is an Australian NBL team with guys like Andrew Bogut and former Cal star Jerome Randle, and whom the Clippers played in their first preseason game of the season all the way back in September of 2018. While there, Bowen put together a quietly solid rookie campaign in the NBL, and showed pro scouts that they should potentially take a flier on him in the second round this season.
Bowen had an offensive rating of 110.4, and despite only averaging 15 minutes a game and coming off the bench every game, put up multiple double-digit scoring efforts and a bunch of highlight plays. Bowen is an athletic 6’7” (with a 6’10” wingspan) who just looks the part of an NBA wing. Offensively, he had an effective field goal percentage of nearly 50 percent, is a great slasher and cutter, moves well on the perimeter, and can pick his spots well to get open jumpers. He is a good scorer off the dribble who was a go-to scoring stud in high school and many projected to be a first-round pick before the scandal went down. He’s confident with the ball in his hands and is never scared to try to score, with the ability to take his man off the dribble and play make. He can get to the rim well, and with his length and athleticism, can finish there. He’s also really good in the mid/high post and can shoot over smaller defenders. He also looks like he really tries on defense, is a good shot blocker for his size, and would be a plus rebounder for his size. While his three-point shot leaves a little to the imagination, Bowen has a solid looking stroke. He will need to improve his all-around 3-and-D skills to truly make a mark at the next level, but he projects as a rotational level talent.
Cons: Bowen will 100 percent need to add strength this offseason and moving forward to be able to stick on a roster. He’s only 200 pounds (some say 190-195) and is a legit 6’7”. To be able to defend at the next level and weather a full 82 game season, he will need to get more physical by adding said strength. Offensively, he lacks an elite first step to get by quicker defenders, and while he can handle the ball well, he could use some improvement in this department. In order to be able to create his own shot at the next level, he will need to tighten his handle and play with his head up a bit more. As evidenced by his less than an assist a game in Australia, Bowen needs to survey the floor more while driving and become a better passer. Overall, Bowen is a raw player who will get better, but will more than likely need some time to adjust. Defensively, slashing wise, finishing wise and length wise, he’s ready. The rest of his game will need to catch up.
Admiral Schofield - Tennessee
College Stats (2018-19): 16.5 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.5 BPG. Averaged 31.8 MPG. Splits of .474/.418/.698.
Measureables: Height: 6’6”, Weight: 241, Standing Reach: 8’6” Wingspan: 6’9”
Mocks: The Ringer - 40, ESPN - 36 on big board, Sports Illustrated - 48 on big board
Workout with Clippers: No
Comps: Jae Crowder, way better shooting Josh Smith
Pros: Another wing that brings a winning pedigree from his time at Tennessee and has an NBA-ready body and game. A bit of a pipe dream at 48 (doubt he slips that far), Schofield would be a nice plug and play wing for any team. However, with his toughness, defense, and ability to shoot, he’d be a great fit in L.A. There’s also a real possibility the Clippers trade up in the second round to get a guy like Schofield or Jontay Porter (more on him tomorrow).
A four-year veteran of the NCAA, Schofield got better each season, and broke out in year four with a 1st-team All-SEC selection and Honorable Mention All-America. He shot above 38 percent from three in each of his last three seasons, showing that he has a capable stroke from deep, and shot above 44 percent from the field every season he was in school. Schofield can flat out score and can do it in multiple ways. He is an explosive finisher at the rim, and is one of the more athletic guys in this draft class. He also has a build reminiscent of a superhero so finishing in traffic or with bigs in his way is typically no problem. With this build, he is also able to take smaller defenders on the block and can score via turnaround jumper or with mouse in the house tactics. He is capable of guarding 2-4 physically, and this defensive variety will be huge moving forward. He is also a good rebounder given his strength and size, and always gives max effort. Schofield is an able passer as well, and has a great motor and attitude, who never puts his head down.
Cons: With all of the strength that Schofield possesses, is it almost too much? He doesn’t look stiff out there, but in order to be a better than average defender in the league, he will need to really execute the defensive switching required of today’s NBA wings. His lateral speed is slower than one would want it to be at 6’5”, and it can cost him against speedy guards. Going the other way, Schofield’s lack of first step means that he tends to settle for quick mid-rangers instead of trying to get to the rim, as his defender can recover after his initial move. His handle can also get an upgrade, especially when you consider he’s only 6’5” and will need to be able to create his own shot in the half court. At the end of the day, these are pretty nit-picky cons, and Schofield doesn’t have any super glaring issues. I personally think that Admiral has first-round talent and might not be on the board at 48 or 56, but scouts have him all over the place.
Terance Mann - Florida State
College Stats (2018-19): 11.4 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.5 APG, 0.7 SPG. Averaged 31.7 MPG. Splits of .504/.390/.785
Measureables: Height: 6’7”, Weight: 215 Standing reach: 8’5”, Wingspan: 6’7”
Mocks: The Ringer - 43, ESPN - 68 on big board, Sports Illustrated - 58 on big board
Workout with Clippers: No
Comps: Brad Wanamaker, Justin Jackson
Pros: Another four-year college player, Mann really blossomed into his own during the 2018-19 season. He shot 14 percentage points higher from three from his junior to senior seasons, and the same on his free throw percentage. While his sample size from three was small (77 attempts), showing that kind of improvement in one season is what boosted his draft stock, as well as a nice showing at the Portsmouth Invitational. He is uber athletic, with highlight reel capabilities every time he goes to the rim. He’s not the best finisher given that his left hand finishing capabilities look to be weaker than with his right hand, but with his leaping abilities and length, can finish adequately. Mann looks to be an above-average-to-great man to man defender in the half-court, and has the frame lateral speed to guard 1-3 well. Also, from all reports he seems to be a good dude on and off the court. He has very active hands in passing lanes and is also a willing rebounder. Basically, he’s an all-around max effort guy who would fit well with the tough identity the Clips possess.
Cons: There is no guarantee that Mann ever has a consistent jumpshot in the league. Yes, he improved dramatically, and from all indications has a great work ethic, but in a small sample size from the college line, it’s tough to project him as being anything but an average shooter. His overall production dropped from his junior year as well, as he scored 1.2 less points per game and shot 6 percentage points lower overall despite averaging one less shot per game. That’s a bit of a red flag for someone who will need to find a role in the league. He is a very good defender, but good defense can only go so far — look at Sindarius Thornwell. He should also be looking to improve his handle, as he tends to get a little wide with his handle when driving. Defensively, Mann is NBA ready. The rest of his game might take some catching up to become an NBA player.
Wings who could fall but will most likely be taken before the Clippers first pick: Darius Bazley, Oregon’s Louis King, Arizona State’s Luguentz Dort
Honorable Mentions: Tulsa’s DaQuan Jeffries, Deividas Sirvydis (Europe), Washington’s Jaylen Nowell, Michigan’s Ignas Brazdeikis, IPFW’s John Konchar