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2019 NBA Draft Fits for the Clippers: Scrappy/Identity Fit Edition

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The Clippers leaned into a “grit and grind” identity last season, and it worked wonders. They might be on the lookout for a similar type of player in the draft tonight.

NCAA Basketball: Nevada at San Diego State Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Before the start of last season, Patrick Beverley would talk to anyone who listened about how the Clippers were still the best team in L.A., despite the neighbors obtaining the best player in the league at the time. His prophecy proved true. Another talking point for Beverley was how the new Clippers identity would revolve around defense and toughness. He wasn’t wrong there either. With Bev as the vocal leader and Montrezl Harrell and, later, JaMychal Green as his even tougher sidekicks, the Clippers steamrolled teams with a balanced combination of brute force and finesse from guys like Danilo Gallinari and Lou Williams. “Clamp City” was the new identity in L.A. and it led to the Clippers surpassing every expectation of them.

This identity could look a lot different heading in the 2019-20 season, however, as Beverley and Green are free-agents. So is Garrett Temple. So is Ivica Zubac. Where does this leave the Clippers? Well, for one, obtaining top level free-agents would help. Especially a guy like Kawhi Leonard, who is arguably the best two-way player in the league, and would help continue this trend of lockdown defense and toughness. I think every Clippers fan would also like to see Bev and Green stay in the red, white, and blue.

There is, however, a world where none of this happens. With the 48th and 56th picks, the Clippers have the opportunity to uphold this tough identity that allowed them to prosper and nab a player who can bring two-way potential, but most importantly, be a do-everything, team-first type who is scrappy and fits the current identity. This is what the second-round is for, finding hidden gems who can provide what the coaching staff is looking for in a given moment. Effort, energy and toughness can’t be taught and will always be welcomed by a team. I have identified four players (and two honorable mentions) who can bring this toughness to L.A. and help upkeep this identity. Enjoy!

Jalen McDaniels - PF, San Diego State

College Stats (2018-19): 15.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists in 31 minutes. Splits of .466/.320/.732

Age: 21

Measurables: Height: 6’10”, Weight: 192, Standing Reach: 8’9”, Wingspan: 7’0”

Mocks: The Ringer - 45, ESPN - 58 on big board, Sports Illustrated - 50 in mock, 64 on big board

Comps: Jonathan Isaac

Pros: Jalen McDaniels is the exact type of player you take a risk on in the late second-round strictly because of the two-way upside that he possesses. He’s a 6’10” stretch four with freakish athleticism. He’s long, athletic as hell, not afraid to do anything on the floor, a team-first guy, and has a growing offensive game. After being mostly a post up player his freshman year, McDaniels expanded his game in his sophomore year and upped his three-point percentage from 21 percent to 32 percent in one year. He has a solid looking stroke and enough touch on mid-range shots and floaters in the lane that make his stretch-four potential at the next level look accurate. For a bigger dude, he has genuine guard skills and can take slower defenders off the dribble and into the lane. While he can improve his handle, he has the ability to playmake as a four, which in today’s NBA is always an asset. He is a very active player who can score off the ball with his slashing abilities and his way of getting behind defenders for oops and easy dump-offs. Jalen is a willing transition player who could thrive in an up-and-down system.

Defensively, McDaniels flashes even more upside and moving forward, could be an elite team defender because of his ability to switch and guard 2-5. He is quick on his feet and can move both vertically and laterally well. He is active and willing to do the dirty work on this end as well. Because of his elite leaping abilities, McDaniels is always a threat to block shots and because of his length and speed, is always a threat to steal passes and harass on the ball. He will be a great help defender and will always make people think in the lane, which as a forward is a great skill to have.

Cons: McDaniels is SKINNY. At 192 pounds, you worry about him being able to play a full 82 game season. Can he take the wear and tear and the constant banging it takes to be a difference maker in the league as a big man? Only time will tell, but because he has a skinny frame, putting on weight might be difficult for him. McDaniels also doesn’t seem to use his height and length to his advantage as, in film, he pulls up too often instead of taking it all the way to the rack. He’s not particularly effective in the mid-range either (has an effective FG percentage under 50) so him settling for jumpers instead of potential layups or floaters is concerning. Is it because he might be afraid to bang in the post because of his frame? Could be.

Overall, McDaniels would be a tremendous steal at 48 or 56. He has a ton of upside and his potential to become a solid 2nd unit big early is high. If he can continue to refine his shot and clean up some mental mistakes on offense, McDaniels will be someone that Clippers fans will be upset that the Clips didn’t take.

Zylan Cheatham - Forward, Arizona State

College stats (2018-19): 12.1 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists in 32.4 minutes. Splits of .534/.440/.618

Age: 23

Measurables: Height: 6’8”, Weight: 220, Standing reach: N/A, Wingspan: 7’0”

Mocks: The Ringer - 51, ESPN - 45 on big board, Sports Illustrated - 60 on big board, undrafted in mock

Comps: Jerami Grant, poor man’s Pascal Siakam, stretched out Montrezl Harrell

Pros: Cheatham, kind of like McDaniels, is an uber athletic, long forward who will dunk on your team’s center, grab a rebound over your entire team, and stuff any guard that comes into the lane. He’s only 6’8” but is a legit rim protector and is ultra aggressive on the defensive end. Unlike McDaniels, Cheatham is 220 pounds and is solidly built. The worries about banging in the post and being able to finish with contact aren’t there with him. He also can finish with both hands well, has good paint awareness, and always knows where the rim is. He attacks the rim like it stole his lunch money, and can absolutely throw down. Cheatham is also good at the finesse parts of the game. He is solid in the pick-and-roll. and has the ability to roll or pop (44 percent from three last season, albeit on only 25 attempts). He also has decent enough vision for a big man to find open shooters off these picks. He does have good hands, so there’s not a ton of worry about throwing him the ball in the post or off picks.

Cons: Cheatham’s shooting form needs a lot of work. While he did hit nearly half of his 25 attempts from three last season, this was more than likely just fools gold. He only shot 61.8 percent from the line in what is usually a good test of actual shooting prowess. For someone who is only 6’8” and will more than likely play at the 3-4, ability to shoot is tantamount to his success moving forward. A good comparison for him in my opinion, Pascal Siakam, couldn’t really shoot coming into the league, but also has a better looking stroke than Cheatham. Zylan could also do himself some favors in refining his post-up game, extending this into the mid-post and work on some go-to moves to the rim from the perimeter. Everyone has to be a playmaker in today’s NBA, so Cheatham upping his handles and moves will help. Cheatham will also need to continue getting stronger. He’s solidly built sure, but he’s still a little wiry from an NBA forward and center perspective. If he will mainly reside inside, adding more (good) weight will help.

Overall, I really like Cheatham’s game and his abilities moving forward. If he can improve his jumper and extend his range he could be a dangerous rotation player for years to come.

Cody Martin - SG/SF, Nevada

College Stats (2018-19): 12.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.9 assists in 34.4 minutes. Splits of .505/.358/.763.

Age: 23

Measurables: Height: 6’7”, Weight: 192, Standing Reach: 8’6”, Wingspan: 6’10”

Mocks: The Ringer - 49, ESPN - 67 on big board, Sports Illustrated - 65 on big board, undrafted in mock

Comps: De’Andre Bembry

Pros: Cody Martin is the type of do-everything wing/guard that you want to pick in the late second round based on potential value down the line. He has all the looks of a rotational NBA player: he played on big stages for multiple college teams, is long, can defend multiple positions, is an effortless scorer at multiple levels, and can both play on the ball and off. Martin is lethal in the pick-and-roll, with the ability to make his defender pay if they go under and the shiftiness and handle to go around if they fight over. He also has great vision for a bigger guard and can deliver crisp passes to bigs and wings for open shots. He was a genuine stat-sheet stuffer in college and has the ability to rack up nice rebounding and assist games as an off-ball guard. He kind of has a wonky stroke, but showed an ability to knock down shots off the dribble, and improved his three point shooting from 29.4 percent to 35.8 percent with more attempts from his junior to senior seasons.

Defense is where Martin will make a difference at the next level. He is ultra aggressive at this end, and has shown a high IQ. He averaged 1.4 steals last season: he’s big enough to switch onto forwards, quick enough laterally to hang with guards on the perimeter, and has the leaping ability to swat shots away nicely for someone his size. He also has a never seven-foot wingspan. While he was sometimes overshadowed by his twin brother Caleb Martin at Nevada, expect Cody to have a long career in the league.

Cons: In today’s NBA, youth trumps all. To put this in perspective, Devin Booker will be entering his fifth season in the league in 2019-20, and is a full year and a month younger than the 24-year-old Martin. That really limits Martin’s potential upside moving forward, and will effect where teams pick him, if he does get picked. On top of this, Martin’s scoring went down from his junior to senior seasons and his shot mechanics do need some work. He had an effective field goal percentage of 56.2 percent last season, but a lot of this came at the rim or within 15 feet. He will need to prove that he can hit a jumper consistently to get rotational minutes moving forward. He also gives me, personally, some Sindarius Thornwell vibes. Meaning, his scoring might not translate at the next level and could just be used as a defensive throw-in. He could do himself many favors by getting his handle a bit tighter, working on a more consistent jumper, and making sure he doesn’t get himself pigeon-holed. He will more than likely be a G-leaguer a bunch in his first season wherever he goes. However, I see Martin as someone who will on NBA rosters awhile because of his defense and ability to score from everywhere.

Charles Matthews - Michigan

College Stats (2018-19): 12.2 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.4 APG , 1.1 SPG. Averaged 31.5 MPG. Splits of .431/.299/.645.

Measurables: Height: 6’6”, Weight: 205, Standing Reach: N/A, Wingspan: 6’9” (add this)

Mocks: The Ringer - Undrafted, ESPN - 60th on big board, Sports Illustrated - 63rd on big board, undrafted in mock

Comps: Norman Powell with a worse J, Wesley Iwundu, skinnier Andre Roberson

Pros: Charles Matthews is a rangy 6’6” wing who was a part of a winning program that went deep in multiple NCAA tournaments at Michigan, and flat out knows how to defend. He is also deceptively strong for only being listed as 205 lbs, and is an athletic marvel with tons of show-stopping blocks and high flying dunks. He can score off the dribble, attacks the rim well, and has shown a deft ability to finish in traffic because of said strength and leaping ability. He is a great rebounder for his size and tries very hard on defense. Matthews averaged over a steal a game his junior season, and can disrupt passing lanes and ballhandlers with his length. He uses his body well on fakes with the ball, and catches defenders off guard with his speed and quickness. His handle isn’t great, but is adequate enough to make strong moves to the rack. He would be a great fit for the “grit and grind” style of L.A. in the present.

Cons: Well to begin, Matthews tore his ACL in a predraft workout with the Philadelphia 76ers. Whatever chance he had of getting drafted in the late second round probably went out of the window as soon as that happened. HOWEVER, I include him here because the Clippers had a workout with Matthews, and he could be someone they eye as an undrafted free-agent or take a flier on. As mentioned above, he is scrappy as hell defensively, super athletic and does all the dirty work. Now back to some other cons.

Matthews has never been a reliable shooter. In fact, he’s never been even a semi-reliable shooter. For a 6’6” wing to succeed in the NBA, you have to be able to at least shoot a little. His 64.5 percent from the line doesn’t help his cause (usually a good barometer if someone can shoot at all) and he will really need to obtain a consistent shooting stroke to stick around in the league. The worry for the Clippers would be that he’s just a Sindarius clone who can’t contribute offensively. The Clippers already have guys like Sind and Ty Wallace who D up, are athletic, can finish inside decently and are good teammates but absolutely CAN’T shoot. Matthews makes all the sense in the world from a “grit and grind” identity standpoint, but will his offense ever come around? We will see. He can take the ball to the rack and finish with explosiveness and also has some decent handle, but he really needs to improve on this end to stick.

Player who could fall but will most likely be taken before the Clippers first pick: Auburn’s Chuma Okeke

Honorable mentions: Penn State’s Josh Reaves, Wake Forest’s Jaylen Hoard