With the Clippers’ spectacular moves in free agency dominating their summer, it’s almost possible to forget that they had a busy draft too. The Clippers came into the 2019 NBA Draft with only two late picks, the 48th and 56th, and there was very little buzz about them. During the draft, they quietly and surprisingly moved up to 27th to select Florida State big man Mfiondu Kabengele, and then used the 48th pick to grab his teammate Terance Mann. Both players have been signed to official deals by the Clippers, and played with them in Summer League. It’s unlikely that they’ll get much (if any) playing time next year in the NBA, but that doesn’t mean the Clippers’ draft was bad. Far from it. In fact, the Clips Nation staff quite liked it.
Thomas Wood: B+
Gosh, so much has happened this summer that I’m having to reach deep into the sooty depths of my memory for draft-related reflections, but the Clippers’ two selections appeared palatable in the moment and are sweetening with time. Mann in particular feels like an inspired choice. Getting anything more functional than a warm body with the 48th pick is a win, and Mann’s summer league performance should imbue optimism. Kabengele, the higher pick, was mocked across a broad range of draft positions but was generally considered to be of at least fair value. And I certainly won’t question this front office’s taste in players. They’ve maintained an exceptional batting average.
The key is to keep expectations modest. I’m grading on the draft curve here. Expected value drops precipitously outside the lottery. Opportunity on this team will be scarce. (Or should be, if things go to plan.) If Kabengele and Mann prove to be rosterable players for a few seasons, be happy. If either develops into something more, be thrilled.
Chris Murch: A-
I would have given this a lower grade had I not watched Kab play in Summer League. He’s a bit undersized for the center position, but has a long wingspan, can jump out of the gym, and has a surprising amount of range. He seems like a really good fit for the modern NBA, and for a Clippers team that’s devoid of a backup center, Kab might see some solid burn. Everything I’ve read on the guy says that he is a high character dude as well, and the Clips targeted him from the moment he declared. I trust Jerry West, Lawrence Frank and Co. with every single move.
As for Terrance Mann: in my draft fits column leading up to the date, I had Mann in there as a potential pick the Clips would make, but wasn’t all that high on him. At FSU, he was mainly used as a high-flying wing who was an all-around glue guy and hustler. He was great defensively but never shot a consistent ball. He was also not a primary ballhandler. However, during SL, Mann was used on the ball a ton, and he didn’t disappoint. He only averaged 8.7 points, but on 60% shooting, and while stockpiling 11.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists per contest. He’s a stat-sheet stuffer, and looked like a real steal with pick 48. Mann might also get some good burn this year as a backup PG and defensive spark plug, but even if he doesn’t, he seems like a real NBA player.
Shapan Debnath: B+
Trading up to get Fi was a bit questionable at the time, and is maybe still somewhat iffy. He flashed potential in Summer League, but has notable deficiencies. The gem of the draft from the Clippers perspective has to be Terence Mann, who seems like someone with all the tools needed to find success in the NBA. While the two rookies may not contribute right away, it’s nice to have young capable pieces, especially since the Clippers are so short on draft picks in the future.
Robert Flom: B+
The Clippers surprised me on draft day when they made the trade for Mfiondu Kabengele. To be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of his in the pre-draft process, and wasn’t sure why they were going with a big in the late 1st round. But as time went on, I came to appreciate the pick — Fi is an extremely smart, hard-working guy, and I will bet on those types of people (in any situation) any time. Also, his shot is buttery already, and big men who can shoot have value in the NBA. The value for him (a 1st round pick next year in a stronger draft) still isn’t great, but the pick itself I’m happy with.
Terance Mann at 48 was great from the get-go, and only looked better as Summer League went along. Mann is a large-ish wing who can play defense, rebound, and handle the ball, while being an insanely efficient scorer inside. That alone should get him a few years in the NBA as a bench player. If he can shoot, he could be quite good, and there are signs that his shooting could get to a level where he’s at least respectable from NBA range. That shooting becoming real would make Mann a massive steal that late in a weak draft.