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Clippings: Brandon Boston Jr. is crashing the party earlier than expected

The rookie is creating some interesting rotation decisions for Ty Lue.

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Los Angeles Clippers v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Soobum Im/Getty Images

In hindsight, it should have been obvious how much faith the Clippers had in Brandon Boston Jr. The team gave the 51st pick in the 2021 draft a contract that was fully guaranteed for two seasons and signed him when there were still players battling for roster spots, before the Eric Bledsoe trade simplified some of those decisions.

Even so, Boston didn’t really see the light of day in the early part of the season, only showing up in garbage time despite a forward rotation that was alternately injured and unimpressive. It took until the 14th game of the season, on a night when Marcus Morris Sr., Terance Mann, and Justise Winslow were all unavailable, for Boston to make his rotation debut. That game was arguably his best of the season, as Boston shot 4-of-7 from the field, hit all three of his free throws, and grabbed four rebounds while recording a plus-6 in the box score.

The rookie saw diminishing returns in his next outing against Memphis, however, and Tyronn Lue essentially put Boston on ice for the following six games. Opportunity knocked again against Sacramento when the starters were hellishly flat against the Kings, and since then, Boston has been something of a mainstay in the rotation. He’s shooting the ball well and providing a confidence boost when he comes into the game.

What’s interesting is that the Clippers have welcomed back most of their injured players, and Boston’s minutes persist. Sure, Nicolas Batum is still working his way back from his stint in the health and safety protocols, but Winslow is available, and Amir Coffey can play up to 50 NBA games as a two-way player. Both have still fallen behind the rookie in the pecking order.

Boston suited up against the Lakers, even drawing a shooting foul against his high school teammate Bronny James’ father. Boston was back at it the next night in Sacramento, and then was the first substitute off the bench in the Clippers’ win over Portland Monday. Agua Caliente head coach Paul Hewitt noted earlier this year that Boston had more maturity than players his age and was quick to tackle a challenge, but being the sixth man for the Clippers seems like a more meteoric rise than anyone would have expected.

“I thought he played great,” Lue said about Boston after the Blazers game. “Just taking his open shots, made three threes, aggressive attacking the basket on close outs. And then defensively, hustling back, that one time got the deflection. And so he’s only going to get better, you know, 3-for-6 from three, 13 points off the bench for a rookie, that’s pretty solid.”

The Clippers are still a net negative with Boston on the court, but that has more to do with the bench’s overall struggles than the 20-year-old’s production. He wasn’t supposed to be here this fast; the Clippers aren’t in developmental mode — they’re trying to position themselves to compete for a title when Kawhi Leonard returns. Somehow, their best hope for staying afloat has been to turn to their youngest player. Perhaps we should have seen their faith in Boston all along.

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