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Clippings: The Terance Mann glow up continues

Mann was the Clipper who immediately brought energy on a night the rest of this teammates didn’t have it.

Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

The Clippers had a phenomenal offseason in 2019, headlined by acquiring Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. They also brought back Ivica Zubac, Patrick Beverley, and JaMychal Green while getting a first-round pick to take on Moe Harkless.

And yet, the shrewdest piece of business might have been selecting Terance Mann with the 48th overall pick, and then instead of signing him to a minimum deal like so many other second-round picks, securing his services for at least three seasons. That means Mann, who is in the midst of a breakout sophomore campaign, won’t hit free agency until 2022 at the earliest, and the Clippers can simply enjoy this moment instead of worrying about what it will cost them to keep Mann around.

Denver Nuggets v LA Clippers
Good luck keeping Terance Mann away from the rim.
Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

With the way Mann is currently playing, that contract could be worth a pretty penny. The second-year wing once again proved his worth in Thursday’s contest against Denver.

The Clippers didn’t have a lot of bounce to start the game; the Nuggets were faster to loose balls and offensive rebounds and didn’t let the home team get anything easy. Ty Lue said postgame that the second unit came in and gave the team a boost, and much of that could be traced directly to Mann. His activity level started to get things going for the Clippers.

In the first clip, he confidently uses a screen from Leonard to get all the way to rack — and he finishes, something the Clippers were not collectively great at against Denver. The team was 16-of-31 at the rim, but Mann was 5-of-6. That speed just doesn’t exist elsewhere on this roster, nor does his overall athleticism, which he uses in the second clip to sky over P.J. Dozier for the offensive rebound and putback.

You can see Mann imploring his teammates to pick it up when runs down the floor, which isn’t the easiest thing to do on a team full of veterans, but he’s earned that right because of how hard he’s working.

“These guys know me, these guys know that I want to win, and how bad I want to win and they know that I’m going to bring the energy,” Mann said postgame. “So if I do speak up, it’s not coming from a place, you know, other than I’m trying to win... But yeah I feel like I could speak up and say something if you don’t see things going the way it should be.”

Mann’s improvement is on display in the way he reads the game and his overall decision-making, but his work is manifesting itself most clearly in his shooting. Whether that’s his touch around the basket, or his proficiency from distance — Mann is shooting 47.2 on threes since the start of February — he’s becoming a legitimate offensive threat from everywhere on the court. He can get to the cup can make kick-out passes if the defense collapses, he creates space in the midrange, and now he is willing to fire from long range as well.

Mann knocked down 8-of-10 field goals against the Nuggets, and was the only Clipper other than Zubac (3-of-5) to crack 50 percent on the night. Perhaps his lone misstep in the game was stepping on the line for a pull-up 3-pointer and getting two points instead.

In the absence of Lou Williams, prevailing wisdom might have suggested that Luke Kennard would become the second-unit scorer when one of the team’s stars is on the bench, or even Reggie Jackson once Patrick Beverley returns to the starting lineup. But maybe that role is best suited for Mann, who provides so much more in addition to his scoring. His pressure on the basket opens up the floor for his teammates, and he’s a better defender than either of those two players.

“His potential is through the roof,” George said Thursday. “You see a kid that can do everything. And to me, those are the scariest players because you can’t put a position on them. T-Mann is a position less player and in this game, that’s golden, so he’s got the gift. He’s got the gift to do everything. He can defend, he can score, he rebounds great, he pushes in transition.... Sky’s the limit for the kid and I’m looking forward to see him develop and see him grow.”

Before Tuesday’s game against Orlando, Lue said that the key to the Clippers surviving without Beverley — whose absences have historically hampered the team more than anybody else’s — is that Mann has filled the void. In doing so, it’s possible that Mann is also becoming indispensable. The Clippers look like the best versions of themselves when Mann is on the court. He deserves to be there even more.

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