Welcome to our annual Clippers season in review series. Every day until the end of July, we’ll be taking a look back at the players who ended the season with the Clippers (apologies to Malik Fitts and Mfiondu Kabengele). Today, we start with Jay Scrubb.
The Clippers drafted Jay Scrubb with the 55th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft after he played two seasons at John A. Logan and won the 2020 junior college player of the year award. The team signed him to a two-year, two-way contract after the draft, knowing that he would undergo left foot surgery and be out for at least six months.
For rookies on title-contending teams, minutes are always going to be tough to come by. That was compounded for Scrubb with no full-length G League season this year. Scrubb’s injury timeline meant that he also missed out on the G League bubble, so he missed out on additional developmental opportunities.
As a result, Scrubb didn’t make his NBA debut until May 11. He played two games of garbage time before being promoted into the starting lineup when the Clippers had little interest in winning to close out the season. It’s hard to know what to make of those Scrubb minutes when he played more minutes next to Yogi Ferrell (54) than with Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Ivica Zubac, Marcus Morris Sr., Patrick Beverley, and Nic Batum combined.
The Clippers were, to a man, complimentary of Scrubb’s preparation throughout the season.
“Jay’s been working real hard, he’s been working real hard, out there every day, getting shots up, preparing himself for when he gets out there on the court — and tonight he got his first shot,” Terance Mann said after Scrubb’s first outing. “I’m sure he’s proud and he’s happy, just being out there, he was out for a while. I know he took it hard at first, but he locked in, took rehab very seriously, he’s gonna be a great player.”
What excites about Scrubb going forward is his potential as a scorer. He’s not afraid to get his shot off from pretty much anywhere on the court, and he has a good-looking stroke from the free-throw line, which bodes well for his ability to be a jump shooter. He averaged 8.8 points in 21.0 minutes during the four contests he played.
As for the facilitating part of his game, the Clippers hope that Scrubb takes a page out of his fellow Louisville native Rajon Rondo’s book. Scrubb says that Rondo has been like a big brother to him since joining the Clippers, pointing out what he needs to be doing in workouts and where he needs to be on the court. Ideally, Rondo is able to give Scrubb some lessons on how to see the floor with the ball in his hands. Ty Lue and the L.A. development staff are big on having their best scorers also be playmakers, and one assist in 84 minutes is not going to cut it.
“You can tell what kind of player he is going to be: He’s going to be a scorer,” Lue said after Scrubb’s start against Houston. “I just think defensively, understanding what we are trying to do, he missed the whole training camp, he missed the whole season basically. But to come out there and be athletic, make shots and get to the basket, and he has to see that defensively he has to get better, understand what we are looking for and what he needs to do better defensively.
“He is not going to be a problem at all. I like what I saw, he is not scared, he is not afraid, that’s a big step and he’s a hard worker. It’s good to see him come out, have his first start, and played well.”
The minutes weren’t there for Scrubb this year, but they might be next year depending on the length of Leonard’s recovery. He could find himself in a Terance Mann situation, needing to spot start on occasion, and just assuming a larger role overall in the rotation. Scrubb more likely will find himself on the Amir Coffey developmental path where his opportunities with the NBA club are limited but he takes a leading role on the Agua Caliente Clippers.
We don’t really know what kind of player Scrubb is now, or what he could be, but the potential is exciting. The only certainty about Scrubb is that he’ll be around next season.