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2020-21 Clippers season in review: Terance Mann

The 2nd-year pro made a great case for most improved player on the Clippers.

2021 NBA Playoffs - LA Clippers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

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 continue with Terance Mann.

Key information:

Name: Terance Mann

Age: 24

Years in the NBA: 2

Key stats: Mann averaged 7 points and 3.6 rebounds in just under 19 minutes of action in the regular season. His field goal percentage was 50.9 percent and his 3-point percentage was 41.8, both substantially better than his rookie season.

Future contract status: Mann will be going into the third season of a four-year contract for 2021-22, at an affordable $1,782,621. The upcoming season of the deal locks into place Aug. 1, so as long as the team doesn’t trade him or waive him in the meantime, it looks a likely bet he’ll be around on that money.

The Clippers can make him a restricted free agent in the summer of 2022 by declining his team option for the fourth season. If they pick up the option, Mann will be an unrestricted free agent in 2023.

Summary:

The second-year combo guard/forward picked up some notice in his first season in the league for his energetic play and ability to stuff up the stat sheet on very limited minutes. This season was a big challenge, asking him to step up, play more minutes and show he well and truly belonged with the LA Clippers and well, he did.

Obviously it was a pretty enjoyable season to watch the Clippers all in all, between the sheer number of wins across the season for a team that played seemingly every two days for six months, for the stars on the team stepping up and for the supporting cast doing likewise. Last season, I was intrigued by Mann’s potential but he looked really raw. This season, he was probably my favorite Clippers player to watch because he did take a big step up, and offered some vital skills no one else on the roster possessed.

Strengths:

There are three main ways Mann brought it in 2020-21: energy, rebounding, and an ability to get to the rim. I think the single biggest reason Mann emerged and moved way up Ty Lue’s depth chart as the season progressed was that when he entered the game — whether it was for a 20-second break to a starter in the first quarter or for sustained minutes in any quarter — was his ability to raise the energy level of the team. The Clippers are fairly balanced, but they tilt older and that, combined with the sometimes static ball play on offense, meant that they looked sluggish at times. Mann often helped shake things up by getting on the floor and making the game more lively with his presence. It’s an intangible but it’s important.

Second, with the Clippers usually spacing the floor on offense, they had a habit of leaving a single big to compete for rebounds down low and opposing teams got good at putting two players down at the rim at both ends of the court to pick up rebounds. While rebounding was a team responsibility and we know Kawhi Leonard’s talent at being a board man, Mann has a similar knack for reading angles and being in the perfect spot to snag a rebound. When the Clippers would get killed when an opponent extended a possession two or even three times because their rebounding was poor, Mann could be counted on to get the board and keep play moving.

And that ties in with his other top skill, getting to the rim. Unfortunately, about two-thirds of the way through the season, the book on the Clippers’ offense was pretty well set: Ivica Zubac will obviously try to score at the rim, and Leonard and Paul George will drive and unleash a monster dunk 2-3 times a game, and then ... everybody else will stay far away from driving.

At a certain point, Mann was given the green light to move the ball around and score some buckets by getting to the rim and he brought a new development to the offense that frankly helped unlock their collective ability to score. Mann’s potential to drive meant defenders couldn’t sag off him, making double teams on other players less likely and helping to space the floor even better. While the Clippers were a very successful perimeter team during the regular season and first round of the playoffs, in the next two rounds they had to play a lot more often in the paint to find success and they did. A good part of the credit on that goes to Mann, who helped loosen up the offense at a point in the season where they looked like they were going to live and die by the 3 without trying anything else.

Weaknesses:

I think Mann’s composure jumped up a ton in season two but it’s still something he has to stay aware of every game, lest he get stripped at a bad time or pick up an ill-advised foul.

Something else he dealt with was inconsistency. I think that was the final piece holding him back from being a sixth-man contender once Lou Williams departed. Some nights, he’d play 20 minutes, score 20 points and look like a hero. The next, he’d play six minutes, score a point and stay anonymous. The next element of his game that needs to evolve is to be a consistent contributor. If he can unlock that, he’ll be in the NBA for a long time.

Future with the Clippers:

Listen, anything can happen, but unlike many young players on cheap deals, I think Mann’s ceiling is way higher than an average player who is a trade asset. Frankly, if his game continues to grow, and I think it can, that contract is going to be a steal for the Clippers.

To me, at this stage he’s firmly in the Clippers rotation and it’s a matter of seeing if he can lock down the sixth-man role on a team that’s historically valued it, or if he can even push and make a claim to be a starter eventually. Again, he’s still not the final product but there’s a lot to like about his game so far, so if he continues to hone his talent, Mann really could make the kind of jump in the NBA echelon we don’t normally see. Stay tuned.