The Clippers will have few avenues with which to improve their team in the offseason, but the primary one is coming up shortly: the 2021 NBA Draft.
The Clippers own their first-round pick this year, which landed at No. 25 by virtue of them having the sixth-best record in the league during the regular season. At that spot, they could target a player with high upside who may not be able to contribute right away, and the Clippers have a lot of faith in their current player development system, led by Kenny Atkinson and Shaun Fein. The team could also opt for a proven player, perhaps an older collegian closer to his peak. The former route seems more likely given the team’s limited draft assets going forward.
Incidentally, the Clippers have had the 25th pick twice in the last ten years, but haven’t derived much value. They picked two players out of North Carolina, Reggie Bullock and Brice Johnson. Bullock remains a productive player, though he didn’t become one until he left Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Johnson was out of the league relatively quickly.
Here’s a look at the rest of the no. 25 picks over the last decade of the NBA Draft.
2020: Immanuel Quickley, New York Knicks
2019: Nassir Little, Portland Trail Blazers
2018: Moe Wagner, Los Angeles Lakers
2017: Anžejs Pasečņiks, Orlando Magic
2016: Brice Johnson, L.A. Clippers
2015: Jarell Martin, Memphis Grizzlies
2014: Clint Capela, Houston Rockets
2013: Reggie Bullock, L.A. Clippers
2012: Tony Wroten, Memphis Grizzlies
2011: MarShon Brooks, Boston Celtics
Other than Capela and Bullock, this draft slot hasn’t been so kind, particularly for the team making the pick. The jury’s still out on Quickley, who made second team all-rookie this year — the first No. 25 pick to earn all-rookie honors since Brooks in 2011-12 — but it’s been bleak for the remaining selections.
Half of these players have washed out of the league already, and Pasečņiks may be soon to follow. He and Little have combined for 28 total NBA games, their future prospects hanging by a thread. The five who likely won’t be on NBA rosters this coming season (Wagner, Johnson, Martin, Wroten, and Brooks) averaged 138 games in their careers.
Even though the overall hit rate at No. 25 isn’t ideal, that’s to be expected at this point in the draft. Frankly, that’s to be expected at any point in the draft beyond the lottery. Even the Clippers, for all their front office success in recent years, have been at best a 50/50 proposition in the draft in the Lawrence Frank era. They struck gold with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in 2018 and then followed that up with Jerome Robinson. They did well with Terance Mann in 2019, but bungled their first-round pick that season with Mfiondu Kabengele. And as of now, it’s unclear how Daniel Oturu and Jay Scrubb will pan out.
Hopefully, the Clippers have learned some lessons from their scouting over the past three seasons. This is an important draft for the franchise. Championship teams need to make the right moves on the margins, and this is the first chance for the Clippers to do so during the offseason.