The Clippers had their hearts set on picking Jason Preston in the 2021 NBA Draft — assistant general manager Trent Redden had identified Preston’s talent early in the process, and the front office was giddy about the growth Preston still has in his game as someone who hasn’t been at the highest levels of basketball for very long.
They got their man by trading a future second-rounder to Orlando to get the 33rd pick in this year’s draft to select Preston, and the Clippers expect Preston to contribute right away. Just as they did with BJ Boston, the Clippers have reportedly signed Preston to a three-year deal with two guaranteed seasons, assuring him a spot on the NBA roster instead of having to go through the two-way path.
Per source, the first two seasons of Jason Preston's contract are guaranteed with a team option for a third.— Andrew Greif (@AndrewGreif) August 9, 2021
Clips Nation: What is Preston’s best skill? How well will that translate to the NBA game?
Chase Whitney: The first thing that stands out when watching Jason Preston play is his tremendous feel for the game. He sees the floor well, can make live-dribble passes with both hands and operates in pick-and-roll like a savant. At 6-foot-4, his size will help him see over defenders that he’ll be facing, who are much longer and faster in the NBA than in the MAC.
CN: Preston had to shoulder a fairly high usage rate at Ohio. What can he do to be effective in a smaller role?
CW: At Ohio, Preston was relied upon to initiate offense and contribute on a nightly basis as a scorer; his bucket-getting ability was on full display as he put up 31 points in a close regular-season loss to a top-10 Illinois team. In what will presumably be a small, bench role with the Clippers, he should have no problem playing unselfishly and controlling the pace of the game with the second unit. When on the court with the likes of Paul George, Marcus Morris, Nic Batum, etc., he’ll have plenty of space and will be able to pick defenses apart to find open shooters with his manipulative passing.
CN: Why do you think Preston was so overlooked earlier in his career?
CW: The biggest reasons have to be a lack of athleticism. When he was doing a prep year after high school, he shot up from 6’0 to 6’4, and his below-average first-step and explosiveness were mitigated a bit. He used to be a writer for PistonPowered on Fansided and enrolled as a student at Central Florida at one point, so perhaps even he was overlooking himself for a period of time.
CN: What is something Preston needs to work on to stick at the pro level?
CW: Developing as an off-the-dribble scoring threat would force defenses to show full respect to him as a ball-handler. He’s a career 35.7 percent shooter from deep on 221 total 3-point attempts at Ohio and has crafty finishing, but his in-between game relies on a lot of back-to-the-basket moves that just won’t fly against NBA defenders, and he’s not yet consistent as a 3-point shooter. He could stand to add some burst and quickness as well, but that’s a more difficult task than bumping up pull-up and catch-and-shoot 3-point percentages.
CN: What’s your favorite thing about Preston, or what’s something Clippers fans will love about him?
CW: The guy is just a worker. Surely most fans are familiar with his improbable rise from a non-recruit to an NBA Draft pick, but even within his three seasons at Ohio after he’d established himself as a Division I basketball player he kept grinding, and now he’s living out his dream. It’s really cool to search up his PistonPowered author profile and read stories very similar to what we see here on SBNation — except they’re written by the teenage self of an LA Clippers point guard.
Thanks to Chase for his insight. You can follow his work at Mid-Major Madness, where he published a helpful pre-draft profile on Preston. Chase also covers the Charlotte Hornets for At The Hive.