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How Terance Mann can make a case for Most Improved Player in 2022

After a breakout season punctuated by a historic night for Terance Mann, what does the Clippers swingman need to do to take his game to the next level?

2021 NBA Playoffs - Utah Jazz v LA Clippers
Terance Mann gained himself a lot of fans last season
Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

On June 19, as the Los Angeles Clippers conquered the Utah Jazz in Game 6 of the playoffs, Staples Center was on its feet having witnessed one of the greatest nights in the franchise’s history.

It was a watershed moment for several reasons. The playoff atmosphere created by the fans, Paul George leading by example in the absence of Kawhi Leonard, and another big playoff scoring display from Reggie Jackson. However, the story of the night was the performance and statline produced by Terance Mann.

Another coaching feat from Ty Lue had allowed Mann to feast on Rudy Gobert, pouring in 39 points on 7-of-10 shooting from deep. Although from the outside it was seen as a huge surprise, as he gained new fans and grabbed attention across the sport, those close to Terance would say they always knew he had it in him.

From being born into a basketball family, to receiving praise from ‘The Logo’ Jerry West during the 2019 Summer League, Mann has always had his fair share of supporters. His teammates have also consistently talked up his abilities throughout this past season in particular, with PG even going as far to say “he’s one of the best young players I’ve been around” in a postgame interview with ESPN after that historic night.

On the face of it, being the 48th pick in the draft doesn’t usually come with much hype or the levels of fandom that lottery level guys get coming into the league. Yet after a season in which Mann came up trumps for the Clippers on several occasions, eyes will be on him heading into a new year where his role is only set to increase with Kawhi sidelined.

Mann’s stats last campaign don’t exactly leap off the page, averaging 7.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per regular-season game. This season though, having hit career-high numbers on that special night at Staples, he’ll surely come back full of confidence and empowered to further make his mark as a crucial rotational player.

So what needs to happen to allow Terance to take the next step? Well, first he needs to shoot a lot more — something that PG and his teammates say they’ve been telling him. That playoff run showed that he can shoot at a high clip, but attempting 10 threes was still a career high and that’s a number he’ll need to approach a few more times this season if he’s to make a more consistent impact on this team.

There’s no doubt Ty will know he can trust him as an offensive weapon and be able to get the ball in his hands for open shots, but it will be down to Terance to prove his coach right and knock them down. He’ll need to grow into that role and can do so by harnessing the attitude of his mentors that have now departed.

Both Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams had a huge impact on Mann’s career, and if he adopts the same mentality as those guys this season with increased usage, he could continue to defy expectations. He’ll need to carry the air of confidence Pat brought on defense and Lou brought on offense, and he’s certainly got the capability to do it on both sides of the ball.

Mann’s energy has always been infectious on the court and that’s another area in which the loss of Pat and Lou will be felt that little bit extra this season. Although it will still be down to the veterans to lead by example and lift the team when they’re down, the value of having guys who can inject extra intensity into the lineup will help those older guys out if things become stagnant.

The Clippers needed that at times last season and that Game 6 win against the Jazz wasn’t the only time Mann stood up tall to help them get over the line. The second regular season meeting with the Atlanta Hawks stands out as another huge moment in his career, as he turned around a sluggish display by the starters with 21 points and 10 rebounds alongside Luke Kennard’s lights out shooting off the bench.

If he can continue that ability to give the team energy when they need it most, find ways to pull them out of the fire, and do that while shooting the ball more and keeping on top of his added defensive duties, we could be in for another big year from the 24-year-old. As his biggest supporters and those close to him will tell you, he’s certainly got it within him.

There will be more fanfare around his name this season, and extra eyes will be on the Clippers without Kawhi. If he harnesses that the right way and shines under the bright lights once again, he’ll be right on track to achieving an NBA career most second-round picks could only wish for.