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Clippers In Review: Terance Mann has the opportunity to be a part of the Clippers’ long-term plans

It’s what he does with that opportunity that will determine whether or not the team decides to make him an integral piece in its future.

Los Angeles Clippers v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Welcome to Clippers In Review, where we’ll recap the season for every player that ended the season in Los Angeles. Next up: Terance Mann.

How did Mann do this season?

I have long struggled with what I’m supposed to make of Terance Mann as a basketball player, let alone as a presence in a regular rotation. There are times when I watch Mann defend and believe that we’re watching Andre Roberson reincarnated, an on-ball fiend whose living is bound to be made as a nuisance in passing lanes and as an irritant to the league’s elite as they aim to attack the rim. Back in November, I wrote that Mann was undoubtedly becoming the team’s most important stopper with Kawhi Leonard injured. Over the course of the season — despite his defensive stats dipping due to his widening sample size — that remained true. He often took on the opposition’s toughest assignment; no matter who he guarded, though, he made life difficult for them on the offensive end.

But that side of the ball was never really my concern with Mann. Where my opinion often fluctuated as it pertained to his play was as a shot-maker. Honestly, I had reservations about him as a shot-taker late in the season, too, not necessarily with the shots he was taking, but the fact that he was taking too few. Despite having the best season of his short career as a scorer (10.8 points per contest), he needs to be more involved in the offense if he wishes to take hold of the rotation spot he so covets. Limited offensive players need reps to develop. Late in the season, he was given that opportunity. He all-but turned it away.

When he became a semi-regular start midway through the 2021-22 campaign — each of his 33 starts this season came in the Clippers’ final 57 games — Mann averaged 29.2 points per game, but just 11.3 points on 8.8 shots. The player who, at one point, looked like he was beginning to put it all together suddenly faded into the background, seemingly by his own volition. That can’t be asserted for sure, but given his efficiency (50 percent from the field in those 57 games), I struggle to believe that Reggie Jackson or Luke Kennard launching errant triples six seconds into a 24-second shot clock was a more desirable outcome for a possession than Mann taking stock of what the defense was giving him and attacking straight away.

For next season — and more on that in a moment — I hope to see Mann come out of his shell a bit more as a creator, to call back to the epic performance he gave in the Western Conference finals last season, when he scored 25-points in a half and made it look easy. This season, in the Clippers’ final game against the Pelicans, he attempted a few putbacks in the fourth quarter, but nothing more.

The Conference finals outings in which Mann exploded for points beyond putbacks feel quite far away now. With simple changes in his overall approach to the game and approach to the abundance of reps he should receive, those big nights could return in full force.

Should we expect him back?

Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

“It is with tremendous honor and pride that I sign this extension with the Clippers,” Mann told The Undefeated in October of 2021 when he signed a two-year extension with the team that drafted him 48th overall two years prior. “The faith and commitment in my development and contribution thus far will provide me the motivation I need as I continue to be a pivotal part of our championship run. I want to thank the front office for this opportunity to remain a part of the Clipper Nation. I would also like to thank my coaches and teammates for believing me and allowing me to grow both on and off the court.”

If that statement reads like those “Thank You” notes your parents used to make you write to your relatives after birthdays and holidays, good! That means you are, in fact, reading a statement of gratitude from a 25-year-old man who has a great deal of appreciation for the franchise that drafted him, and has just as much excitement about moving forward with it as it does him. Despite the formal nature of that statement — I have to imagine it was sent over email or via notary, given it’s robot-like cadence — Mann seems like he wants to be in LA. And LA would be smart to want him there.

At the least, Mann serves the Clippers as a security blanket, representing a failsafe should the likes of George and/or Leonard miss time due to injuries, like they did this season. Oftentimes, in a situation like the Clips found themselves in this season — missing two stars — a team would turn to desperation, signing the nearest vet or vaulting the best of their bad G-League options. Instead, the Clippers could simply turn to Mann, a player of immense value that could start on at least half of the teams in the NBA were he to be traded tomorrow. That’s not a failsafe. It’s a luxury.

But Mann can provide more than that, and should he remain in Los Angeles beyond the years of his extension, he’ll have to. At the moment, he’s inexpensive; his new money won’t kick in until after the 2022-23 season. And at the moment, he’s indispensable. The Clippers are one of the NBA’s most rigidly-constructed teams, especially given the age of their stars and their injury proneness.

Mann will remain a luxury — and a crucial entity — for as long as he is on the roster. It’s up to him as to how he uses that time, and leverages that value.