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Lost rookie season looms over Jason Preston as he sets to begin crucial year of development

What role will Jason Preston fill this upcoming season?

San Antonio Spurs v LA Clippers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

It was never hard to spot Jason Preston if you knew quite where to look. All you had to focus on was someone in street clothes and a boot on his right foot. Ultimately, 2021-22 was a lost season for the LA Clippers’ second-round pick, but anyone you talked to with the team said it wasn’t the worst thing in the world.

In early July, Preston said the time spent rehabbing allowed him to watch others and see how the game should be played at the highest level. He also added that it granted him the chance to “get my body right.” Preston noted that he’s added 15 pounds of muscle to his frame since he got drafted.

Preston was unable to participate in 5-on-5 court action until after the season concluded. It wasn’t until the Las Vegas Summer League on July 9 that Preston actually got to play against opposition in a familiar setting.

The young guard played in three games during the summer circuit, averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 assists and 3.7 rebounds on 40% shooting. His stint was cut short due to entering the league’s health and safety protocols.

But Preston now begins the single most important season of his basketball career, and does so on a team that has championship aspirations.

What is the best-case scenario for their season?

Preston has a tangible skill set that could benefit a veteran team like the Clippers. After all, he does inject some youth, ball-handling and passing into the squad and could be a serviceable option should he get playing time alongside the bigger-named players on the team. While it is Summer League, and the sample size is only 8 games over two stints there, Preston has shown he can make catch-and-shoot 3s which would aid him in spreading the floor for others.

Yet, Preston will likely begin the year in the G League with the newly-named Ontario Clippers. It’ll be there where his biggest impact could be made, and that shouldn’t be scoffed at. Should Preston show enough at that level, there’s the real possibility that he gets minutes with the big club and a chance to show what he can do when given the opportunity.

What is the worst-case scenario for their season?

The Clippers opting to go after John Wall in free agency following the five-time All-Star’s buyout with the Houston Rockets doesn’t bode too well for the amount of playing time that Preston will surely hope he gets, at least early in the season. Should Wall do well enough, and should Reggie Jackson do better in a slightly more reduced role compared to last season, it would really limit the number of opportunities for Preston.

That lack of court time could stunt a player’s growth. It’s also why Preston losing out on his true rookie season was such a bummer for his development. While he did put on weight and looks noticeably stronger, he didn’t get any court time during a season in which the Clippers saw 23 different players log game action. Even Brandon Boston Jr. saw 760 minutes last season. Preston missed out, and that, coupled with Wall’s arrival, might kill the guard’s chances of being a rotational player.

What do you think is the most likely role for them?

There’s no two ways about it: Preston is going to see the bulk of his time spent in the G League, unless something goes drastically awry with the main team. Preston’s role is going to be getting a lot of minutes against lesser competition in order for him to get into the swing of things.

If Preston does well enough at that level, maybe there could be minutes for him in the NBA on nights in which the Clippers opt to rest multiple players or if guys get hampered by injury. Nothing is certain in the NBA, but Jason Preston having to watch a second season pass him by seems about as close as you can get.

You can find Justin Russo’s daily content on the LA Clippers by subscribing to his Patreon feed, and you can also follow him on Twitter at @FlyByKnite.