Going into the 2008 NBA Draft — before Baron Davis signed a five-year, $65M contract to serve as the Clippers point guard through 2013, and before Elton Brand slipped out the back door — the Clippers were a team in desperate need of a backcourt scorer, and preferably one that could play the point. Unlike this upcoming draft crop, the 2008 draft class was perfectly suited to the Clippers’ needs. Between Derrick Rose, O.J. Mayo, Russell Westbrook, Jerryd Bayless, and Eric Gordon, there were any number of collegiate guards the Clips could pluck off the board and plug into their anemic backcourt.
At Clipperblog, we were extremely bullish on Jerryd Bayless:
Bayless personifies everything the Clippers desperately need in their backcourt – an athletic ballhandler who can create off the dribble and shoot the rock from beyond. And look at those FTA numbers: Double-digit attempts in five of his last 10 games. Bayless’ attributes aren’t limited to the offensive end. Arizona interim head coach Kevin O’Neill demands that his squad play a straight-up man defense, and Bayless has been up to the challenge. O’Neill has routinely assigned Bayless the opponent’s best scorer and Bayless‘ quick lateral movement has served him well. Bayless isn’t flawless. He had a horrendous night against USC’s triangle-and-two a couple weeks back, wilting under the constant ball pressure, racking up six turnovers in the process. But all and all, Bayless has shown an uncanny breadth of skills that you want from your PG – penetration, range, ballhandling, the ability to guard opposing points, and good instincts in the halfcourt game.
The Clippers ultimately chose Eric Gordon over Bayless, then filled their PG with the signing of Baron Davis. Here was CB’s assessment of the pick at the time:
The Clips pass on Jerryd Bayless in favor of sharpshooter Eric Gordon. The suggestion here is that the Clips will look outside the organization to fortify themselves at the point. Gordon has the prettiest shot in the draft and can hold his own defending opposing shooting guards, but he’s not a transcendent talent. He’ll spread the floor, to be sure. But for a team that desperately needs some personnel that can move the ball around — and move off the ball — Gordon provides more rawness than refinement.
Last night, Mike Dunleavy explained the decision this way:
We liked [Bayless]. The difference between the two of them for us was that we really felt like we could project Eric Gordon to be a 2 guard and he could survive as a 2 guard and not have to play any 1. With Bayless, we kind of looked at him more like he might need to play 1. If he can do that, then he’ll be a pretty good player, too.
That’s a reasonably fair assessment of the two players, because it’s uncertain whether Bayless can make it in the league as a pure shooting guard. So if you’re less than enamored with Bayless’ ballhandling abilities and can’t envision his holding down the PG position, then you’re stuck in that old combo guard conundrum.
It’s entirely possible that the Clippers had already designated their PG slot for Baron Davis — or more generally, for a veteran TBD — which would make the Gordon selection a no-brainer. It’s also possible that Bayless’ lack of a true position was the reason he dropped to #11, and was immediately dealt by Indiana for Jarrett Jack, a pure point. Either way, the selection of Gordon has been a bright spot in an otherwise dreadful couple of years.