The Clippers mathematical elimination took a bit longer then it has in years past, so it’s understandable if you’re feeling a little behind on the college game right now. Have no fear — we’ll break down the likely lottery prospects in the tournament and keep a close eye on them throughout the next week.
Scouting this year’s draft class is a fun exercise. With only six players on contract heading into the offseason, the Clippers have the luxury of valuing talent over need, because quite frankly, they’re going to need a lot. If there’s a stud shooting guard who falls to them in the late lottery, the Clips can take him and put him in the guard rotation with Baron and Gordon. If there’s a great big guy, plug him in behind Griffin and have him back up Kaman. You can argue that the Clippers should never weigh positional need too heavily. The guys coming back that are on contract are way too injury prone to worry about the perennially fabled logjam. Wherever they end up in the lottery, the Clips can and should take the best player available to them.
As always, there’s some great stuff on these prospects by the wonderful guys at DraftExpress.com and by Chad Ford for ESPN. Let’s take a look at some of the players that might be available to the Clippers come this Summer.
Last year’s point guard class was one of the best in a long time. This year’s class is practically non-existent. One assistant GM referred to this draft class as having “only one point guard.” Let’s take a look at three of the top point guards in this year’s draft.
- John Wall – Kentucky: Likely the number one pick in the draft for any team that doesn’t already have a franchise point guard. Wall is absolutely frightening. His combination of speed, athleticism and ability to break people down off the dribble is some of the best I’ve seen from a guard since Derrick Rose. Here’s the scary thing: If Wall is doing what he’s doing right now, imagine what he’ll do when he’s not getting hand-checked and held every time he drives to the rim? Athletically superior guards run the NBA right now. Derrick Rose. Tyreke Evans. It’s a new era of point guard, and Wall personifies it.
- Kalin Lucas – Michigan State: An Arnovitz favorite. He’s an extremely solid point guard who is lauded for his game managing skills. He isn’t really explosive, or particularly great in any one category, but he knows how to run a good pick and roll and since he’s one of Izzo’s boys he knows how to get into people defensively. He’s a little undersized and needs to work on his jumper, but you could do far worse than having him as your backup point guard.
- Jerome Randle – Cal: Absolutely one of my favorite players in college right now. Randle is tiny in NBA terms at 5-foot 10 and 160 pounds, but he’s an absolute lightning bolt out on the court. His pure end-to-end speed matched with his perimeter shooting ability (over 40 percent on three point attempts this year) makes him a handful defensively. Remember the term “180 shooter”? It’s used for the rare guys whose field goal, free throw, and three-point percentages adds up and reaches 180. Randle comes in at 178, and he takes quite a few shots for Cal. Speedy and incredibly efficient, Randle belongs in the NBA. Don’t be surprised if he has his coming out party in the tournament.
There are an awful lot of 2’s and 3’s in the lottery this year and in the tournament. Let’s take a look at three guys in particular.
- Evan Turner – Ohio State: He’s gaining some momentum to possibly take the number one spot on draft boards from Wall, and for good reason. Turner reminds me a lot of Brandon Roy — not an overwhelming athlete, but ridiculously skilled and shockingly versatile. Sometimes, you can just tell when you’re watching a star. When Kevin Durant was in college, you knew. Turner is a lot like that – he’s just so much smoother than everyone else out there. Offensively, everything looks like a cakewalk for him. Can he play small forward in the NBA? I think so. He may only be 6-foot 7, but Turner is an incredible rebounder (9.4 a game) and an amazing distributor (22.0 assist rate). You could get away with Turner at the 1 even, in sort of a point-forward role. If you’re looking for one player who fits the Clippers perfectly, it’s Turner.
- Al-Farouq Aminu – Wake Forest: Aminu has been projected all over the lottery, as high as three and as low as 12 by some. It would be shocking if he falls out of the top 10 at this point. Aminu is an incredible athlete at 6-foot 8 with an outrageous wingspan, and he has a nose for the glass (10.7 rebounds a game). The Sophomore forward is probably the best defensive player in the draft this year. In the post, he can use his length to bother shots. On the perimeter, he’s slender and quick enough to hang with even the fastest forwards. In helpside defense, he can swoop in out of nowhere and block shots. Aminu is a little raw offensively, particularly from the perimeter, but he’s got tons of room for development. He may not be a future star due to his offensive shortcomings, but if you’re looking for a 3 who can rebound and defend, it doesn’t get much better than him.
- Wesley Johnson – Syracuse: Another crazy athlete, Johnson is also really efficient on the offensive end. His perimeter game has made strides and he takes a lot of good shots, evidenced by his high field goal percentage this season. Johnson should translate well defensively, but it’s tough to tell since Syracuse plays zone defense exclusively. Reminds me a little bit of DeMar DeRozan in terms of athleticism, but he moves the ball much better offensively.
My favorite big guy in the tournament, Greg Monroe from Georgetown, got kicked out today. One of Arnovitz’s favorites, Ed Davis from North Carolina, isn’t in the tournament. Still, there are plenty of good big guys left if the Clippers choose to go that route. Let’s take a look:
- Derrick Favors – Georgia Tech: He’s got great size and strength on the block and can absolutely move his defender at will. He gets deep position and is simply overpowering on this level for most guys. It’s tough to tell how refined Favors is post game is since he’s constantly getting swarmed, but defensively he’s a great shot blocking presence and a space eater underneath for rebounds. He’s raw and needs work, but the physical tools tell you he could be special.
- Cole Aldrich – Kansas: Aldrich worries me a bit, just because he seems so willing to take the backseat and not ask for the ball. He doesn’t demand double teams on the block, has terrible shooting form, and isn’t overwhelmingly strong. To me, he just seems like a nice backup center — a guy who will come in, defend and rebound, but that’s it. Is that worth a lottery pick?
- DeMarcus Cousins -Kentucky: Below the neck, DeMarcus Cousins is one of the best big man prospects to come out in years, but the problem is that Cousins is a bit of a headcase and completely unpredictable. He seems moody with a bad temper, and unresponsive at times. I have no idea how interested he is in playing defense. Can’t you just see him putting on a quick 30 pounds, refusing to hedge on any pick and roll and never passing out of the post? I can. It’s a shame too, because Cousins really is an absolute freak offensively. He’s practically unstoppable on this level. Not only does Cousins have the best PER in the league, he also has the best PER in the last eight years. Think about all the good college players in the last eight years, and statistically Cousins is better than them all. If he can keep his head on straight, he’s a surefire star on the next level. But in my opinion, that’s a rather big “if”.
Something to keep in mind when watching these prospects is to think how their games will mesh with the current Clippers. If you get a wing, it’s almost crucial they can rebound the ball to make up for Gordon’s weakness in that category. If you draft a big, you’d like him to be able to distribute and operate comfortably in the high post so he could work with Griffin in the low post. It’s an interesting dynamic to think about when watching the games.
Throughout this wonderful time of year, Clipperblog will be right here with you every step of the way analyzing the prospects and looking ahead to the future.