Despite presumably missing out on the first pick in the upcoming 2011 NBA Draft, the Clippers will have to pick themselves and move on with the 37th and 47th picks. Trying to project the second round of the draft has become nearly impossible, as it is too difficult to predict which players will fall from first round allure (DeJuan Blair, DeAndre Jordan, etc.), which players will become surprisingly productive (Gilbert Arenas, Carlos Boozer, Manu Ginobili etc.) and which players will disappoint. Therefore, take these projections with a grain of salt.
I’m sure the Clippers – as well as every other organization – will take the best player available over their projected 2nd round pick. With that said, here are the most updated projections of the Clippers’ draft picks from a few trustworthy sources (all heights and weights are from ESPN.com/NBA):
37th pick- Norris Cole, PG, 6’2, 175 lbs., 22 years old, Cleveland State
47th pick- Jon Leuer, PF, 7’0, 223 lbs., 22 years old, Wisconsin
37th pick- Nolan Smith, PG, 6’4, 188 lbs., 22 years old, Duke
47th pick- Jereme Richmond, SF, 6’7, 207 lbs., 19 years old, Illinois
37th pick- Keith Benson, C, 6’11, 217 lbs., 22 years old, Oakland
47th pick- Travis Leslie, SG, 6’4, 205 lbs., 21 years old, Georgia
37th pick- Chandler Parsons, SF, 6’10, 221 lbs., 22 years old, Florida
47th pick- Greg Smith, C, 6’10, 253 lbs., 20 years old, Fresno State
By taking a general look at these projections, a couple of trends immediately jump out. First, in three of the four drafts the Clippers surprisingly selected a guard (two PGs and one SG), an interesting projection because of the seemingly crowded backcourt the Clippers currently have – Eric Gordon, Mo Williams, Eric Bledsoe, Randy Foye and last year’s second round pick, Willie Warren.
At this point, it appears the Clippers will be looking for mainly frontcourt help. For now, Eric Gordon is the second best (or best) player on the team, and will be backed up by Randy Foye. Despite certain critics calling for the departure of Mo Williams, he and Bledsoe seem to have all 48 minutes at point guard locked up next season. Consequently, there isn’t much backcourt room unless an upgrade over Foye and Warren presents itself (unlikely in the 2nd round, but definitely possible through free agency or a trade).
Secondly, in all four mock drafts, the Clippers were projected to draft a frontcourt player (mostly big men), highlighting the fact that the Clippers need an upgrade at the small forward position, as well as depth behind Griffin, Kaman and Jordan.
At this point, Al-Farouq Aminu isn’t ready to take on 28-30 minutes a night, meaning Ryan Gomes or Jamario Moon (yeah, right) will have to combine to play at least 25 minutes a night or so. With respective PERs of 9.0 and 8.4, it appears their playing time will continue to be a hindrance to the Clippers’ success.
Thus, L.A. might be targeting the best available small forward in the 2nd round, hoping to land a player capable of alleviating Gomes of his misery. This player would hopefully be a knockdown shooter (a major need — Gordon and Williams are their only above average shooters), capable of creating their shot (another need as Gordon and Griffin are the only two players who can consistently do so) and who isn’t a defensive liability (I know, this is wishful thinking for a 2nd round pick).
Furthermore, depending on the team’s off-season decisions (which may be foreshadowed by their draft choices), the Clippers should look for a back-up power forward behind Griffin (if Craig Smith and/or Ike Diogu don’t return) or another center to back-up Jordan or Kaman (if the Clips choose to trade Kaman or not re-sign Jordan).
According to ESPN.com, here are the players the Clippers would be targeting at this part of the draft if they were looking for primarily frontcourt help (in no particular order): Jeremy Tyler, Nikola Vucevic, Tyler Honeycutt, JaJuan Johnson, Jordan Williams, Lucas Nogueira, Jon Leuer, Trey Thompkins, Kyle Singler, Nikola Mirotic, Keith Benson and Jereme Richmond.
This isn’t a very deep draft, but if the talent lies anywhere, it’s most likely in the frontcourt. In reality, the Clippers don’t have much to lose, as 2nd round picks don’t have guaranteed contracts, so if they make a drafting mistake it won’t cost them too much. The Clippers probably won’t find an All Star, or even a starter, but a few players in the second round will pan out and turn into solid role players at the least. If recent drafts are any indication, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Clippers find just the guy they’re looking for.
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