Heading into the draft, the Clippers’ main need is, shocker, small forward. They probably don’t need another guard with Gordon, Williams, Bledsoe, Warren and Foye under contract. At this point, much is out of the Clippers’ control (as far as who drops to 37th and 47th), and all they can do is strategize and maximize their draft potential.
The problem with drafting a small forward is that, after the first round, the depth of talent drops severely to D-League levels. Nikola Mirotic, Tyler Honeycutt, David Bertans, Chandler Parsons, Kyle Singler, Jimmy Butler, Bojan Bagdanovic and Jereme Richmond are all players that could fill the Clippers’ need, but the most likely scenario involves four or five of these players ending up as first round draft picks due to the relatively weak draft.
That enough makes the draft difficult to predict, however, with the emergence of the Kaman trade rumors and DeAndre’s restricted free agency, the draft will be even more volatile because of the Clippers potential lack of centers. Therefore, drafting at least one big man is likely for the Clips.
At this point, the pickings for center look slim just like at small forward. Nikola Vucevic is out of their range (once a second round lock, he’s now projected as high as 14th by Chad Ford), leaving the Clippers with Jeremy Tyler, Jordan Williams, JaJuan Johnson, Keith Benson and Jon Leur as potential center candidates. Power forwards Trey Thompkins and Justin Harper also fit the bubble first round profile the Clippers seek, and could be drafted by LA as well.
Here are updated mock draft projections for the Clippers (all heights and weights are from official Combine Measurements):
37th pick- Jeremy Tyler, C, 6’11, 262 lbs., 19 years old, Tokyo Apache
47th pick- Jon Leur, PF, 7’0, 223 lbs., 22 years old, Wisconsin
37th pick- Malcolm Lee, PG, 6’6, 198 lbs., 21 years old, UCLA
47th pick- Keith Benson, C, 6’11, 217 lbs., 22 years old, Oakland
37th pick- Jimmy Butler, SF, 6’8, 222 lbs., 21 years old, Marquette
47th pick- David Lighty, SG, 6’97 216 lbs., 23 years old, Ohio State
37th pick- Brad Wanamaker, PG, 6’3, 208 lbs., 21 years old, Pittsburgh
47th pick- Andrew Goudelock, SG, 6’3, 198 lbs., 22 years old, College of Charleston
It’s unlikely the Clippers will draft Goudelock (ranked #58 on Chad Ford’s Top 100), Lighty (#64) or Wanakmaker (#65) with either of their picks. Honestly, none of three appear to be NBA-ready or have one quality that could transfer to the league (maybe Goudelock and Lighty’s shooting range, but neither are NBA athletes and both lack the necessary size to play shooting guard).
Malcom Lee, once a projected lottery pick, would be considered a steal in the mid-to-late 2nd round, although his position (point guard, maybe shooting guard) is sort of redundant with Gordon, Bledsoe, Williams, Foye and Warren already under contract.
Benson and Leur have the size to become rotation players, but neither will likely become more than a 10th or 11th man.
But, the most intriguing player for the Clippers in this draft is Jeremy Tyler. He was a top prospect in high school, and still possesses the characteristics that could make him a valuable player. Most mock drafts have him going in the first round, such as Chad Ford’s Mock Draft 5.0, in which Tyler goes 25th to Boston (he’s “long, raw and athletic,” to quote Chad Ford), and there’s a lot of speculation that Tyler will be drafted by Miami (#31) or Cleveland (#32) if he’s not taken in the first round.
However, Tyler slips to the Clippers at 37th (DraftExpress) and 47th (HoopsWorld) in a couple of other mocks. I think it’s unlikely that he’ll be on the board at the Clippers’ 47th pick, just due to his talent, but 37th seems reasonable due to his documented character issues and the fact that he struggled overseas the past two seasons. Regardless, a lot of the same red flags popped up about Brandon Jennings (another American-born player who took his talents to Europe), and Jennings turned out just fine. And if the Clippers got a player of similar value to Jennings in the second round, that would be a big steal of the draft.
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