With the 2014 NBA Draft in less than a week, it’s time to examine some of the prospects the Clippers might select with the No. 28 pick.
There are nine guys officially on the books next season — Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Jared Dudley, Reggie Bullock and Willie Green. A quick glance at the roster reveals a few glaring needs.
First and foremost, the Clippers need a third big man. It was an issue all of last season, and while Big Baby had moments of competence in the playoffs, he clearly isn’t the long-term solution. This is priority No. 1.
Darren Collison is reportedly testing free agency, and will likely seek more money than the team is willing to offer. Therefore, finding his replacement is a possibility.
And, as has been the issue the last few seasons, the team’s wing depth is somewhat deceiving. It’s a mishmash of parts, with no players outside of Redick and (sometimes) Barnes providing consistent two-way production. There isn’t enough reliable 3-point shooting, or size and athleticism defensively, so any player that meets those requirements is also an option.
Though this is an extremely deep draft, the Clippers shouldn’t expect to find anything more than a rotation-quality player late in the first round, which is fine. There are several prospects – most notably Adrien Payne, Elfrid Payton, P.J. Hairston, T.J. Warren and Clint Capela – that are ideal fits, but will likely be out of Los Angeles’ range.
That being said, here are some realistic prospects the team will be targeting, separated by position and then ordered by fit/talent:
PG (Connecticut – Senior)
22 years old | 6’1″ | 175 lbs
While Napier will almost certainly go higher than this, he’s probably the Clippers’ pick if he’s available. In theory, Napier is among the most NBA-ready prospects — he is fearless and carries himself with a rare poise — and could partially replicate Collison’s production from Day 1.
Napier is a crafty ball-handler with good vision and scoring instincts, opting to mainly attack via pick and rolls and isolations, and occasionally through transition. He already has NBA 3-point range on his jumper, and can create his own shot from virtually anywhere on the floor.
There are drawbacks, of course. He doesn’t finish well in traffic, can make poor decisions (whether it be turning the ball over or taking inefficient shots), and has inconsistent technique and effort defensively. More important, his lack of size and athleticism could translate poorly in a point guard-dominated league.
Moreover, Napier doesn’t have a high ceiling — he’ll be 23 in one month — and his reputation has been somewhat inflated by his pedigree (UConn, two national championships, national exposure, etc.). Still, he projects as an above-average backup and is a steal at No. 28.
PG/SG (Missouri – Junior)
22 years old | 6’5″ | 186 lbs
Clarkson’s name has gained traction over the last few weeks, as he’s skyrocketed some 20 spots into the end of the first round because of impressive shooting in private workouts. Questions remain about his ability to develop a consistent stroke and his actual position, but he’s talented enough to quell those worries.
He is a gifted scorer who knifes his way to the rim and contorts his body in the air, finishing with an array of layups and floaters. At 6-5, he has the size to see over smaller point guards, which compensates for his subpar court vision. He is by no means a natural point guard, and is prone to head-scratching turnovers (jump passes, push offs, etc.).
Though he has the length (6-8 wingspan) and athleticism to be disruptive on defense, he’s a below-average on-ball defender. It doesn’t help that he’s extremely thin. That won’t matter much if he ends up playing point guard, but if he has to transition to the 2, it could be an issue.
Similar to Napier he’s already 22, theoretically limiting his upside. But as long as he can harness his physical gifts properly and develop his shot into a reliable weapon, Clarkson will find his niche.
Honorable mentions: Vasilje Micic, Spencer Dinwiddie
SG/SF (Clemson – Junior)
21 years old | 6’6″ | 196 lbs
Of all the wing prospects in the Clippers’ range, McDaniels is as athletic as anyone and probably the furthest along defensively, making him the most tantalizing option. Los Angeles definitely needs better 3-point shooting than what he provides (31 percent this season), but long, athletic lockdown defenders don’t grow on trees.
But that’s shortchanging McDaniels. He can do a little bit of everything, prompting legendary coach Larry Brown to dub him the “human stat sheet”. There’s some hyperbole behind that statement, obviously, but McDaniels is the rare player that can affect every facet of the game.
He is the best shot-blocking wing available and, arguably, the best shot-blocker in the draft. He uses his 6-11 ½ wingspan and 37-inch vertical to suffocate defenders and contest their shots, and sneaks behind unsuspecting opponents for chasedown blocks. McDaniels defends multiple positions well, is quick laterally, dominates the glass, and despite his slight frame, won’t be pushed around.
So why would he drop this low? Well, his lackluster shooting. Also, he’s not good at creating off the dribble, he can hang out on the perimeter and settle for jumpers too often, and he has bouts of passivity on both ends of the floor. Regardless, McDaniels is a shot-tweak away from being a 3-and-D guy, and as a terror in transition, fits right in with the Lob City moniker.
SF/PF (UCLA – Sophomore)
20 years old | 6’9″ | 230 lbs
The traditional point forward, Anderson boasts a rare combination of skill and versatility for someone his size. He has arguably the hardest stock to pinpoint — he could be a late lottery pick or an early second-rounder, and neither outcome would surprise. Chad Ford dubbed him an “acquired taste”.
Optimists see that he’s the best passing and rebounding wing in the draft, he can easily post up and shoot over smaller defenders, he’s an underrated mid-range and 3-point shooter, he’s smart and selfish, his wingspan (7-3) allows him to rack up blocks and steals without trying, and he has a feel for the game that only special players have. Think Shaun Livingston pre-2008.
Pessimists see his “Slo-mo” nickname, his lack of burst and foot speed, his frail frame, his low vertical, his poor lateral quickness, his turnover issues, and his unique style of play that is difficult to conform to a rigid system or position. Is he a small forward? Can he defend any forwards? What about point guards? Will defenses render him ineffective?
His lack of athleticism will make his adjustment to the league more difficult, but he’s far too talented to drop this far. While he might not fit as well as other players, the Clippers would be foolish to pass on him.
SG (UCLA – Sophomore)
19 years old | 6’5″ | 209 lbs
The first thing you notice about Adams is the variety of ways he can score. He is not a dominant isolation player, but he can dissect a defense in any other manner. Adams is especially adept at bullying smaller, weaker defenders on the block, and he’s mastered finding openings off curls and cutting into space. He is an intelligent, crafty offensive player.
The downside to the beauty of offensive skills is that they somewhat mask a glaring weakness — he’s not athletic or in great shape, which limits his current ceiling. Furthermore, he is somewhat undersized at 6-5, though he compensates with solid length (6-10 wingspan) and a sturdy frame (220 lbs.).
Adams leads all prospects in steals per 40 minutes (3.5), and has good instincts and anticipation on both ends of the floor. His lack of lateral quickness and propensity to gamble hurt his defensive output, though, and he can occasionally fall asleep in help side or against ball screens.
No one knows how his offensive game will adjust to the pros — can he get his shot off consistently against longer and far more superior athletes? Adams projects as a sparkplug bench scorer, but can stand to lose some weight and work on his discipline defensively.
SF/PF (Wichita State – Senior)
23 years old | 6’7″ | 209 lbs
It’s impossible to find a player whose draft stock benefited more from the NCAA tournament than Early’s. His 31-point, 7-rebound effort in a loss to Kentucky essentially made him a first-round lock and, at one point in the process, a potential lottery pick.
If McDaniels separates himself from the wing crop defensively, Early distances himself with his shooting from deep (37.3 percent). But he can also score inside, drawing fouls well (7.3 FTAs per 40 minutes) and finishing through contact. His versatility in transition is impressive, as he’s capable of spotting up, pulling up, leading the break or filling the lane.
Early is the classic tweener, which means he’ll likely transition to power forward, as the great Kevin Arnovitz likes to say. This makes sense, as he has limited ball-handling skills, can’t create for others and struggles on the perimeter defensively. The issue is that, in spite of his wide frame and palpable athleticism, he struggles against length and size inside — something he’ll have to deal with constantly.
Much like Napier and McDaniels, he can contribute right away. It’s just a matter of fit and how much he ultimately improves, especially in his decision-making and consistency.
SF (Syracuse – Sophomore)
20 years old | 6’8″ | 214 lbs
The son and nephew of brothers and former NBA players Harvey and Horace Grant, respectively, Jerami passes the eye test. He is one of the most athletic players in the draft, with the frame, quickness, fluidity and hops that leave GMs drooling. Grant is the proverbial high-risk, high-reward pick.
On the one hand, he’s long (7-3 wingspan), athletic and defensive-minded. While his fundamentals could use some polishing in the right system, he can defend 2 through 4 immediately. Grant is a nightmare in transition and any other time he’s around the rim, cuts into open space well, and has a pedigree that certainly doesn’t hurt.
On the other hand, he’s extremely limited offensively. He is a poor 3-point shooter (he made six 3s in two seasons), a below-average shooter inside the arc (he shot 29 percent on all jumpers, according to Draft Express), doesn’t handle the ball well and will jeopardize his team’s spacing. Plus, he’s the conventional tweener with no clear position.
Grant needs to add some strength and fix his shot — if he can’t do the latter, he may be out of the league in a few years. Otherwise, he has the potential to carve out a role as a versatile, defensive backup forward.
Honorable mentions: C.J. Wilcox, Glenn Robinson III, Bojan Bogdanovic
PF (Tennessee – Junior)
20 years old | 6’8″ | 263 lbs
Stokes is a throwback to 90s smash-mouth basketball. He is a power player who loves to operate in the low post, crash the glass and bang inside. At just 6-8, he’s clearly undersized for a power forward, but his wingspan (7-1) and girth make up some of his limitations.
He is the best offensive rebounder in the draft, as his sneaky athleticism (36-inch vertical), tree-trunk lower base, and nose for the ball give him subtle advantages. Stokes shot 61.6 percent on second-chance opportunities, via Draft Express, and isn’t a Reggie Evans-type that is afraid to shoot when recovering a board and will automatically pass the ball back out.
Most of his scoring comes from brute force, and that’ll need to change at the next level. His post moves are somewhat basic, and he isn’t quick enough to separate himself from his defender. He can struggle against length and players of comparable size — his 8-7 ½ standing reach ranked last among the combine’s power forwards — and he will never be a rim protector defensively.
However, Stokes is young for his grade, so there’s room for growth and development. He’ll still need to make some wholesale changes, though, such as learning how to defend pick and rolls and adding a reliable mid-range jumper. The right team, like the Clippers, can mold him to fit their vision for him.
C (Michigan – Sophomore)
22 years old | 6’10” | 263 lbs
Role players are underappreciated. Doing the little things is important, but it’s a thankless task. McGary isn’t going to score on the low block or pop out and hit jumpers regularly, but he can finish at/under the rim (shot 61 percent this season, according to Synergy), keep possessions alive offensively, get some deflections, and set crushing screens. His “motor” is insane.
The southpaw offers little rim protection — he has a stubby 6-11 ½ wingspan — but has a high IQ and plays defensive angles well. His size and strength will allow him to body opponents in the post, and he was able to show and defend pick and rolls reasonably well. He can swing games by diving on the ground for loose balls, taking charges and passing up good shots for better ones.
At the same time, some concerns persist. He’s going to struggle to finish against length and quickness. He is not a good shooter or scorer, and he has limited upside. McGary only broke out in March Madness of his freshman year, and dealt with a back injury his sophomore season before skipping town because of a scandal and an impending suspension.
McGary has the potential to be a good fourth big man (i.e. second big off the bench), and maybe even a third if he maximizes his potential and adds a respectable 16-to-18-foot jumper. That may not sound like a good first-round pick, but depending who’s already off the board, he’s a safe, smart selection.
Honorable mentions: Patric Young, Nikola Jokic, Walter Tavares
Stats provided by ESPN, Draft Express, Synergy Sports and Sports-Reference.