An NBA team’s active regular season roster consists of 12 players, with an additional three players relegated to the inactive list, which is essentially a taxi squad.  With the signing of Yaroslav Korolev, the seat map on the Clippers’ charter is filling up quickly.  Not counting Shaun Livingston, the Clippers are carrying eleven contracts into Summer League play – nine of them forwards or centers.  #12 will be the Clippers co-starting point guard, be it Jason Hart, Steve Francis, or Darnell Valentine.  That leaves three vacancies – a third string PG, and two other shooters.

With the emergence of the web, the NBA Summer Leagues has elevated its profile, as basketball junkies [yeah, that means you] are desperate for any kind of off-season informational fix.  For an NBA team, Summer League allows it to [a] get some younger rostered players/signed draftees some minutes in something that approximates an NBA game [Paul Davis, Al Thornton] [b] help fill out those remaining roster spots by examining players whose rights it owns [Jared Jordan, Guillermo Diaz] or guys who have been orbiting around the franchise but don’t have a guaranteed contract [Will Conroy], [c] punish young established players who underperformed last season [Chris Kaman], and [d] find some potential diamonds in the rough among the ranks of the undrafted [Mohamed Abukar, Mike Gansey], James Singleton being the best example in recent years. 

By all accounts, Al Thornton had a nice debut in the Clippers' first Summer League game last night, leading all scores with 24 points.  He snatched eight boards and blocked a couple of shots.  I want to reiterate that Thornton is a tremendous athlete whose energy makes him incapable of shifting into low gear on a basketball court.   In the Summer League’s pick-up style, he’s going to be a force. 

Since the Clippers desperately need personnel who can shoot the ball from beyond 17 feet, it’s no surprise that spot up shooters like Gansey and Abukar [a destitute man’s Rashard Lewis] are picking up considerable minutes.  Abukar scored 19 points on 7-11 shooting, hitting all three 3PA.  Gansey shot 2-4 from beyond for eight total points. 

In the battle for the third PG slot on the roster, Diaz went 7-16 from the field for 15 points and chipped in three assists.  Delayed three hours in DEN, Clipperblog missed the game, but the play-by-play indicated that two of Diaz’s seven makes were of the layup/dunk variety.  Jordan accumulated a very Jordan line – five assists on 2-4 shooting, with five rebounds, and only two turnovers [impressive for a PG in a Summer League game during which turnovers are absurdly plentiful].  Conroy had 8 points in 12 minutes and didn’t record an assist.

Clipperblog has yet to discuss Paul Davis this offseason, but the big guy is becoming one of the most curious players on the Clippers roster.  Just before the draft, APBR-metric guru John Hollinger unveiled a rookie rating system for college players that he’d been working on for quite a while.  Not only is his prospectus – published on on June 26 – great reading, but its prescience is uncanny when you look at the past five drafts.  In short, guys who perform well in Hollinger’s system have, by and large, gone on to have solid careers.  For instance, Hollinger’s formula determined Carlos Boozer to be the best NBA prospect among 2002 draftees even though he was chosen 26th overall.  Hollinger had Josh Howard, Kyle Korver, and David West all ranked much higher than their actual draft position.  In 2004, Hollinger had Luol Deng listed as the top prospect in the draft.

Of note to Clippers fans is Paul Davis’ ranking in the 2006 Draft: 7th best, even though he was chosen 28th overall by the Clips.  We saw glimpse last season of Davis’ mobility around the basket, his sound footwork, and relative quickness for a big white guy -- even though his rebounding rate is just okay.  More important, though, Davis appeared a lot more confident and oriented on the court after the All-Star Break, though his best game was clearly that awful Brent Barry torching by the Spurs in December.   Last night in 31 minutes, Davis scored 18 points with 11 rebounds and a block, with only two turnovers.  That’s a solid outing in any context. 

CORRECTION: Paul Davis' contract is non-guaranteed, and the Clippers have the option of waiving him before July 15 -- though that's improbable.