If nothing else, Clips fans will have a chance to do some thorough scouting over the next few weeks as the Tourney headlines the basketball world. Assuming that Elton Brand declines his opt-out -- not a certainty but, given the injury, seems likely – the Clips will be in the market for a backcourt scorer and, preferably, a prospect who can play the point.
So whom should you be watching?
- Jerryd Bayless: No secret here. Bayless personifies everything the Clippers desperately need in their backcourt – an athletic ballhandler who can create off the dribble and shoot the rock from beyond. And look at those FTA numbers: Double-digit attempts in five of his last 10 games. Bayless’ attributes aren’t limited to the offensive end. Arizona interim head coach Kevin O’Neill demands that his squad play a straight-up man defense, and Bayless has been up to the challenge. O’Neill has routinely assigned Bayless the opponent’s best scorer and Bayless' quick lateral movement has served him well. Bayless isn’t flawless. He had a horrendous night against USC’s triangle-and-two a couple weeks back, wilting under the constant ball pressure, racking up six turnovers in the process. But all and all, Bayless has shown an uncanny breadth of skills that you want from your PG – penetration, range, ballhandling, the ability to guard opposing points, and good instincts in the halfcourt game.
Arizona vs. West Virginia: Thursday, 640p PDT
- Derrick Rose: The consensus is that the Clips would have to break the Top 3 to have a real shot at Rose. The Memphis guard is more of a pure point than is Bayless, but don’t take that as any suggestion that he can’t create. Rose can take anyone off the dribble and is a born slasher who seemingly never loses the handle or full vision of the court on a drive. Memphis’ success in transition can largely be attributed to Rose’s running the show. On the other end, you’ve probably seen the pressure D that Memphis employs, and Rose is one of its lynchpins. Rose isn’t a great shooter from long-range yet, but his stroke looks fundamentally sound and that’s often an indication of a guy who will grow into his shot.
Memphis vs. Texas-Arlington: Friday, 655p PDT
- Eric Gordon: A collegiate combo guard who probably has limited point potential in the pro game. Few players have helped themselves over the course of this season than Gordon. Clipperblog hasn’t seen much of Gordon because it has found Big 10 Basketball very difficult to watch this season. That said, you don’t have to watch much of Gordon to recognize his preternatural ability to shoot the basketball. Gordon has a fluid, quick release whether he’s catching-and-shooting or pulling up. And he’s another slasher who knows how to work his way to the line. Clipperblog can’t comment firsthand on Gordon’s defense, but scouting reports tell of a quick defender who uses his athleticism to stay in front of opposing guards and his strength to fight through screens. The Clippers haven’t shown much of a willingness to field a combo guard at the point, but they’d be lucky to have Gordon on any account – though, according to projections, he seems unlikely to drop to 6th.
Indiana vs. Arkansas: Friday, 640p PDT
- OJ Mayo: Chances are you’ve watched him at least a dozen times on television, so you tell me? Personally, I’ve been impressed with his off-the-ball play – and credit Tim Floyd for setting up [insisting on] more than just isolation sets for Mayo, even though there are some nights when there isn’t another soul on the floor who can make shots for USC. Mayo has slashed his turnover rate over the past month, and has moderated his shot selection. I loved his defense on Bayless in their matchup in Tucson. Maybe he was just amped up, but he demonstrated a willingness to -- and, better yet, instinct for – denying shots and anticipating first steps. I know he shoots too much and has an unsettling habit of checking out defensively at times, but I can’t see a scenario in which this 6’ 5” freak doesn’t become a dangerous NBA wing player in some capacity. In other words...I'll buy the hype.
Southern Cal vs. Kansas State: Thursday, 410p PDT
- Russell Westbrook: Honestly -- I didn’t see it at first. 15 months ago, Westbrook didn’t seem like a guy who could work himself a shot in the halfcourt. He was tentative as a ballhandler and didn’t appear to be the kind of pure shooter you’d want in an NBA guard. His shot still needs some refining, but I can’t recall a raw player who has developed instincts at the PG quicker than Westbrook has over the past season. He’s still not a gifted ballhandler, but you don’t run an offense as deliberate as UCLA’s unless you display a heady combination of patience and court sense – and Westbrook has demonstrated that. His athleticism is unquestionable. And then there’s his defense. I don’t know that there’s a better cover man in the PAC-10 than Westbrook. You simply can’t get a decent look against the guy. In some sense, Westbrook is a very Dunleavy-ish player and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Clips plucked him at #6.
UCLA vs. Mississippi Valley State: Thursday, 655p PDT