The big news from the Los Angeles Clippers this month (besides the polarizing uniforms) is the trade with the Charlotte Hornets that sent starting SF Matt Barnes and backup PF Spencer Hawes away in exchange for SG Lance Stephenson.
I’m sure we’ll discuss Stephenson a ton between now and November. I had to chime in on him briefly for a 3-on-3 last November, and things were worse, not better. Stephenson had the worst three-point shooting season of all-time for any player who attempted at least 100, had fewer dunks all season (two) than Barnes had in the postseason (four), and went from opening day starter to starting zero games after Christmas.
Head coach Doc Rivers is correct to tap the brakes on Stephenson as the starting SF. But he’s going to play. There will be a domino effect. Someone is going to be moved.
So what does this all mean for SG C.J. Wilcox, last year’s 1st-round draft pick?
Stephenson is 6’5″, 230 pounds, and turns 25 years old in September. Wilcox is 6’5″, 195 pounds, and turns 25 in December. I spoke with Wilcox in April just before the end of the regular season, and he explained that his rookie season was dedicated to preparing him for the future:
Here’s the thing with Wilcox: if he was younger, he probably doesn’t fall to the end of the 1st round. Wilcox is old for a player just finishing his rookie season. But the Clippers still put a redshirt on him, and they did something with Wilcox that they hadn’t done with any player in almost three years: assigned him to the D-League.
Of course, Wilcox was only in the D-League for a couple of weeks. He spent the rest of the season watching and learning, especially from SGs J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford. Wilcox, like Redick, spent four years in college. Wilcox played at Washington, which allowed him to develop a relationship with Crawford before the two were teammates. Wilcox’s game is much more Redick than Crawford, as his best pro tool right now is his ability to shoot with range. Wilcox made 301 threes in college (at 39 percent overall), while making 7-of-19 (37 percent) in 101 minutes with the Clippers last season. Wilcox made 9-of-20 (45 percent) in 122 minutes in the D-League.
Wilcox mentioned that the coaches do want him to improve his ballhandling, which was a weakness for him in college. Wilcox’s handle won’t be compared to Crawford’s anytime soon, but the Clippers will probably want to see if Wilcox (a SG only type) can develop some kind of versatility. And while Wilcox has a thin frame, it’s worth mentioning that his 6’9.75″ wingspan is close to Stephenson’s (6’10.5″) while Wilcox had a much better vertical coming out of college (37.5″) than Stephenson (33″).
… None of this will matter, though, if Wilcox gets moved. One report this week threw out the possibility of Wilcox being included in a trade that would help the Clippers fill their hole at SF. Wilcox saw what happened to 2013 1st round SF Reggie Bullock, as Bullock was involved in a trade to bring PG Austin Rivers to Los Angeles in January. (Last month, Rivers described that trade like this: “People said we gave up too much; I’m not sure what we gave up. A second-round pick at the end of the day.” Sorry, Reggie.)
Rivers also said the day after the Clippers were eliminated by the Houston Rockets that he likes Wilcox “a lot”, adding that he “liked the way he worked all year. It’s hard to work and not play.” Rivers also said that the summer will help to determine whether or not Wilcox can be a rotational piece. Remember, Wilcox missed summer league last year due to a shoulder injury.
Clippers rookie guard C.J. Wilcox has a right shoulder injury that will prevent him from playing in summer league in Las Vegas, sources.
— Brad Turner (@BA_Turner) July 3, 2014
With the draft on Thursday, it is unlikely that the Clippers are done making moves this month. If Wilcox is on the roster in two weeks, he’ll get a chance to show the team in Orlando that he is ready to take on a bigger role. I find Wilcox to be an interesting piece of the Clippers’ offseason. Wilcox said the coaches planned on using him next season. Are those plans interrupted now that Stephenson is here?