The NBA Draft is under a month away, which means NBA Draftmas is back. Each day, The Game Haus will review a team’s past season, their team needs and targets. We will continue with the team that has the No. 12 and 13 picks, the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Clippers will not look anything like the 2016-2017 team by the time next season starts. Chris Paul decided he’d rather play in Houston, while Blake Griffin was traded to the Pistons after management deemed him a “Clipper for life”. Despite not having Paul the whole season or Griffin for about half of the year, the Clippers were able to win more games than they lost at 42-40.
While a lot of talent left the roster, the Clippers have a lot of good offensive-minded players that helped them rank ninth in the league in points per game. Lou Williams is the leading returning scorer for next season at 22.6 points per game. Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari and Austin Rivers all averaged over 15 points per game.
Other than scoring, the Clippers didn’t excel in many areas. They allowed 109 points per game, which ranked 24th in the NBA. Even DeAndre Jordan wasn’t able to protect the rim as well as usual, tieing his career low for blocks per game at 0.9. Outside of that they ranked 15th in rebounds per game, 22nd in assists per game and 24th in three-point shooting.
With the loss of Paul and Griffin, the Clippers are clearly in a rebuild and need some new star players. Jordan posted a career high for rebounds but can’t carry an offense at 12 points per game. While Lou Williams is a good player, he was a sixth man on the contending Rockets last season, which is probably a more fitting role, especially heading into his age 32 season. Other players on the team can be key role players, but if the Clippers want to compete, they are going to need a few standout players.
Picks and Needs
First round: No. 12, No. 13
Second round: N/A
With the trade of Griffin, the Clippers have the Pistons pick for the first round. This is increasingly useful as they need to have at least one of their picks develop into a star. They could also use the picks to move up in the draft if there is a player they really like in the top 10.
Jordan has a player option for next season, so the Clippers will need to find out his plans before fully figuring out who they are drafting. Austin Rivers also has a player option, while Avery Bradley (who was acquired in the Griffin trade), is currently not under contract for next season. Williams and Gallinari are they only key players signed past next season.
With all of that contract information, the Clippers could go in just about any direction with their picks. If they get clarification from Jordan and maybe an extension, they can avoid taking a center.
Targets and thoughts
Pick No. 12: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky
With respect to other TGH Draftmas articles, Mo Bamba would be off the board by now. He would be the pick if he falls, like in these articles, but that’s not likely. A player who is likely to be available is Kentucky’s Gilgeous-Alexander.
Gilgeous-Alexander wasn’t the most heralded recruit for Kentucky and had to fight for every minute on the floor. The freshman averaged 14.4 points, 5.1 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game. While not many would consider him an elite shooter, Gilgeous-Alexander hit 40.4% of his threes. He excelled at running the pick and roll and even was able to bail Kentucky out a lot late in the shot clock.
The offense is intriguing with his ability to pass, shoot and drive, but his defense is probably more enticing to NBA teams. He is 6’6″ and can likely guard multiple positions on switches. He has a 7’0″ wingspan which helps him deflect passes and get steals, as he averaged 1.6 steals per game.
One area of improvement that Gilgeous-Alexander will need to work on is his strength. He had the lowest body fat percentage at the NBA Combine, which is a good thing, but he is very thin and needs to add muscle in order to not be pushed around.
For the Clippers, Gilgeous-Alexander can start at point guard and run pick and rolls with Jordan, if he is brought back. His defensive capabilities would help the team’s perimeter defense. He has a chance to become a really good point guard, making him worth the pick at 12.
Pick No. 13: Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M
The 6’9″, 240 pound Aggie could have come out after last season but elected to go back to college for a chance to improve his stock. While his points per game dipped, he did have more rebounds last year. He had a stat line of 10.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game.
One of the biggest knocks on Williams is that he needs to put in more effort. His motor isn’t always running as much as it should be but when he does try, like in the NCAA Tournament, he’s effective. Hopefully getting him to play hard won’t be an issue with Doc Rivers in the NBA.
Williams is athletic, which helps him protect the rim and get a lot of rebounds. He can score down low but he isn’t going to stretch the floor at all at the NBA level.
He is a little bit undersized to play the center position in the NBA but with a lot of teams going with small-ball lineups, he could see some action there. If Jordan decides to stay in Los Angeles with the Clippers, Williams can play the power forward spot next to him. Pick and rolls with Williams and Gilgeous-Alexander would be a thing of beauty for a long time.
There is not much better to help a rebuild than two lottery picks in the same draft. The Clippers have to improve their defense and acquire some star power if they are going to be good in the future. It might take a while to get back to the glory days of “lob city” but the Clippers can get their start in this draft.