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Should The Clippers Use The 2016 NBA Draft As A Powerball Ticket Or A Scratch Off?

I'm done! Jayne Kamin-Oncea - USA Today Sports

Doc Rivers can play it safe or take a shot.

The question posed in the title — do the Clippers want a powerball ticket or a scratch off — gets at the crux of their NBA draft strategy. At the backend of this year’s first round there are two types of players: rotation players and boom or bust picks. Brice Johnson, Taurean Prince, Malik Beasley, and DeAndre Bembry (who would also double the number of “DeAndres” on the team) are all roughly the same level of “solid”; they will, at the very least, contribute to an NBA franchise off the bench, but we shouldn’t expect them to do a lot more. On the other end of the spectrum there is Zhou Qi, Ivica Zubac, and Cheick Diallo. These foreign big men have varying degrees of footage readily available, are extremely raw, and have ideal physical foundations to become substantial NBA-level contributors — the question is whether or not they will ever build on those foundations and contribute.

This is the calculus that every team at the latter half of the first round must conduct, but should be particularly illuminating for the Clippers, as it will likely tell us much about the direction that the franchise is heading in with Steve Ballmer, Doc Rivers, and Lawrence Frank at the helm. The Clippers have found themselves at a crossroads of sorts: they’re competitive and talented enough to be in the picture, but vexed enough to find themselves on the outside looking in when May rolls around. 

There have been many arguments for and against keeping the team together, some on this very site. But, beyond the continuity of the core of Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and DeAndre Jordan, there is little discussed about the future direction of the franchise. Since Doc Rivers took over front office duties, he’s handled the post as someone attempting to maintain a contender, rather than build for the future (although, as shown by the Thunder, that distinction may be nebulous). With Blake Griffin’s impending free agency and Chris Paul’s coming a year after that, observers should learn a lot about their strategy going forward. 

If they elect to press on with this group and attempt to re-sign or trade Blake next year, they will likely continue to draft players that they believe can come in and fill a role for the team in the near future. Their previous two first-round draft picks — C.J. Wilcox and Reggie Bullock — were drafted with this in mind, as Rivers believed there was a chance that they could come in immediately and be used as three point scorers. Thanks to J.J. Redick’s elite scoring and the continued scoring prowess of Jamal Crawford, they have been relied upon minimally; Bullock is actually no longer with the team. If they elect to “explore other options,” it would make sense to take a chance on a player like Thon Maker or Zhou Qi, who would not be a difference maker right away, but could possibly be an impact maker down the road. 

This being the case, we’ll look at a few of players from each group that make sense for the Clippers to target with the No. 24 and No. 33 picks. 


Powerball Picks

Ivica Zubac is the most alluring European post-presence in the draft (not counting Pöltl). The 19 year old has the ideal frame for an NBA center at 7‘1”, 250lbs and is a great finisher. His hands are just incredible. The delicacy with which he can catch and dump the ball into the rim is cause for marvel; awesome finisher for his age around the rim and in pick-n’-roll. Unfortunately, however, he’s already had foot and lower body injuries in Europe, which is the ultimate red flag for a big man. If the Clippers believe that he can stay healthy, he could turn into Cole Aldrich on steroids. 


While Zubac has the ideal frame, Zhou Qi looks like the final stage of a giraffe morphing into a human. His standing reach is 9‘5” and for frame of reference, Yao Ming and Wilt Chamberlain’s were both 9‘6”. It’s not often that you get a player that can touch the rim on his tippy toes. The questions here (and there are many) are whether or not you can add 20-25 pounds to his 7‘2”, 205lb frame, whether he can become mentally and physically strong enough to handle the rigors of the NBA, if he’ll be able to play his game and shoot threes against NBA-level athletes, and if he can stay on the court. If you believe that he can, he is a solid bet to be a three-point threat and rim runner on offense and a rim protector on defense; he’d be well worth the pick. 

Along those lines, Patrick McCaw, is listed at 6‘7”, 185lbs, but he looks even thinner in motion. This lack of strength prevented him from being great around the rim in college and it’s a legitimate question whether or not he can do it against NBA athletes. Beyond his limitations in frame, though, he’s an awesome athlete, with good quickness and bounce, and could turn into an effective three-point shooter at the NBA level. He has a great floater. He reminds me a lot of Will Barton, and the Clippers bench sure could use a bit of energy. 


Other players that merit a look in this section are Thon Maker, Furkan Kormaz, Chieck Diallo, and Guerschon Yabusele

Scratch Offs

As mentioned above, these are players that are ready to immediately contribute at the NBA level, and there may be no draftee more NBA-ready than Taurean Prince. The Baylor alum is an extremely hard worker, has a nice shot, and has the Justise Winslow, Andre Roberson-like ability to come into the NBA and contribute immediately on defense (a rarity in the league). He has good lateral quickness and wingspan for a player of his size, which gives him the ability to switch on almost all pick-n’-rolls, a premium skill in today’s NBA. The Clippers really lack size and quickness on the wing and, although he’s not the sexiest pick, he’d fill a massive gap in the roster. 

Image title

Taurean Prince gets acclimated to low oxygen levels. Winslow Townson - USA Today

Malcolm Brogdon, out of Virginia, makes almost too much sense not to be taken. The Clippers trotted out the corpse of Pablo Prigioni last season and tried to convince the world that he was living. While this “Weekend at Bernie’s” basketball tale, was entertaining, the Clippers need more impact in the backcourt. While Brogdon probably shouldn’t be your primary ball-handler, he doesn’t have to be with Jamal Crawford taking the primary duties for the Clippers’ second unit. Brogdon is a smart, plug and play player, who could be a difference maker next season. 

So, too, could Cat Barber, Barber’s stock has been up and down throughout the draft process, but one thing has not changed: he’s the fastest player in the draft. He looked like absolute lightning in a bottle against NBA competition at the combine and should be able to get to the rim and attack at the next level. Like Brogdon, he’s not a traditional point-guard. Barber is not one to “pass first” and he doesn’t have much defensive upside, but he pack a punch for a good team off the bench. He reminds me a lot of Leandro Barbosa. 


Other players that merit a look in this section are Brice Johnson, Malik Beasley (who I talked about in my Magic draft preview and the Clippers should absolutely draft if he’s available), Juan Hernangomez, Denzel Valentine, and Gary Payton II.

With two picks in the 20-35 range, the Clippers are actually in a pretty great position in this draft. The lottery picks have higher upside, but I’m equally as convinced by many of the players in the late-first range and there should be a lot of value on the board. The exciting issue for the Clippers to tease out, though, is which type of team they want to become.  


The Draft Order and Team Needs

1. Philadelphia 76ers
2. Los Angeles Lakers
3. Boston Celtics (From Brooklyn)
4. Phoenix Suns
5. Minnesota Timberwolves
6. New Orleans Pelicans
7. Denver Nuggets (From New York)
8. Sacramento Kings
9. Toronto Raptors (From Denver)
10. Milwaukee Bucks
11. Orlando Magic
12. Atlanta Hawks (From Utah)
13. Phoenix Suns (From Washington) - Second 1st Round Pick
14. Chicago Bulls
15. Denver Nuggets (From Houston) - Second 1st Round Pick
16. Boston Celtics (From Dallas) - Second 1st Round Pick
17. Memphis Grizzlies
18. Detroit Pistons
19. Denver Nuggets (From Portland) - Third 1st Round Pick
20. Indiana Pacers
21. Atlanta Hawks - Second First Round Pick
22. Charlotte Hornets
23. Boston Celtics - Third First Round Pick
24. Philadelphia 76ers (From Miami) - Second First Round Pick
25. Los Angeles Clippers
26. Philadelphia 76ers (From Oklahoma City) - Third First Round Pick
27. Toronto Raptors - Second First Round Pick
28. Phoenix Suns (From Cleveland) - Third First Round Pick
29. San Antonio Spurs
30. Golden State Warriors

37. Houston Rockets (From New York)
42. Utah Jazz
46. Dallas Mavericks
55. Brooklyn Nets (From Los Angeles)

No Picks: Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers, Washington Wizards

Edited by Joe Sparacio.

SQuiz
Who did the Clippers draft with their first selection in 2012
Created 6/22/16
  1. Trey Thompkins
  2. Furkan Aldemir
  3. Travis Leslie
  4. Willie Warren

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