NBA draft night is Thursday, though in the Clippers’ case, it’s always been more accurate to describe it as something else.
Every draft since 2015 has involved at least one Clippers trade, from buying their second-round spot with cash, to trading first-round picks, to trading a future first-round pick turn to step up a gear or dispatch established veterans for experienced rotation players. . In 2020, a three-team deal landed them last year’s most accurate three-point shooter, Luke Kennard. In 2021, they swung three trades to grab Brandon Boston Jr., Keon Johnson and Jason Preston.
Methods change, as do front-office decision-makers, but not movements.
This year could be an exception.
The Clippers don’t have a first-round pick; Oklahoma City controls team selection due to the 2019 trade to acquire Paul George. What they have is the 43rd overall pick, and league watchers have described the team as uninterested in dropping out of the draft altogether, while not seeming motivated — for now, anyway — to progress.
If they retain their 43rd overall pick, the Clippers will add a player to an already full roster with expectations to compete for the franchise’s first NBA Finals appearance next spring. The majority of next season’s minutes for the prospect could be in the G League.
The Clippers’ roster is already wing-laden, and combined with the belief that the Clippers are pursuing a veteran point guard this offseason, and a point guard draft class described as not particularly deep, some league watchers believe that the Clippers could end up with a forward or center.
Unlike other teams, the Clippers do not announce the players they have welcomed into their facilities for pre-draft practices. Still, those confirmed to have worked in front of the team’s brass reflect a wide range of positions and skills.
Guards included 6-foot-5 Javante McCoy of Boston, who worked twice, 6-5 Jalen Williams of Santa Clara, 6-3 Collin Gillespie of Villanova, 6-3 Alonzo Verge Jr. of Nebraska, 6-4 Izaiah Brockington of Iowa State, 6-5 Dereon Seabron of North Carolina State, 6-5 Taze Moore of Houston and 6-4 Lucas Williamson of Loyola Chicago.
Wingers and forwards have included former Chino Hills High star Eli Scott of Loyola Marymount, 6-7 NCAA champion Kansas Christian Braun, 6-8 Gui Santos of Brazil, 6-7 Darius Days of the Louisiana State, 6-6 Buddy Boeheim of Syracuse and 6-6 Jared Rhoden of Seton Hall.
Big men were also the focus, from 7-2 Aleksander Balcerowski of Poland, 7-2 Kai Sotto of the Philippines, 6-9 Keve Aluma of Virginia Tech – one of Aluma’s 15 pre-draft workouts to across the NBA — and 6-10 Terrell Brown-Soares of San Diego, who also reportedly worked twice. Brown-Soares is a product of the Boston Amateur Basketball Club, which was founded by Clippers scout Leo Papile and also counts Clippers winger Terance Mann among its alumni.
Once the draft is complete on Thursday, the team will quickly focus on building the roster that will play at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, with games July 9, 12, 13 and 15. By June 29, the team must decide whether to exercise its $7.5 million option next season on starting center Ivica Zubac, and whether to make Amir Coffey, Jay Scrubb and Xavier Moon of restricted free agents by extending their qualifying offers for a year.
Forward Nicolas Batum is expected to decline his player option for next season worth $3.3 million, making him an unrestricted free agent, a move that would see Batum earn a bigger contract as the team has attacking rights. Publicly, he indicated a strong desire to stay with the Clippers on a new contract.
In May, in a translated appearance on French media, Batum said coach Tyronn Lue had “saved my life” for helping rejuvenate his career at its low point, after a worse year in career led Charlotte to give it up.
“I’m staying with Tyronn Lue until he wants to get rid of me,” Batum said. When the interviewer suggested that his free agency issue was settled, Batum replied “totally”.
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