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"The Clippers New Backcourt"
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They earned spots in the Clippers’ rotation last season as rookies, both Sindarius Thornwell and Jawun Evans carving out their niche as defense-oriented guards, their playing time increasing as injuries to teammates mounted.
Now, the two second-round draft picks are almost afterthoughts because...
The Clippers play game two of their Las Vegas Summer League slate tonight against the Sacramento Kings.
With one Summer League game in the books, Clippers’ fans have been eagerly awaiting game two of Jerome Robinson and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in Clippers uniforms. The Clips will take on the Sacramento Kings at 8:00 PM Pacific Time tonight at Cox Pavilion on NBATv. Here’s a few things to look for in tonight’s contest:
Shooting, shooting, shooting: The Clippers shot 7-26 from deep in their first game, and most of those looks were wide open. Worse, the Clippers’ rookies were only 3-12, a poor number that will hopefully improve tonight. While numbers aren’t very important in Summer League, bricking open threes is never a good sign. Jerome is ready to shoot as soon as he’s open, but I’d like to see the other Clippers’ roster guys (Shai, Jawun Evans, Sindarius Thornwell) be a little more willing to pull from deep when given the chance. All of them need to work on their shots, and there’s no better practice than getting reps in live gameplay!
Jerome on-ball: As Lucas said in his recap Friday night, Jerome Robinson spent most of his time off the ball in the Clippers’ first game. I do think that he needs to work on that part of his game, because almost everyone in the NBA outside of the very top playmakers spend a good portion of their time off-ball, but I also would love to see him unleashed running the pick and roll with Shai moving off the ball. He’s the best shooter on this Summer League (and it’s not close), which makes him an interesting lead option (especially in the Summer League setting). Robinson’s ability to get shots off and create for others is invaluable on a Clippers’ SL team that struggled to get good looks at times, and he could score 30 points easily if given the full green light. While the Clippers might be looking to see other things from him, as they know he can handle and score, it would still be fun to see him get going with the ball in his hands.
Different rotations: The Clippers played 11 guys on Friday, with one of those (Jaylen Johnson) only getting two minutes. Summer League is an opportunity for everyone on the roster to prove themselves, so expect to see at least a couple of the guys who didn’t get minutes in game one get some run tonight. That bucket includes former Clippers’ draft pick David Michineau, sharp-shooting guard Jordan Matthews, versatile scorer Bogdan Bliznyuk, and forward Tyler Harris.
Jawun redemption: Jawun Evans had a rough opening game, scoring six points on the same number of shots with two turnovers in just 12 minutes of game time. He’s a player who should excel in Summer League due to his speed and passing ability, and it would be great to see him get into more of a rhythm tonight. Look for him to push the pace a bit more in this game and have a bounceback performance. Still, the best sign from him would be a bit more patience on offense, and demonstrating the ability to slow down instead of going full speed all the time.
Vincent Hunter: Vince was the only Clippers’ big man to play well in game one, scoring nine points and pulling down eight boards in just 14 minutes. He was perfect from the field, and had the most energy and bounce of any of the big men. That makes him a suitable matchup against Kings’ power forward Marvin Bagley, who’s extremely athletic and will be a tough cover for Grant Jerrett or Angel Delgado.
Kings’ Players: The aforementioned Bagley is the Kings’ biggest-name player, as he was taken 2nd in the 2018 NBA Draft just a few weeks ago. He hasn’t had a great Summer League so far, but that might make him all the hungrier tonight. More impressive has been last year’s 20th pick Harry Giles, who spent all year rehabbing an injury, but who has demonstrated some of the talent that made him one of the top-ranked high school players in the country. The Kings are also running out point guard Frank Mason and wing Justin Jackson, both of whom are second-year NBA players and capable of getting hot from deep. Finally, Ike Iroegbu, a standout on the Agua Caliente Clippers last year, has been playing minutes for the Kings off the bench. He too, can be a phenomenal scorer when he gets going.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander dribbled the ball in his left hand on the left wing as Golden State’s Josh Magette shaded the Clippers rookie to the right while Warriors teammate Jordan Bell feigned help defense on the baseline.
Gilgeous-Alexander hesitated his dribble for a brief moment as he scanned...
Every year NBA fans lose their minds over young prospects’ play in Summer League. Does anything actually matter in Summer League? If so, what?
When NBA fans have top prospects on their Summer League teams, their performance is highly scrutinized. This is fine— it’s what fans do. And it also makes sense. When the players in question are rookies, it is the fans’ first chance to see them in NBA uniforms, their first look at the rookies in a setting even close to approximating the NBA. If the players are veterans, fans are excited to see what they’ve added to their games since the end of the season, and how they look against lesser competition. Basically, there are legitimate reasons to pay attention to Summer League, and get excited for it.
There is also some evidence that Summer League play can provide real insight into NBA success. This is more true in negative cases: if a player struggles hard in Summer League, regular NBA play is unlikely to be any easier for them. The key with Summer League is not necessarily to look at stats, but at skills, and how likely they are to translate to the NBA.
Take, for example, the Clippers’ game yesterday. As Lucas already wrote about in the recap, Sindarius Thornwell was the Clippers’ standout player yesterday, leading their offensive efforts and contributing strong defensive play. His stats looked fantastic. But stats are misleading in Summer League. Teams are playing with little practice time, and certain types of play are rewarded more than others.
Thornwell played really well yesterday. But he played in a way that’s difficult to see succeeding at the NBA level. On offense, he mostly went straight at defensive players, using his superior strength and size to muscle his way to the hoop and finish over defenders. The average player who will be guarding Thornwell in the NBA will be bigger, stronger, and better defensively than the smaller guards he trampled Friday night. Rather than showcasing an improved finishing ability, or flashing tightened handles, Thornwell played much the same as he did last year in the NBA, but with better results because the quality of play was lower.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, on the other hand, shot a mere 5-19 from the field. If you just looked at the boxscore, you’d think he had a bad game. But he demonstrated the precise skills and abilities that made him such a desired prospect, and did so in ways that promise translation to the NBA. He was measured on the court. He got to his spots whenever he wanted. The Clippers’ offense looked noticeably better with him on the court, running more smoothly and generating easier looks. Those are traits that you want to see from any point guard, and having them all shown by a rookie in his first game was truly impressive. Shai has issues. His “spots”, more often than not, are midrange jumpers and long floaters, and those are difficult, inefficient shots that he settles for too easily. His shot in general, especially from deep, clearly needs work. But the passing, the quickness, and the smooth handles are qualities that should be present at the next level.
In general, stats just aren’t as important in Summer League. If someone is missing all their threes, or shooting a horrible percentage from the field, that’s obviously not a good sign. But even more than regular NBA play, Summer League is context dependent. The sample sizes are small, teams aren’t truly built to fit or play well together, and practice time is low. So, when watching Summer League, pay attention not to the results, but to process, and approach. The goal of Summer League isn’t to win the games, but to showcase talents that will be useful in the NBA. Players, therefore, should be evaluated in the same manner.
After weeks of speculation regarding Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Lakers, the Los Angeles Clippers have emerged as the new favorites to land Leonard. The Los Angeles Lakers have naturally been connected to Kawhi Leonard due to his current status in San Antonio and his desire to play in Los Angeles. However, despite signing […]
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The Summer Clippers stumbled in their first game together as a team.
Summer league basketball is almost never aesthetically pleasing, but for much of tonight’s game between the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors, it was worse: the entire atmosphere in the arena was lacking as the tenth and final game of the day, featuring no headliner stars, played out in front of an almost empty Thomas and Mack Center.
It’s hard to take much away from the Clippers’ performance tonight as a group, but that’s fine—this team’s success is meaningless. For the record, however, the Clippers did manage to win two of the four quarters in tonight’s game, giving them two “quarter points” which count in their favor in a potential tiebreaker for playoff seeding.
Here’s some brief notes on what different Clippers showed us on an individual level tonight:
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: Boy, is this guy a special basketball player. The box score stats, which aren’t great, don’t speak to the poise and comfort that SGA displayed tonight. While he shot a disappointing 5-19 from the field, most of his attempts were quality mid-range looks, where his patience and length allow him to consistently produce the shots that he wants. The issue comes with the efficiency from that spot—the mid-range game has largely become extinct in the NBA because it can’t mathematically compete with attempts from the rim or three. Shai needs to be more selective with his mid-range shot and use it as a counter to help himself get to the rim, and he definitely needs to work on his effectiveness from range. All that being said, there’s just a certain aspect to Shai’s game that’s undeniable:
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has It™️— Summer League Lucas (@LucasJHann) July 7, 2018
- Jerome Robinson: I was a little surprised at how small Jerome’s role was today—he barely got chances to produce on the ball, mostly serving as a finisher of offensive plays than a creator of looks. It’s certainly a safe role for him as a rookie, but it would be nice to see a little more experimentation with his offensive game, letting him try to break down defenders off of the dribble. Robinson also only shot 2-7 from deep tonight, which was disappointing, but we have a large enough sample size to know that he’s a very good shooter who just missed some shots today. The rest of his game—the aforementioned creative development, and his performance defensively—will determine what his role can be in the NBA.
- Sindarius Thornwell: Thornwell was easily the player of the game for the Clippers tonight, totaling 18 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assist, 2 blocks, and 1 steal. But it’s hard to see which portions of his offensive game will translate consistently against real NBA competition. He has a tendency to bully his way to the rim, which is less effective against bigger, stronger NBA athletes, and despite hitting two threes tonight, his shot form doesn’t seem to have been corrected since the end of the regular season. It’s the other end of the floor—his energy, defensive quickness and positioning, and strength/length to switch across positions are the real assets that make him an interesting prospect. Combined with the length of Shai at the point guard position, and Jerome’s solid size at SG, it gave the Clippers a versatile, deflection-happy perimeter defensive unit tonight.
- Jawun Evans: There’s no putting it lightly: Jawun was really bad tonight. He shot 2-6 from the field, had 0 assists and 2 turnovers, and finished -19 in 12 minutes. In a game that the Clippers only lost by 6, that’s a big swing for the second unit to give up, and Jawun was the catalyst in their shortcomings. Fortunately, it’s just one summer league game, and it doesn’t mean much. We know that Jawun is capable of more after his performances at the NBA level last season. However, his summer league performances, combined with off-season workouts and training camp, could determine whether the team has room for him on the roster next season. He’ll have to prove his value over Sindarius Thornwell, who has more traditional NBA size and was more impressive tonight, to be safe.
- The Bench: This Clippers’ team isn’t replete with fringe NBA talent, and it shows. Outside of the team’s big three of SGA, Robinson, and Thornwell, only Vince Hunter (9 points, 8 rebounds on 3-3 shooting in 12 minutes) really contributed positively. The substitutes, aside from Hunter and Evans, shot 0-11 from the field. All Clippers aside from Hunter and the big three combined for 5-30 from the field. It doesn’t really matter what the makeup of your team is—you aren’t going to have success when contributions from your supporting cast are that sparse.
- DNP-CD: It’s hard for a coach to play 15 guys every night, so even in the summer league, players often have to rotate turns riding the pine. Tonight, that was David Michineau, Jordan Matthews, Tyler Harris, and Bogdan Bliznyuk. I expect that all of them will get opportunities in coming games, especially if the team starts to lower the minutes of their higher-profile prospects to protect them from potential injury.
The Clippers’ next game is Sunday, July 8th, against the Sacramento Kings at 8:00 PM on NBATV.
Clippers rookies Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson got their first taste of NBA basketball Friday night and both were solid during their performances in the NBA Summer League at Thomas & Mack Center.
Gilgeous-Alexander, taken 11th overall in June’s draft, had 13 points and four assists...
Here’s everything you need to know.
The NBA Draft may have only been two weeks ago, but man, am I ready to see Shai Gilgeous -Alexander and Jerome Robinson make their Clipper debuts. We need to temper our reactions to any player’s summer league performances (I know better than anyone), but that doesn’t mean we can’t be excited to get a chance to watch the two highest-drafted Clipper rookies take the court.
And, unlike with some past Summer Leagues, every Clippers fan will be able to check out the rookies’ debut: this game is Friday’s nightcap, being broadcast live on ESPN at 8:30 PM Pacific time. The Clippers’ other two LVSL preliminary games, on Sunday and Monday, will be shown on NBATV.
In fact, SGA and Jerome aren’t the only two prospects who we’ll be excited to see get plenty of burn in Las Vegas this week. Second-year players Jawun Evans and Sindarius Thornwell, each of whom contributed as rookies after being second-round draft picks a season ago, are also set to be on the roster, joined by David Michineau, the Clippers’ 38th overall pick from 2016 who has been stashed in France for the last two seasons.
Summer league success is often heavily guard-dependent: a lot of undrafted free agents and second-round rookies struggle majorly in match-ups against top prospects and older players with more experience and physical maturity. This was put on display with the Clippers’ 2016 team in the Orlando Summer League, whose entire guard rotation was built from undrafted free agents, with the exception of second-round rookie David Michineau. All of those guards struggled immensely, and the talent disparity was so large that the Clippers were unable to run any kind of consistent offense and they ended up losing every game. Last summer, the Clippers brought in Kendall Marshall, an experienced NBA and G-League guard, to bring a steady hand to the offense in case Jawun Evans and David Michineau had growing pains. It was effective, and while the Clippers won’t have a player with Marshall’s level of experience this summer, they will have a pretty strong guard core featuring five drafted players, including Evans and Thornwell’s NBA experience from last season and Michineau’s two prior summer leagues.
While the talented guard prospects are certainly the highlight of this Clippers’ summer league team, there’s reason to expect that head coach Casey Hill, who is the head coach for the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario, will employ some pretty fun strategies. The only other guard on the Clippers’ SL roster is Jordan Matthews, a local, undersized sharp-shooting off-guard. The roster also only features two real big men: monster rebounder Angel Delgado, who is on a two-way contract with the Clippers for next season, and stretch big man Grant Jerrett.
That essentially guarantees that the Clippers will spend most of their time in Vegas playing a small, up-tempo style around Delgado, filling out the forward positions with a combination of shooters, athletes, and three-guard lineups featuring Jerome Robinson or Sindarius Thornwell at small forward. The Clippers don’t really have roster spots for these players to earn camp invites and have a shot at making the team, but it’s possible that a true standout could give himself a shot at a non-guaranteed deal and a training camp invite. Additionally, plenty of these guys could end up on ACCO next season, as was the case with several of the Clippers’ summer league favorites last summer.
In their first game, this Clipper crew will go up against the Golden State Warriors—and they’ll actually be at somewhat of a disadvantage. The Summer Warriors have already played three games together at the Sacramento Summer League, giving them a trial run in advance of tonight’s Las Vegas opener.
The high-profile names on the Warriors’ Summer League roster are Damian Jones (the team’s first-round pick from 2016), Jordan Bell (the 38th overall pick in 2017), and Jacob Evans (the 28th overall pick in 2018). Evans was limited in Sacramento due to a couple minor injuries, but hopefully he’s healthy and ready to go for some fun match-ups in Vegas.