NBA draft night is Thursday, although in the Clippers’ case, it was historically more accurate to describe it as something else.
Every draft since 2015 has involved at least one Clippers transaction, from buying into the second round with cash, exchanging first-round picks, trading a future first-round pick to move up, or shipping established veterans to veteran rotary players. In 2020, a three-team deal landed them Luke Kennard, last year’s most accurate three-pointer. In 2021, they swapped three trades to snap Brandon Boston Jr., Keon Johnson and Jason Preston.
The methods are changing, as are the decision makers in the front office, but the moves are not.
This year could be the exception.
The Clippers do not own a first-round pick; Oklahoma City controls team selection due to the 2019 trade to acquire Paul George. What they have is 43rd pick overall, and league watchers have described the team as uninterested in swapping the draft altogether, while also – for the moment anyway – appearing undriven to move up.
If they retain their 43rd overall pick, the Clippers will add a player to an already sizable roster who are expected to compete for the franchise’s first NBA Finals appearance next spring. The bulk of next season’s minutes for the prospect could be in the G League.
The Clippers’ roster is already full of wings, and combined with the belief that the Clippers are chasing an experienced point guard and a point guard draft class described as not particularly deep this offseason, some league watchers believe the Clippers are with a forward could end or center.
Unlike other teams, the Clippers do not disclose which players they have placed at their facility for predraft workouts. Still, those who have confirmed training ahead of the team reflect a wide range of positions and skills.
Guards included 6-foot-5 Boston’s Javante McCoy, who trained twice, 6-5 Santa Clara’s Jalen Williams, 6-3 Villanova’s Collin Gillespie, 6-3 Nebraska’s Alonzo Verge Jr., 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 included former Chino Hills High star Eli Scott of Loyola Marymount, 6-7 Christian Braun of NCAA Champion Kansas, 6-8 Gui Santos of Brazil, 6-7 Darius Days of Louisiana State, 6-7: 6 Buddy Boeheim of Syracuse and 6-6 Jared Rhoden of Seton Hall.
Big men were also in 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 in the NBA – and 6-10 Terrell Brown-Soares from San Diego, who also reportedly trained twice. Brown-Soares is a product of the Boston Amateur Basketball Club, which was founded by Clippers scout Leo Papile and also counts Clippers wing Terance Mann among its alumni.
Once Thursday’s draft is complete, the team will quickly focus on filling out the roster that will play in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas with games on 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 make Amir Coffey, Jay Scrubb and Xavier Moon restricted free agents by selling them qualified by one year.
Forward Nicolas Batum is expected to turn down his $3.3m player option for next season, making him an unrestricted free agent, a move that would allow Batum to secure a bigger deal as the team has the early bird rights of the forward. He has publicly expressed a strong desire to stay with the Clippers on a new contract.
In May, Batum said in a translated appearance to French media that coach Tyronn Lue “saved my life” by helping to rejuvenate his career at its lowest ebb after a worst year of his career resulted in Charlotte turning to him have renounced.
“I’m staying with Tyronn Lue until he wants rid of me,” Batum said. When the interviewer suggested that the matter of his free agency was settled, Batum replied, “Absolutely.”