After a prideful yet disappointing end to the 2020-21 season, the Clippers will look to the future with decisions to be made across the board. Kawhi Leonard has a contract decision to make, key role players are set to be free agents, and this front office is always quietly active on the trade market.
Before any of that, however, the Clippers have a decision to make with the 25th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. They could, in Clippers fashion, trade away the pick for a solid rotation piece or higher draft pick, but for the sake of this article, we are assuming the Clippers will look to take a draft prospect at #25.
It’s hard to accurately assess team need when guys like Serge Ibaka and Kawhi Leonard have player options on their contracts headed into next year. Both can either choose to stay, opt-out and re-sign, or leave altogether. Then you have key contributors like Nicolas Batum and Reggie Jackson who may have played themselves into more money than the Clippers can afford to give them.
Regardless, there is always room for improvement, and the Clippers seem to always be on the market for a better point guard and a better center.
Patrick Beverley and Reggie Jackson make up a solid NBA backcourt, but neither are considered to be traditional point guards or playmakers. Jackson may have earned himself a contract about the veteran minimum next season with his unearthly playoff run.
In much the same way, Ivica Zubac and Ibaka are one of the better 1-2 punches at the center position in the league, but both have their limitations. Zubac is still young and developing his game, but even his clock is ticking if he isn’t able to keep consistent development into his mid-20’s.
All that being said, the Clippers don’t have a glaring need at any one position right now, but scoring and size are always needed, especially as a bench piece on this championship-hopeful roster.
Potential 2021 Draft Prospects
Usman Garuba | 6’8 – F/C – Spain
Garuba is a big, high-energy forward that makes his living doing dirty work in the paint. He has measured a 7’2 wingspan, a full 6-inch difference from his standing height, giving him the tools to be a dangerous presence in the paint on both sides of the ball.
Garuba’s lack of a consistent jump shot will likely prevent him from playing much power forward early on, but he has shown potential for improvement on the offensive side of the ball with flashes of a shooting stroke, ball handling, and high-IQ passes.
His biggest strength comes from his incredible feel for defense. He can time blocked shots incredibly well, and even when he mistimes them, he’s quick enough to still recover and contest. He has a knack for knowing how to keep up with smaller ball handlers or bigger post players, and he has the length and versatility to match. Garuba is also an exceptional offensive rebounder.
Tre Mann | 6’5 – G – Florida
Clippers adding another T-Mann to the roster??? Sign me up!
In all reality, Mann has become one of the premier shot makers in this draft class during his sophomore season at Florida. The 6’5 guard has NBA-ready length at the shooting guard position and shot upwards of 40% from behind the arc last season, while also creating several opportunities for himself both inside and outside the arc.
Mann has already shown the potential for improvement, boosting his scoring average from 5.3 to 16.0 PPG in just one summer. Even considering the increase in playing time, Mann’s per 40 scoring average jumped from 12.0 to 19.8 during his last season with the Gators.
With decent size and a pure shooting form, Mann can fit in with most teams in the league. The Clippers have a recent history of leaning heavily on their bench through injury-riddled stretches in the regular season. Mann looks to be a great plug-and-play option as a shot-creating bench guard with high long-term potential.
Isaiah Jackson | 6’10 – F/C – Kentucky
Jackson has been described as a pogo stick, and I couldn’t have said it much better myself. The lanky forward has an adept ability to quite literally bounce off the floor, sometimes more than once in the span of a few heartbeats. He can protect the rim extremely well and has shown flashes of true skill and touch when finishing around the rim.
Coming into the league is primarily a defensive prospect, Jackson looks to be teeming with offensive potential. He hasn’t displayed any consistent post moves yet, but his shooting form is above average, and his ability to finish layups and dunks in traffic is already approaching elite for a young player of his size.
While the Clippers have taken 6’10 big men in each of the previous two drafts (Mfiondu Kabengele and Daniel Oturu), if Jackson is still on the board at pick #25, don’t be surprised to see the front office take another chance on the raw athletic big man from Kentucky.
Cam Thomas | 6’4 – G – LSU
This would be more of a “best available” pick rather than a “team need” pick, especially if the Clippers are able to bring back Reggie Jackson next season. Thomas averaged 23 PPG as a freshman at LSU last season and did so from virtually everywhere on the court. He can shoot from distance, pull up off the dribble, finish at the rim, and is an exceptional free throw shooter.
I can very easily see Thomas developing into a Lou Williams, Jordan Clarkson type of role in the NBA. A pure scorer leading a bench unit but not quite having the defensive presence to hold down a starting job.
Given, this comparison might make this pick less likely for the Clippers considering they just traded away the blueprint for a 6th Man scorer in Lou Williams. Regardless, Thomas’s scoring arsenal is too developed to completely ignore this late in the draft. If the Clippers are looking for more offense off the bench with this pick, Cam Thomas is their guy.
Ayo Dosunmu | 6’5 – G – Illinois
Dosunmu is actually quite similar to Terance Mann in terms of physicals. He stands at 6’5 with a nearly 6’11 wingspan, giving him the tools to be an active NBA defender from the jump.
However, in contrast to Mann, Dosunmu is more of a true facilitator. He can orchestrate an offense as the primary ball-handler, displaying the ability to drive past defenders, finish at the rim, and find the open man after collapsing a defense. In fact, his finishing ability is among the best in the entire draft.
If he’s such a good penetrating guard, why would he fall this low in the draft you might ask? It would be primarily due to his developing jump shot and lack of overwhelming athleticism. Neither of these things makes him “unplayable” in today’s NBA, but both could help his overall stock. While Dosunmu has the ability to knock down jumpers, his shooting form is not traditional and not overly consistent. He also looks to play below the rim a majority of the time, using his creativity and high IQ to get off shots in the paint.
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