Intuition tells Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson that they can grow into a prosperous duo for the Clippers.
They are two long and athletic guards who joined the Clippers during the NBA draft Thursday night, Robinson coming by way of the 13th selection and Gilgeous-Alexander via trade after Charlotte took him 11th overall before shipping him to the Clippers for their 12th pick of Miles Bridges and two future second-round draft picks.
Gilgeous-Alexander and Robinson aspire to become the future backcourt of the Clippers.
“I feel like that’s kind of where it starts,” Robinson said late Thursday night in New York. “This game is a lot a guard-driven game. You have two great guards back there and you can make a good run. You just keep adding pieces to it and it makes the team great. I think having us, that’s an awesome thing.”
Gilgeous-Alexander is the 6-foot-6 point guard with dazzling skills who shined even while playing a lone season for a star-studded Kentucky team. He had to work his way into becoming a starter with the Wildcats.
He plans to put in more work with the Clippers, his goal the same as that of Robinson, which is for the two of them to become a force for the Clippers.
“We both know we have to work hard, but we both have always done that,” Gilgeous-Alexander said after the draft. “There are a lot of great backcourts in the NBA. There are a lot of great point guards in the NBA. I can’t wait to get started.”
The Clippers will not rush either Gilgeous-Alexander or Robinson, preferring to let the pair develop in a natural progression.
After all, Gilgeous-Alexander is only 19 and Robinson just 21.
They probably will get their first taste of NBA life by playing on the Clippers’ team at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas in July.
“It’s always a process,” said Lawrence Frank, the Clippers’ president of basketball operations. “You never can quite predict it. What you try to do from an organizational standpoint is you try to provide them with all the resources they need to be able to be as good as they can be.
“The great thing about these guys is I think both have such high expectations of themselves. Our organization will push them. We’ll support them. And I think the process will kind of define the results.”
With all the talented and skilled players on Kentucky’s team, it was Gilgeous-Alexander’s job to try to keep the group pleased by getting them all touches. Gilgeous-Alexander demonstrated he could make it work by averaging 14.4 points and 5.1 assists.
“I’m a playmaking guard, a pass-first point guard,” he said. “I like to get teammates involved. I’m a good leader, a likable guy. I’m really just willing to do whatever the team needs me to do to win.”
The Clippers immediately were impressed with Gilgeous-Alexander when they interviewed him at the NBA combine in Chicago last month.
Frank said they talked with Gilgeous-Alexander about “servant leadership” and deduced that the young man had the goods.
“There are some people who lead just by the law of attraction,” Frank said. “And the one thing that really got us excited about Shai is when you talk to his teammates and you say, ‘Who’s the hardest worker?’ [They say] SGA. ‘Who’s the best connector?’ [They say] SGA.”
Robinson thrived during his three seasons at Boston College. The 6-5 shooting guard was the second-leading scorer (20.8 points) and ranked seventh in three-point shooting (41.9%) in the tough Atlantic Coast Conference last season.
“The Clippers are the team I want to play for,” Robinson said. “So this was good for me.”
Frank said players from the ACC the Clippers interviewed told them Robinson was one of the most difficult players to defend in the conference.
“And Jerome, again, he has that little chip on his shoulder,” Frank said. “He wants to prove to everyone that, ‘Yeah, I’m pretty good too.’ ”