One year later, the influence of the 2018 NBA draft is felt all over the Clippers’ roster.
The Clippers used their two picks in last year’s lottery to trade for point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and select shooting guard Jerome Robinson. They acquired a third first-rounder in sharpshooter Landry Shamet nearly eight months later at February’s trade deadline, as part of a multi-player swap with Philadelphia.
The rookies proved valuable immediately, averaging a combined 67 minutes per game during the playoffs, with Gilgeous-Alexander and Shamet earning starting roles and an abundance of praise for their mettle. The trio’s future contributions are expected by the team to be no less significant.
Replicating that kind of instant-impact production during the 2019 draft, to be held Thursday at Barclays Center in New York, appears difficult for the Clippers, at least on its face.
The Clippers own the 48th and 56th selections, both of which will come toward the end of the 60-pick draft’s second and final round. The team had a first-round selection, but keeping it required missing the playoffs. When the Clippers earned a postseason berth that pick, which ultimately became 20th overall, went to Boston.
In recent weeks the team hosted closed-door workouts with prospects generally regarded as late first- or second-round picks. That included Auburn guard Bryce Brown, Murray State guard Shaq Buchanan, Buffalo guard Dontay Caruthers, Campbell guard Chris Clemons, North Carolina A&T guard-forward Terry Harris, Wisconsin forward Ethan Happ, Virginia Tech guard Ahmed Hill, Purdue Fort Wayne combo guard John Konchar, Nevada forward Cody Martin, North Carolina forward Luke Maye and Kansas State forward Dean Wade.
Versatility and experience are the common threads linking them. Ten of the 11 played four college seasons.
Brown averaged 15.9 points and shot 41% on three-pointers for an Auburn team that advanced to the Final Four. Buchanan was his conference’s defensive player of the year and led the team in steals as a senior. Caruthers is considered a shutdown perimeter defender and was tutored by former NBA guard Lindsey Hunter. The 5-foot-9 Clemons averaged an NCAA-best 30.1 points. Harris is the younger brother of former Clipper Tobias Harris. Happ averaged a double-double for the Badgers, with his scoring and rebounding marks ranking in the top five in the Big Ten. Hill was a four-year player for the Hokies and averaged a career-high 13.1 points as a senior.
Konchar is the first player in NCAA men’s history to compile at least 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 500 assists and 200 steals. Martin was one of only seven Division I players last season — a group that included Happ and Konchar — to average at least 12 points, four rebounds and four assists and shoot better than 50% from the field. Maye averaged 14.9 points and 10.5 rebounds for the Tar Heels. Wade, at 6-foot-10, shot 41% on three-pointers while averaging 12.9 points a game.
Moving up into the first round is a possibility. The Clippers sent a full front-office contingent, which included owner Steve Ballmer, to May’s draft combine in Chicago in order to be prepared in case a targeted player slips or the team moved up via trade.
Considering the contracts of guards Sindarius Thornwell and Tyrone Wallace — former second-round selections themselves — are non-guaranteed for next season, it’s possible the Clippers use both of their second-round picks as a way of adding low-cost options to bolster their end-of-bench depth.
In the immediate future, those players would play on the team’s Summer League team in Las Vegas. Next season, they could be developed through the Clippers’ G League affiliate in Ontario, where younger players facing limited opportunities at the NBA level have received more playing time.