Tyrone Wallace caught a pass moving to his right one minute into the second quarter Saturday, changed direction and drove to the rim, where he pump-faked twice and bounced a shot off the backboard for a basket and a six-point Clippers lead.
It was exactly the type of play coach Doc Rivers likes to see from the second-year reserve whose drives have created points for the Clippers and earned the 60th overall selection in the 2016 NBA draft a spot in the team’s rotation.
Wallace has scored on 69% of his drives this season, the third-highest rate on the team, according to Second Spectrum tracking data. Rivers calls him an “elite attacker” and feels the Clippers play fastest when Wallace is on the court.
“The darndest thing watching it — I can’t figure what is different, but it is,” Rivers said. “We get the ball up the floor more, we attack earlier and so he has an impact when he’s on the floor for us.”
Technically, the Clippers play at their fourth-fastest pace when Wallace is on the floor, according to Second Spectrum, behind oft-injured Luc Mbah a Moute, Sindarius Thornwell and Mike Scott. But good things tend to happen when he plays. The Clippers’ turnover percentage is their second lowest and the assist-to-turnover ratio their third best when he’s on the court.
“He’s been great,” Rivers said.
Wallace, who finished with eight points on four-of-nine shooting and four rebounds in 20 minutes Saturday, proved his value last season. As injuries ravaged the Clippers’ roster, executives mined their G League affiliate for depth and Wallace benefited by playing 30 games. The Clippers matched New Orleans’ offer sheet for Wallace in the offseason.
His instinct to drive, rather than pull up for a shot, is a product of a work-in-progress jumper and the instructions he received as a rookie, Clippers coaches said. Because Wallace bounced between the NBA and G League, coaches didn’t want to overload him and asked him to focus on what he did best.
He’s seen no reason to change this season.
That ability to drive is good enough that Rivers is unconcerned that Wallace has yet to develop a reliable jump shot. Wallace is shooting 38% on shots taken outside three feet from the rim. It’s not for lack of trying. Wallace is typically one of the last players to leave shootarounds while working with assistant Natalie Nakase.
“I don’t really focus on anyone’s weakness,” Rivers said. “I focus on what he can do, and we try to let him do that. Now, work on your weakness, and good if you ever get it, but clearly I don’t care what he doesn’t do. What he does do, he’s an elite attacker. To me, why wouldn’t you always do that? And that’s what I try to get him to do.”
There’s no guarantee Wallace will see a dramatic change in his role. He’s played 8.3 minutes a game this season.
Rivers said he is “not that concerned if he gets 20 minutes or two minutes.”
“If we need him and it fits, then yeah,” he said. “But I don’t think a coach is ever trying to get anyone minutes. Coach is trying to win a game.”
AT GOLDEN STATE
When: 5:30 p.m., Sunday
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