For rookie C.J. Wilcox, the time is not now


It seems like the 2014 NBA Draft was just yesterday.

In a hotel stationed in the middle of San Francisco, rushing from a conference, I sat in a trance, anticipating the biggest draft since LeBron James and friends took the stage. You had Andrew Wiggins. You had Joel Embiid. You had Jabari Parker. And so on and so forth.

But my interests lied elsewhere — what were the Clippers, coming off a second-round exit, going to do with their lone pick, the 24th overall pick to be exact.

The options were there depending on which source you lent and ear or eye to: rumors emerged of the Clippers looking for a 3-and-D player (Gerald Green, Iman Shumpert, etc.), offering the 24th pick as prize. On some draft boards, big man Patric Young was the Clippers pick. On others, the Clippers swayed toward wing production, with Kyle Anderson, K.J. McDaniels, and other notables appearing.

But when he pick hit the board, the Clippers went in a not-talked-about route, selecting University of Washington guard C.J. Wilcox.

The pick was met with criticism: why would the Clippers draft a shooting guard, a shooting guard who was offensively able and defensively inept a year after drafting Reggie Bullock. Why would the Clippers draft a guard when they desperately need big-man depth? Why would they draft a shooting guard when they needed another defensive-minded presence the wing?

Fast forward 20 days prior to the season opener versus the Oklahoma City Thunder and Doc Rivers’ vision is a bit clear: even if Wilcox never touches the floor this season, he’s here for future purposes.

Unless injury decimates the wing, there’s a platoon of characters in front of him on the depth chart: J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Matt Barnes, Jordan Farmar, Reggie Bullock. But in two years? The landscape of the franchise will look a bit different.

In the summer of 2016, the Clippers will have two wings on the roster: a 32-year-old J.J. Redick and Reggie Bullock.

“his ability to knock down shots and his ability to create in a secondary ball-handling role. In this NBA, those two skills are huge. They need improvement, especially the latter skill”

It’s unclear what Redick will be able to give two years from now. If he follows the Ray Allen path, he’ll still be productive on both ends, but lacking more on defense than he is now. This leaves the door wide open for Wilcox to step into the frame and emerge as a key piece on a team that expects to still remain in championship contention talks.

In the last few seasons, Doc Rivers’ offense have done best with a versatile shooter at the two — we saw it in Boston with Ray Allen and are currently seeing it with Redick. Wilcox falls into that mold of player. Having broke down Wilcox’s game earlier in the off-season, two things stuck out: his ability to knock down shots and his ability to create in a secondary ball-handling role. In this NBA, those two skills are huge. They need improvement, especially the latter skill, but if Paul remains an elite point guard and Blake Griffin keeps to his ascension to superstardom (and if DeAndre Jordan is re-signed), Wilcox will be able to step into the perfect role.

But now? The D-League seems to be the best option, if willing. As of now, the Clippers lack their own Development League team meaning they’re forced to share the Fort Wayne Mad Ants with half the league. While the Clippers fight toward the Larry O’Brien trophy, there shouldn’t be any time off for Wilcox. Does the D-League automatically refine any and all flaws? Likely not, but it’d be much better than wasting away on the inactive list or sitting on the bench for 48 minutes a night.

The potential is there for C.J. — in this league, if you can shoot, you can be a rotation player. Will he be Ray Allen? The Clippers may not need him to be, but if Wilcox can shoot toward the Kyle Korver or J.J. Redick role (what a perfect mentor for Wilcox to have) plus some, the future at shooting guard will look pretty good for the Clippers.

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