The LA Clipper’s roster for the 2017 Las Vegas Summer League is looking to be one to watch out for.
The LA Clipper’s 2016 Summer League team was a tad bit disappointing as the team went 0-5 at the Orlando Summer League and scored the lowest amount of points (four points per win, one point for every quarter a team wins) out of the nine teams that competed. What made the team even more disappointing, was the fact that the Clippers didn’t own a D-League team at the time so we knew the undrafted players on the Summer League team had little to no chance of getting progressing further with the Clipper’s organization.
This year, the Clippers are skipping the Orlando Summer League and participating in the larger Las Vegas Summer League with a team of young players that promises to be more competitive than last year. Combine that with the fact that the Clip’s will need to find players to fill out the roster for their new G-League team, the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario, and the roster for the Summer League team become even more intriguing. So far seven players have been signed to or are assumed to be joining the roster and going off of last year’s team, which had twelve players on the roster, leaves five remaining spots on the team.
Here is a list of all the players that are expected to or have committed to playing for the Clipper’s Las Vegas Summer League team:
Brice Johnson-Power forward (25th pick of 2016 draft)
Johnson was one of the bright spots of last year’s Summer League team, averaging 15.4 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the floor. The forward missed the majority of the 2016 NBA season with a herniated disk in his back and was unable to crack into Doc River’s rotation when his back was healed, spending most of his time bouncing between the Clipper’s bench and playing short stints in the D-League. Look for Johnson to be the Summer League team’s starting power forward and hope to see evidence of a refined three-point shot emerging along with an overall increase in his confidence and aggressiveness.
Diamond Stone-Center (40th pick of 2016 draft)
Stone was another bright spot for last year’s summer league and showed a ton of potential while averaging 10.4 points and 5.6 rebounds while shooting 52 percent from the floor. The Clippers drafted Stone knowing that he would be a project but that the young center had plenty of potentials for them to unlock. In his 13 D-League games, Stone showed his upside and averaged 16.2 points and 7.0 rebounds per game while shooting 49.1 percent from the floor and 10 for 27 (37%) from three. Keep an eye out for development in Stone’s overall game including a reliable jumper and improvement on defense.
David Michineau-Point guard (39th pick of 2016 draft)
Michineau was drafted by the Clippers as a draft-and-stash prospect but did come over to the States for last year’s Summer League team. The French point guard showed flashes of potential, averaging 8.2 points and 4.2 assists but only shooting 28 percent. With his rights retained by the Clippers, Michineau went back over to France to play for Hyeres-Toulon in the French LNB Pro A League. In 34 games with Hyeres-Toulon, he averaged 9.8 points and 2.9 assists but still struggled from the floor, only shooting 39 percent. Look for Michineau to show improvements in playmaking and on-ball defense and to have a better shot selection than before.
Sindarius Thornwell-Guard/forward (48th pick of 2017 draft)
The second of two draft picks bought by the Clippers in the 2017 NBA Draft, Thornwell slid farther in the draft than expected and could make an immediate impact with the team. The SEC Player of the Year in his senior season at South Carolina, Thornwell averaged 21.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 2.1 steals and made the All-SEC Defensive Team in ’16 and ’17. The 23-year-old shot around 39 percent from three during his senior year and standing at 6’5 with a 6’10 wingspan, has the potential to be the versatile wing defender the Clippers have been missing. His stellar play was a key factor in the Gamecocks making a Final Four run in last year’s NCAA Tournament and it will be interesting to see if his all-around game can translate to the next level.
Jawun Evans-Point guard (39th pick of 2017 draft)
Projected by many experts to be drafted in the first round, Evans has the potential to be a huge steal for the Clippers as they drafted him with the 39th pick that they purchased from the Sixers. The point guard averaged 19.2 points, 6.4 assists, and 1.8 steals while leading Oklahoma State to the NCAA Tournament in his sophomore season. Measured at just around 6’0, Evans has drawn comparisons to Chris Paul as the OK State offense that he led was one of the most efficient in all of college basketball. Over 56 percent of the point guards total derived offensive possessions ended as with Evans as the pick and roll ball handler according to Synergy Sports Technology which could help him fit on the Clippers, who were in 12th in pick and roll frequency last season at 17.8 percent per stats.nba.com. It remains to be seen how Evans’s height will affect his finishing and defense at the NBA level but his Summer League play may provide some answers.
Isaiah Hicks-Power forward (undrafted free agent)
After going undrafted in this year’s NBA Draft, Hicks signed on to play for the Clipper’s 2017 Summer League team. The big man was the starting power forward for the 2017 NCAA Tournament Champion UNC Tarheels team and put up averages of 11.8 points and 5.5 rebounds while shooting 57.4 percent from the field. Standing at 6’9 with a 7’0 wingspan, Hick’s high energy level, athleticism, and defensive potential are what made him intriguing NBA prospect leading into the draft. His explosiveness and finishing ability make up most of his offensive game but the forward does have an average post game and a somewhat reliable mid-range jump shot. Hicks’s quick feet on defense allow him to switch out and guard smaller players on the perimeter and his defensive versatility could fit well on the Clippers, who seemed to switch on every pick and roll last season.
Luke Nelson-Guard (undrafted free agent)
The senior point guard from UC Irvine worked out with the Clippers prior to the NBA draft and after not hearing his name called in either round, decided to sign on to play with the Clipper’s Summer League team. The London-born guard averaged 16.9 points, 3.0 assists, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.7 steals on his way to winning the 2017 Big West POTY award in his senior season at UC Irvine. Nelson was a four-year starter at point guard and improved on his scoring and shooting through every season, ending at 45.7 percent from the field and 43.2 percent from three. The fact that he only played 18 games in his final season due to injury and that his UC Irvine team lost in the first round of the NIT Tournament may have hurt his stock but the young (21-years-old) senior still had garnered interest from the Clippers, Magic, and Lakers. Making the Clipper’s regular season roster is a long shot for Nelson, but a solid performance in the Las Vegas Summer League could cement him a spot with the Agua Caliente Clippers.
After going undrafted in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Villanova graduate played for the Charlotte Hornet’s Las Vegas Summer League team. Bell only averaged 6.9 minutes and scored only four points in five games, not earning a spot on the Hornet’s D-League affiliate. Since then, the shooting guard has been playing overseas in the Italian A League (Lega A), French A League (LNB Pro A) and most recently the Israeli BSL League team Hapoel Unet Holon. Bell has averaged 14.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.3 steals while shooting 47 percent from the floor and 38 percent from three while leading Hapoel Unet Holon to a lead leaguing 22-11 record. Although his team didn’t make it out of the first round of the BSL playoffs, Bell was named to the BSL 1st Team and is one of the contenders for BSL MVP. Bell’s chances of making the Clipper’s roster is a long shot at best but if the team likes what they see from his Summer League play he may stand a chance at making the Agua Calientes Clipper’s roster.
As of right now, the Clipper’s Summer League team’s roster has two points guards, two shooting guards/small forwards, two power forwards, and one center. This leaves five spots on the team which will probably be used on another points guard, center, and hopefully some younger wing prospects. The Clipper’s first Las Vegas Summer League game is July 7th at 8:30 against the Los Angeles Laker’s team and will be televised on ESPN.