Clippers’ Summer League Big Men:
Player to Watch: Brice Johnson
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.
The big man should be one of the leaders of the Clipper’s Summer League team and will hopefully show improvement in his jump shot and aggressiveness. Johnson was the Clipper’s first round draft pick of the 2016 NBA Draft and should be looking to impress Doc River’s with his Summer League play to that he can earn some minutes off the bench. If Blake Griffin does leave the Clippers in free agency, Johnson will be thrust into an important position on the team whether it be at the starting or backup power forward position.
One of Brice Johnson’s former teammates at UNC, Hicks is a low-risk-high-reward player. 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 help him stick in the league. Hicks should see a lot of minutes behind Stone and Johnson in the Summer League and could definitely earn himself a spot on the Agua Caliente Clippers.
Rounding out the big men for the Summer League team is former D-League All-Star Micheal Eric. The former Temple University graduate went undrafted in the 2012 NBA Draft and has participated in the NBA Summer Leagues in almost every season since. Eric has played for the Summer League teams of the Cavaliers (Vegas 2012), Warriors (Vegas 2013), Sixers (Orlando 2014), Bucks (Vegas 2015), and the Wizards (Vegas 2016).
For the 2016-17 season, 6’11 big man opted to play overseas in the Spanish ACB and Eurocup competition for the RETAbet Bilbao Basket club instead of returning the play in the D-League, where he made the D-League All-Star Team and the D-League All-Defensive First Team. In 38 games with Bilbao Basket, Eric averaged 9.7 points and 5.4 rebounds while shooting 62.7 percent from the floor in 20 minutes per game. Eric has played in the D-League before so he might be aiming for a spot on the Clipper’s G-League team, but the forward will have to compete with other young players for minutes in the Summer League.
Warney went undrafted in the 2016 NBA Draft out of Stony Brook College, where was the America East Conference Player of the Year in 2014, 2015, and 2016. The power forward then joined the Dallas Mavericks’ Summer League team and appeared in three pre-season games for the Mavs before being waived. Warney then spent the 2016-2017 season with the Mav’s D-League affiliate, the Texas Legends. With the Legends, Warney averaged 17.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, and 1.0 steals per game while shooting 58 percent from the floor. The forward is an intriguing prospect for the Clippers but is an undersized player for his position at just 6’9 and doesn’t really stretch the floor ( he didn’t attempt any threes with the Legends). While Warney is a long shot to make the Clippers’ regular season roster, a young player with his potential could definitely earn himself a spot on the Clippers’ G-League affiliate for the upcoming season.
After going undrafted in the 2014 NBA Draft out of Marquette, Wilson joined the Washington Wizards 2014 Summer League team and appeared in two pre-season games for the Suns before being waived. Wilson was then acquired by the Bakersfield Jam and averaged 10.9 points and 5.4 rebounds in 44 games with the Jam. The forward once again played for the Wizards in the 2015 Summer League and appeared in seven pre-season games with the Mavericks before being waived. Wilson was then traded to the Texas Legends and averaged 15 points and 6 rebounds in 44 games with the Legends. Wilson took a different approach to the 2016-2017 season, signing with Italian team Auxilium Pallacanestro Torino of the Italian Lega Basket Serie A First Division. Wilson started all 30 of his games with Fiat Torino, averaging 12.9 points and 5.9 rebounds while shooting 47 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three. An undersized player like Warney, Wilson’s chances of making the Clippers’ roster is slim to none.
Wiltjer was acquired by the Clippers in the trade that sent Chris Paul to Houston. The power forward went undrafted in the 2016 NBA Drafted and played with the Rocket’s Summer League team. After impressing the Rockets and signing a deal with them, Wiltjer spent most of the season bouncing between the bench and the Rocket’s D-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Wiltjer appeared in 22 games with the Vipers, starting all of them and averaging 20.5 points and 6.4 rebounds while shooting 42 percent from the floor and 38 percent from three. Wiltjer will need to use the Las Vegas Summer League to impress the Clippers, who can waive him before his contract becomes guaranteed on August 1st. It’s hard to predict what will happen with Wiltjer since he’s a younger player with potential but also has the contract that could be waived.
Jamaican-born center Shevon Thompson went undrafted in the 2016 NBA Draft out of George Mason College and played with the New Orleans Pelicans in the 2016 NBA Summer League. The 7-footer played in 17 games with the Erie Bayhawks and averaged 12.1 points and 7.4 rebounds while shooting 56 percent from the floor. This article breaks down Thompson’s play and his potential as an NBA big. While Thompson is an intriguing prospect, it would be hard for him to make the Clippers’ regular season roster but LA could take a look at the center for the Agua Caliente Clippers.