The LA Clippers are the NBA Draft winners that no one is talking about

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images /

The LA Clippers executives left Brooklyn without Zion Williamson or Ja Morant, but they are bringing two under-the-radar studs back to LA.

Most of the time, the winners of the NBA Draft make several first-round selections. The LA Clippers don’t fit that description.

This year, the Atlanta Hawks won the title of “Draft Champions”, as they selected De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish, their top two targets, along with Bruno Fernando in the second round.

The New Orleans Pelicans don’t look to shabby either in the post-draft world. David Griffin’s maneuvering led to the team leaving Brooklyn with a haul of Zion Williamson, Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Walker from the first round. Considering they acquired Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and multiple future first round picks in the Anthony Davis trade, New Orleans might be the NBA’s next dynasty.

The Hawks and Pelicans will be regarded by the vast majority of NBA fans and analysts as the champions of the draft. They added large chunks to their young cores. However, the LA Clippers made two picks much later in the draft. Their selections might not get the most media attention, but, unlike their lottery peers, Mfiondu Kabengele and Terance Mann will contribute to winning basketball from the start.

Kabengele and Mann both played together at Florida State University, and the Clippers are likely trying to use their chemistry and experience playing together to their advantage.

In their first season since 2007-08 without DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers’ lack of a paint presence was noticeable. Marcin Gortat was far past his prime, Boban Marjanovic wasn’t a very well-rounded player, and Ivica Zubac is still a raw prospect. None of these bigs were stellar rim protectors, and the lack of interior defense was felt, as the Clippers allowed 51.1 point in the paint per game, the eighth-worst mark in the Association.

Kabengele should be able to correct this issue. In his second and final season at FSU, the nephew of Dikembe Mutombo averaged 1.5 blocks per game and had a block percentage of 8.3 percent. Kabengele isn’t limited to post defense. He also averaged 13.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. He was the Seminoles’ leading scorer and the team’s second leading rebounder, despite coming off the bench. The 6’10 big man has also adapted his game to the modern NBA. Kabengele connected 37.4 percent of his three point attempts in his two years in Tallahassee, even though he only took 1.3 per game.

Kabengele saw a fair amount of run at the power forward position at Florida State. He was the team’s sixth man and would fill in at either the four or the five, wherever head coach Leonard Hamilton wanted him. His willingness to fill whatever the team needs is what every organization wants out of its players. Kabengele fills the LA Clippers’ biggest need and, with proper development, could become the defensive anchor the team has been looking for.

Mann is the 6’6 swingman that played Robin to Kabengele’s Batman. He is great at finishing at the rim and managed to hike up his 3-point percentage drastically. In his first three seasons, Mann made 27.3 percent of his 3-pointers. In his senior year, he was able to hit 39 percent of his shots from behind the arc.

The Clippers have Landry Shamet and Jerome Robinson in line to split the guard minutes with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. That suggests that the team will experiment with him as a small forward. His scoring versatility and defensive leadership are qualities that all teams seek, but the Clippers are lucky enough that he fell to 48th overall.

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The LA Clippers didn’t draft the next sure-fire NBA superstar, but they filled needs on their roster. Kabengele will force opposing teams to think twice before driving into the paint and Mann will hopefully turn into a do-it-all small-ball forward that the Clippers can rely on whenever they need a buck. Especially for choosing 27th and 48th, the Clippers did  a phenomenal job of finding players with potential.