After not having a first round draft pick in 2020, the Clippers have their own selection in 2021, the 25th pick in the draft. This is important, as it’s the last available 1st round draft pick they have for five years – the next seasons will see picks and swaps going to the Oklahoma City Thunder from the Paul George deal. While the Clippers can always trade for future picks, considering they’re in a win-now situation for the foreseeable future, it seems likely that this will be their last 1st round selection period for a while. Therefore, it’s important they nail this pick – or trade it for a player who will bring them value for years to come. First up in this 2021 NBA Draft preview, we are going to take a look at the crop of point guards through the numbers.
I’ll keep the methodology brief, as this is the fifth (or sixth) year in a row that I’ve done this series. The numbers I compile for this are for college players only (I do other stuff on international prospects, but they have somewhat different statistical indicators than college players), and are per game, not per possession. In the NBA, per possession is a more useful stat, but when looking at college players, I feel like playing time is a bigger component – if you can’t play in college, you probably won’t play in the NBA. Finally, the numbers are averaged between the last two college seasons the players played, which can hurt some guys (like Sharife Cooper) but which can balance out outlier seasons.
Similarly to above, I’m not going to delve deeply into the statistical analysis component. Suffice to say, the three most important elements for point guard prospects (in comparing college stats to advanced all-in-one numbers including WS/48, VORP, and BPM) are steals, three-point shooting, and true shooting, with age (younger is better) and rebounds also being impactful. Assists and points generally don’t seem to have much a correlation with success, nor do turnovers, weirdly enough, despite those being the three most associated stats with point guard play. Without further ado, here are some point guards in the 2021 NBA Draft that stood out for positive or negative reasons.
Best Prospects in Clippers’ Range
Bones Hyland – Hyland is one of the best shooters in the draft, as he hit 37% of his threes on a high-volume 7.1 attempts per game in his sophomore year at VCU. However, he’s more than just a shooter – he got to the line 4.5 times per game and made nearly 54% of his two-point shots. In short, he’s a capable shot creator and shot maker who might not have quite enough playmaking abilities to be a lead guard, but could be a very nice secondary handler. Hyland will probably end up playing and defending point guards due to his thin frame, but has a tremendous wingspan that will help him on defense, and has good instincts on that end.
Jaden Springer – If the Clippers are making an upside play at 25, regardless of position, Springer is the guy. He’s the youngest player in the draft, and had extremely solid regular and advanced stats while playing big minutes in a Power 5 conference. None of his stats jump out, but he had solid steal, rebound, and efficiency numbers, and was a potent force on the defensive end. With his size and athleticism, Springer should be able to guard multiple positions on the perimeter. Add in his shooting potential (81% on free throws on decent volume and 43.5% on threes on low volume) and ability to get to the rim and finish or draw fouls, and you have a player who could be special if he puts it all together. Even his floor as a positive defender with some ball-handling and passing capabilities is solid. There will probably better win-now players available at 25, but passing on Springer if he’s there could look very foolish.
Max Abmas – Abmas is almost the polar opposite of Springer. Rather than a large, springy, do-it-all combo guard, you have an undersized (5’11), twitchy, score-first jitterbug. Abmas can certainly score (24.6 points per game in his second year), and shot an absurd 43.3% on 8.3 shots from deep in that second season at Oral Roberts. The concerns with Abmas mostly regard his ability to defend at the NBA level, as well as whether his relative lack of competition will hinder him, but his ability to shoot is so outstanding that he should have a role in the NBA as at the very least a Trey-Burke type of bench scorer.
Prospects to Trade Up For
Jared Butler – Butler is more seasoned than the above players (as a junior rather than sophomore or freshman) but is very young for his year, and was one of the best players in college basketball for the championship-winning Baylor Bears. Butler is just good at basketball – he can shoot, pass, run an offense, and play defense. His size and just average athleticism mean he probably doesn’t have a ton of upside, but he seems like a lock to be a competent reserve (think Monte Morris) or a solid starter. He’d be a great fit next to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George as he can play on- and off-ball, and is someone who could probably contribute to winning basketball fairly quickly. I wouldn’t move mountains for him, but if the Clippers can move up with a future 2nd or another minor asset, he’d be a good choice.
Prospects to Avoid
David Johnson – Johnson isn’t a bad prospect per se. He has good size (6’5) for a ballhandler, shot well from three in his sophomore season (38.6% on 4.4 attempts), and is an excellent rebounder. However, he had very poor efficiency due to shooting badly on two-pointers and not getting to the free throw line. The shooting is also worrying, as the three-point shooting was on a small sample size (only 19 games played his second year), and his free throw percentages were bad. There could be something there, but there will probably be better point guards available at the Clippers’ range in the 2021 NBA Draft than Johnson.
The Clippers are positioned well to select a ballhandler in the 2021 NBA Draft, as there are a plethora of strong candidates who should be around the 25 range. Considering the Clippers’ frequently shaky play at the position and Reggie Jackson’s free agency, a point guard could be of need. What point guards do you have your eye on in this draft?