Our 2022-2023 player season preview series continues with Jason Preston, the Clippers’ second year point guard prospect who will likely spend most of the year in the G-League.
Weight: 190 pounds
Position: Point Guard
Years in NBA: 1
Key Stats: Missed all of 2022 rookie season with a foot injury
Contract Status: Guaranteed for $1.56M this season, nonguaranteed for $1.84M next season
Expectations for NBA contributions are probably lower for Preston than any other player with a guaranteed contract on the Clippers. The Clippers don’t have great depth at point guard, but Preston is firmly behind two veterans in John Wall and Reggie Jackson for minutes, and probably behind other guards such as Terance Mann and Norm Powell as well in a pinch. Preston is likely to spend most of the season with the Ontario Clippers, where he will be given plenty of reps as the lead ball handler and adjusting to a difficulty far beyond the second-tier college play he had at University of Ohio. When he does play in the NBA, most likely in blowouts, Preston’s role will be to game manage the offense enough so rotation players don’t need to be re-inserted, and hopefully he can do that much.
Jason’s top strength as a basketball player is his passing. He’s a fantastic playmaker, leveraging his 6’4 height and instincts to fling passes all over the court. Preston can make simple reads, such as extra passes on the perimeter and drive and kicks, more complex ones, such as pocket passes in the pick and roll, and downright difficult plays, like crosscourt passes to corner shooters. Simply put, if you give him the ball a lot, he will collect assists and help his teammates score. Despite not being an ace ballhandler, he’s a competent handler who can consistently lead offenses into sets. If Preston is to succeed in the NBA, it will likely be due to his playmaking abilities.
The Clippers are a team filled with poor rebounders, and Jason Preston is an excellent rebounder for his position. He averaged 5.6 rebounds per game in college, and that number rose to around 7 over his past two years. His height and basketball instincts serve him well here, enabling him to track down and collect rebounds in a way most point guards can’t. Being a good guard rebounder is a double bonus, as it enables Preston to immediately push the ball up the court and jumpstart transition. The NBA is very different from the MAC conference, but Jason should still be a plus rebounder even at higher levels.
Perhaps Jason’s most adept weapon offensively is his floater. He’s shown it off a bunch in Summer League, and it’s truly a beauty. He can get it off over a lot of defender due to his height and the shot’s high release point, and is capable of lofting it from well beyond the normal range. It’s a fun shot and something that should work against NBA defenses, though it will be tougher for Jason to shoot it over bigger and more athletic defenders.
A final plus is that Jason’s instincts apply on the defensive end as well. He had nice steal numbers in college, and is adept at reading passing lanes as well as poking the ball away from defenders. If he bulks up a bit, he should be a fine defensive player.
Unfortunately, Preston’s biggest weakness is something that can’t be improved all that much – his athleticism. He’s an inexplosive athlete, both in terms of speed in the open court and attacking downhill in the halfcourt as well as leaping around the rim. As a point guard, that limits his creation abilities to some extent – if he can’t consistently break down defenses, his passing won’t matter, since he’ll just be moving the ball rather than driving and kicking. Speed and jumping are both things that can be enhanced to some degree, but Jason is a below-average NBA athlete, dampening his ceiling and floor.
Currently, Jason is also extremely skinny. Frames can be bulked, and he already has a lot more muscle than when he was drafted, but he’s probably never going to be the strongest player. Sometimes strength can offset a lack of speed in bullying opponents on the way to the rim, but that probably won’t come into play with Preston barring a Giannis-esque transformation (unlikely). On defense, that means despite his height, he will likely be a target who can be attacked by stronger players and pushed aside or beneath the rim. Again, this is an area that can be improved upon, but right now will be a liability at the NBA level.
There are also questions about Jason’s shooting. He was a 35.7% shooter from deep in his college career, and around 40% in his last two seasons, but it was all on low volume, with just 221 attempts across three years. More worryingly, he was a merely passable free throw shooter at 70.3%, though also on low volume with 212 attempts. If he can become a good shooter, especially off the dribble, and has to be treated as a real threat from deep, he should be able to attack closeouts, offsetting his lack of downhill burst. If teams can play off him, his offensive utility might become extremely limited.
Preston is a player the Clippers supposedly love (beat writers have stated this multiple times, as well as national NBA media such as Zach Lowe). Still, that doesn’t mean he will have much of an impact on the Clippers’ 2023 season. In fact, if Jason Preston does play a lot in the 2023 season for the Clippers, it will mean either he’s way ahead of schedule, or the Clippers have been crippled by injuries. Still, he’s someone to keep an eye on in the G-League.