The Clippers fell to the Milwaukee Bucks in a tight summer league opening contest, as a poor offensive start and a 30-point effort from Bucks sophomore Jordan Nwora ultimately buried the Clippers. Fortunately, wins and losses don’t matter in Las Vegas, and a truly abysmal opening half of play was followed by a much improved second half, giving the Clippers’ prospects some individual and collective momentum as they move forward in their week of games. Let’s look at how some relevant performers did:
- Jason Preston: Preston didn’t have a very good Summer League debut, as he was completely ineffecive at creating offense going downhill throughout the game. A couple of times, he made nice pocket passes in the pick and roll that opened up opportunities for others–but that was really only maybe two times in the entire game, which is pretty underwhelming for a guy who is supposed to be a natural table-setter. He did find his way to 8 assists as the game opened up a bit in the second half, but overall his distrubition left quite a bit to be desired. Defensively, he just got tossed around by strong opposing guards, so like many of the summer Clippers it’s clear he’s going to need some time in the weight room. The good news for Jason is that struggles to start Summer League for a second round rookie point guard are totally fine, but if he still can’t get downhill by the end of the week I’ll move my worry scale from 0 to 1 out of 5.
- Jay Scrubb: Certainly the player of the game for the Clippers. Scrubb posted 24 points (double the team’s 2nd-leading scorer) on an efficient 10-18 from the field and tied Oturu for a team-high 10 rebounds from the shooting guard position. For most of the game, Scrubb was the only Clipper who consistently looked dangerous with the ball in his hands, in part because the offense was typically going nowhere and he is a talented tough shot maker. But in the second half, his process was better as he more frequently got dribble penetration instead of taking bailout step-back mid-range shots. The missing piece is playmaking recognition–when the help came on his drives, he just took more difficult shots instead of reading where the help was coming from and hitting skip passes. It’s ok for that aspect of his game to not be there yet, but he’s going to need to develop it or else his brand of scoring isn’t going to be consistnetly meaningful at the NBA level.
- Keon Johnson: Well, draft experts told us that Keon was a raw player, and that was on full display in this game. He was 4 of 16 from the field and 0 of 5 from three, including the would-be game-tying shot at the end of the fourth quarter, and between his way-too-acrobatic out-of-control drives and clanks from deep, he was a pretty big drag on the offense. But there were flashes on both ends of the court, sometimes in on- and off-ball defense and sometimes getting downhill in transition and reading the defense, where you can see an NBA player. The skill level just needs work to catch up.
- Amir Coffey: Boy, Amir was terrible in this game. The good news is that all LAC has ever needed or will ever need Amir to do at the NBA level is take corner threes and be a C-level defender, so a lot of the ugliness we saw tonight offensively (1-9 shooting and 6 turnovers) came from him trying to do a bit too much in a role that is drastically different from his duties with the big club. But he missed rotations on the back line defensively and was cold from deep, which is a bit concerning as his effective three-point shooting for LAC last season is an egregious outlier compared to his collegiate and G-League numbers. Amir at 32% from three probably isn’t an NBA player, Amir at 38% probably is. He’s got the experience that you’d expect a bounce-back game 2, even if he has to refine what he tries to do on the offensive end.
- B.J. Boston: I really had lowered my expectations for BJ in Summer League because in addition to being a raw 19-year-old 51st overall pick who struggled in his only collegiate season, the trade to acquire his draft rights wasn’t completed in time for him to be in the full pre-SL camp with the other guys. But overall, I liked what I saw in this game: a 6’7″ wing who moves well defensively and is comfortable showing a little juice with the ball in his hands as well as knocking down spot-up threes. I know 10 points and 4 rebounds in a Summer League game isn’t going to get anyone’s attention, but the tools looked good in their first use tonight.
- Daniel Oturu: In the first quarter, he was bad. Like, “worst player in Summer League” bad (remember when Kyle Wiltjer was briefly a Clipper and was just astoundingly terrible? That was fun.) Daniel was getting torched on defense and couldn’t even catch the ball on the offensive end. Robert Flom texted me that he felt bad for him. But in part because LAC’s guards couldn’t hit a shot, Oturu was able to develop a bit of a rhythm on the offensive glass as the game wore on, and he posted a much-improved second half. More important than the double-double is that he made a positive impact down the stretch of the game, including scoring a late go-ahead basket and then coming up with a big block on the other end. In fact, he even moved his feet decently on perimeter defense at times, which was a nice surprise. I think Oturu may have been legitimately so bad in the first quarter (and last season when we saw him) that the reaction to a solid second half might swing a little too far the othe way, but for a second-year guy in summer league it was at least a tiny bit reassuring to see him look like a G-League caliber guy in the 2nd half.
- The Others: Isaiah Hicks and Jordan Ford were better than Oturu and Preston in this game, but neither was exactly impressive either. Kerwin Roach was 4-4 for 10 points, including an 8-point burst in the mid-fourth quarter that really helped the Clippers make it a game down the stretch. Samples were too small for any real read on these three guys, although Ford and Hicks are somewhat known quantities a notch below NBA-level.
The Clippers are right back in action tomorrow night at 8pm Pacific time against the New York Knicks on ESPNU.