After an 0-3 start to the 2021 NBA Las Vegas Summer League, the Clippers were finally able to secure their first win of the tournament, taking down the previously-undefeated SL title candidate Utah Jazz 94-90. LAC put together their first complete game of the week (they’d mostly had 1 good half and 1 terrible half in each game up until this point), shooting well from deep and overall managing to consistently execute their offense in a way that eluded them in earlier contests.
Jason Preston had his best scoring game of the week, finishing with 16 points on a super-efficient 7-10 from the field. He’s definitely grown more comfortable with the ball in his hands and improved over the course of these games, but a lot of his wild jump passes were turnovers tonight and will still be turnovers when the defenders on the floor are NBA guys. Keon Johnson had his first good game of Summer League, scoring 17 points on 6-12 shooting and converting looks from all three levels–including 3-6 from deep, a really encouraging sign for a young guy who has a poor track record as a shooter and has been awful from deep so far this week.
Brandon Boston continues, in my opinion, to be the most impressive of LA’s three rookies in this SL. His 10 points on 4-10 shooting represented a more modest contribution than his draft classmates in this game, but he’s just got a fluidity and comfort with the ball that normally suggests some level of translation to the next level, especially as he sharpens that natural ability in professional practices and works on his strength with the Clippers’ staff.
Second-year guard Jay Scrubb continued to struggle to make an impact scoring efficiently after a big first game last week, shooting just 2-13 from the field for 6 points today. Amidst questions about if his game is well-rounded enough for him to make an impact at the NBA level, it’s also worth asking if his undeniable scoring ability is consistent enough to be an NBA role player–but it’s also worth remembering that Scrubb is essentially a rookie, the 57th overall pick a year ago who came straight to the NBA from junior college and missed almost his entire rookie year after foot surgery.
The team’s other second-year player, Daniel Oturu, continued to make a positive impact, as he has for almost all of these games. It’s still a bit murky if anything we’ve seen is really translatable production here to suggest that Oturu is someone that LAC needs to consider holding onto for next season, but you gotta give him credit for working his ass off on the offensive glass, getting dirty work points at the rim and foul line, and blocking shots defensively. Even if he doesn’t make next year’s team, I like to see a guy with guaranteed NBA money next year come out in Summer League and play hard and compete.
Lastly, finally, thankfully, third-year Clippers wing Amir Coffey had his long-overdue Summer League breakout game, scoring a team-high 20 points, hitting 5 of his 7 three point attempts, and creating transition opportunities with his defensive activity. Really, third-year guys should dominate at this level–and even if we acknowledge that Amir isn’t going to control a game with the ball in his hands offensively, someone who has been an adequate energy+defense+threes guy in NBA minutes should have his influence felt on a SL game in those areas. That was definitely the case today as not only did he get hot shooting the ball, but he was more engaged defensively and won the Clippers some crucial defensive turnovers and fast break opportunities as they held on to their lead in the second half.
While the Clippers won’t be competing for a Las Vegas championship, it’s still good to see their young players grow into this tournament, ultimately winning their first game today against a Utah Jazz squad that was previously undefeated. LAC will have one final consolation game Monday at 9pm Eastern against the Memphis Grizzlies.