After one of the team’s better outings in Las Vegas in recent memory, it’s time to sit back and unpack some Clippers Summer League takeaways. Of course, during the week, the Summer Clippers are a team that’s trying to win games, but the larger goal of the organization is to develop and evaluate prospects and fringe roster talent. Let’s take a look at each player from LAC’s Summer League roster and what their outlook with the organization is going forward:
- Jason Preston: The third-year guard entered Summer League playing for his NBA future, and it doesn’t seem to have worked out. He averaged 9 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds on the week, looking less dangerous offensively than LAC’s other guard options due to his lack of speed. Preston missed his entire rookie season with injury and was good at the G-League level last year, but he doesn’t seem close to an NBA player right now. The Clippers extended the decision date on his non-guaranteed contract until October 1st, which is likely a sign that the team thinks his small salary could have utility as trade filler. It’s possible that if a consolidation trade goes down without him that the team could keep him on the roster… but I don’t see it. In two of the Clippers’ three wins, Preston was benched in the second half in favor of more effective backup guards.
- Xavier Moon: I think we should have expected the 28-year-old Moon to be too good for this level, and he was. Moon averaged 20 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals while shooting 55% from the field, 58% from three, and 92% from the free throw line, earning All-Summer League Second Team honors. X’s main limitation at the NBA level are obvious: he’s officially just 6 feet tall (and I think he’s probably shorter), making him a target on defense and less effective as a scorer and passer against lengthier, more athletic NBA opponents. A player his size is always going to have trouble getting clean looks off in the NBA, and while he’s a good shooter he doesn’t quite have the quick-trigger, off-the-dribble shooting prowess he needs at his size. I think Moon would be perfectly capable as an emergency depth ballhandler, whether that’s in a roster spot freed up via trade or back on another two-way contract. The downside there is his age, since you’d theoretically want a younger guy with upside in those deep bench roles. That said, I’d be pretty pleased to see him wind up on a minimum deal, whether it’s with the Clippers or elsewhere.
- Jordan Miller: The Clippers’ second round rookie was invisible for much of the week despite starting all 5 games, averaging just 7 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. It’s easy to see him on the floor and get the appeal–he’s bigger than I expected, and has a legit NBA wing frame in a competition full of guys who are a little too small to play their position at the highest level. But the production never really came to match. He only attempted 10 threes (and only made 3) all week, and aside from a couple of opportunistic hesitation moves to get past his man to the basket, didn’t have notable impact on these games. You don’t expect second round rookies to dominate these games, so in one sense it’s a good sign that he wasn’t terrible, but he certainly didn’t excite. And at 23 years old, he doesn’t have the same runway that most rookies do to develop. Look for Miller to get a two-way contract for next season and spend virtually the whole year with the Ontario Clippers.
- Kobe Brown: The 30th overall pick in last month’s draft, Brown is the only player on these Summer Clippers who has a guaranteed contract for next season. Kobe definitely grew into Summer League, which is fair for a rookie transitioning from the NCAA. In the early games, he had moments where he looked comfortable and aggressive, but the overall production didn’t translate, mostly via inefficient offense. Then came Friday night’s game against the Sixers. In probably the most dominant individual performance in Clippers Summer League history, Kobe put up a record 35 points, mostly on dunks and threes. It was disappointing that he turned his ankle early in the team’s finale and didn’t get a chance to build on that performance. One Summer League game can easily be an outlier, but coupled with his growth over the week, I’m left feeling better about Brown as a prospect at the end of the week than I did coming in. There are still some lingering questions: one is that he performed at his best at center, not power forward, which is going to be much trickier to build capable NBA lineups around at first. I really liked seeing how comfortable he was getting high-volume three point attempts up. And while I don’t think he’s going to be able to play switchable defense at the NBA level (rookies are almost never good on defense, and Kobe’s foot speed on switches is a long-term concern), he was active and well-positioned this week, helping create a lot of turnovers. I think that Kobe will spend time in Ontario next season, and the acquisition of KJ Martin pushes him another rung lower in the competition for forward depth minutes. He won’t be a top-10 rotation guy, but if he is retained in potential upcoming trades, the Clippers should find opportunities for him throughout the year to get him some reps and see how he holds up.
- Moussa Diabate: The Clippers’ sophomore big man showed some of the same flashes that he showed in this competition last summer, but ultimately only played 2 games again due to a rib contusion, meaning we didn’t get to see as much of him as we would have liked. The good news: after a year of G-League experience, his rebounding and shot blocking were both improved from his first Summer League, and the physical tools that made him an intriguing prospect to begin with showed up again. The bad news: the defensive activity, rebounding, and shot blocking, while improved, didn’t take quite the leap that I had hoped to see in order to really declare him an NBA-caliber player this summer. The offense remains incredibly raw, and he doesn’t seem as able to harness his athleticism on that end to be the above-the-rim threat he’s going to need to be as a raw, athletically gifted big. The best-case scenario remains something in the vacinity of Clint Capela, but we’re still far, far away from that. Moussa will be back on a two-way contract next season, spending most of the year in Ontario continuing to develop his game. I don’t think the Clippers will be shy about giving him regular season run with the big club if Ivica Zubac or Mason Plumlee miss time, but the road he’s on leads back to Las Vegas for a do-or-die third Summer League next year, much like his current teammate Jason Preston had this year.
- Matt Morgan: Despite being relatively quiet in a relatively small role (he played 4 games and under 20 minutes per game off the bench), Morgan was the Clippers’ third-leading scorer in Vegas, averaging 10 points while shooting 40% from the field and 32% from deep. I’m not worried about the shooting efficiency–he’s got enough of a track record as a high-volume, high-efficiency shooter to not overreact to 4 games. He didn’t pop as much as you would want a soon-to-be 26-year-old with high-level pro experience to, but his breakneck speed and three-point shooting profile make him an intriguing potential bench scoring guard. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have NBA interest, especially since he has two-way eligibility, but as an MVP finalist in France last year, he’ll have some good offers from overseas as well.
- Jordan Bowden: The Long Island Nets wing got more opportunities earlier in the week than he did as it went on, and his comfort level getting three point attempts up from the wing position was noted. I think he’s undersized for that role at the NBA level, so while he was a solid role player for these Summer Clippers, I don’t really see him as a guy I’d be inclined to want them to prioritize for two-way consideration.
- Brodric Thomas: 26-year-old Thomas has the most NBA experience of anyone on this Summer Clippers roster, and after shaking off some rust, he showed that as the week went on. He got more playing time in the last three games without Diabate, playing power forward in lineups built around Kobe Brown at center, and showed his experience with really great defensive positioning, taking a bunch of charges against bigger opponents. He also flashed some nice isolation scoring down the stretch of games. Overall, though, at 26 years old, as an undersized wing with an iffy track record as a shooter, I think he’s more likely to look for overseas opportunities than make an NBA roster.
- Bryson Williams: The Clippers’ secondary big man got more action than anticipated with Moussa missing three games, but wasn’t able to capitalize on the opportunity. Despite looking good in flashes off of the bench in the first two games, Williams struggled harshly enough in games 3-5 as a starter that I have a hard time seeing the Clippers target him for a two-way deal next season when they already have Brown and Diabate to develop at PF and C. LAC prioritized getting him to Ontario last fall, and it wouldn’t shock me to see him reprise his role as a backup big man for the Clippers in the G-League next year.
- Xavier Castaneda: Despite being on an exhibit 10 deal, we didn’t see much of Castaneda in this Summer League. He’s a tiny guard who scored 22 points per game last year for a small college, and I don’t think we got a lot of surprises from his performances in Vegas. He shot pretty poorly, but you can see the quickness and shooting comfort. I would expect him to be cut from his exhibit 10 instead of making it to a two-way spot and join the Ontario Clippers next season as a normal G-League player.
- Keaton Wallace: As a tenured Ontario Clipper, Wallace has been on the fringes of Clipper two-way conversations in recent years, even actually getting on a two-way for a few days last year. He made a really nice impact in the Clippers’ huge comeback win against the Philadelphia 76ers, but overall I think he’s too undersized for his role to translate to the next level. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s on the radar for a two-way deal based on familiarity and the organization having kept him around the fringes in the past.
- Fred Sims: Sims was brought in as the 13th man on a 13-man roster, likely for emergency depth if anyone pulled out or got hurt. He got one short shift in the final game, and got to score, which is always a nice moment. I don’t think there’s any consideration of a Clipper or NBA future here.
- Nate Renfro: The Clippers’ third big this week, Renfro got a chance to play backup minutes in each of the team’s last three games. He had a couple of highlights and is clearly a spring, athletic finisher, but the skillset isn’t there to have NBA potential as a 6’8″ center.
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