According to The Athletic’s Law Murray, the Clippers are set to sign Malik Fitts to a 10-day contract, at least temporarily filling the team’s 15th roster spot and giving them a full 17-man squad for the first time this season.
Fitts, a 23-year-old rookie out of St. Mary’s College, is a 6’8″ tweener forward who was in training camp with the Clippers this season, making a couple of pre-season appearances before journeying to Orlando with the Agua Caliente Clippers for the NBA G-League bubble season. He played just 7 pre-season minutes with the Clippers, missing his only shot attempt and collecting 3 rebounds, but had more of an opportunity with ACCO, averaging 11 points and 4 rebounds in 26 minutes a game while shooting 35% from three.
Most of that production came towards the end of the G-League season. Fitts moved into the starting lineup for the team’s last 6 games and averaged 18 points per game in those contests, shooting 43% from deep. Those marks are a bit more in line with his collegiate numbers, as he averaged 16 points and shot 41% from three in his junior and senior seasons at St. Mary’s. On the defensive end of the floor, Fitts left college with a poor reputation, but he earned praise from the Clippers’ G-League coaching staff in Orlando, so there may be hope for him to make more of a positive impact with the focus that accompanies a refined role and the competition for a roster spot.
After the Clippers added DeMarcus Cousins to their 14th roster spot on Monday, Fitt’s addition (when made official) will fill their 15-man roster for the first time this season. With two-way players Amir Coffey and Jay Scrubb also under contract, LAC will finally have the maximum of 17 players–though Scrubb isn’t expected to be available to play this season. But, these deals for Cousins and Fitts are temporary, 10-day contracts. While I expect that Cousins will earn a rest-of-season deal if he shows decently in the next week, it feels a bit odd for the Clippers to both pass on the opportunity to add a veteran forward and pass over Amir Coffey to place Fitts directly on the 15-man roster.
The veteran free agent list is admittedly uninspiring if the Clippers are looking for someone trustworthy for situational usage defending the wing and forward positions in the playoffs. The names available include Wilson Chandler, Justin Anderson, DeMarre Carroll, Justin Jackson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Glenn Robinson III, Thabo Sefolosha, Mario Hezonja, and Andre Roberson–a collection of guys who are either years removed from rotation-caliber play (whether due to injuries or age) or were never really rotation-caliber guys to begin with. I’d probably feel a little better about throwing Carroll out there for a few playoff minutes in a pinch than Fitts, but that might be misguided based on name value and experience. In any event, Ty Lue will have the option to go a bit smaller deploy Terance Mann, who is more of a 2/3 than 3/4 but has established himself as a reliable option for this Clippers team this season.
But if the Clippers are passing on those veteran options in favor of getting another prospect in the door, the team might ultimately seek to swap Fitts and Coffey’s roster positions, converting Amir (who has already spent 2 of his maximum allowed 3 years on a two-way) to a potentially team-friendly, multi-year contract on the 15-man roster and then signing Fitts to a two-way deal to replace Coffey. Technically, this would enhance the team’s control over these two prospects, as Coffey would be inked going forward instead of hitting restricted free agency this summer, and Fitts’ qualifying offer as a restricted free agent would be for a new two-way deal rather than a minimum-salary contract (and Fitts could potentially sign a two-way contract running through the end of next season, keeping both guys off the market this summer).
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