Man, the Summer League schedule makers do not want us to have a good time. After not making their Las Vegas Summer League debut until the nightcap of the third (!!) day of the competition, the Summer Clippers then had two days off and won’t play for a second time until the nightcap of the sixth day. LA is one of only three teams to have only played one game so far; both others will play earlier in the day tomorrow. Five teams have already played 3 games, and a whole host of the two-game temas will play their third tomorrow afternoon before LAC’s second tips off. This Las Vegas edition of the Battle of LA between the Clippers and the Lakers will be LAC’s second game and LAL’s third, which seems pretty wonky for an event where each team plays 5 games in an 11-day window. None of this actually matters, I’m just annoyed by it.
Speaking of things that don’t actually matter, if the Clippers win tonight, we’re officially on Summer League Championship watch. There are no Summer League playoffs this year, just a single championship game between the two highest-ranked teams at the end of each team’s four preliminary games (the other 28 teams get a final consolation game, so everyone plays 5). They’re already one of just five undefeated (calling 1-0 undefeated as if it’s impressive is pretty weak, but it is what it is) teams remaining in Vegas, and three of the other four play their next contest earlier in the day tomorrow. LA also plays their fourth game against the Utah Jazz, who are currently 2-0. It’s likely that 4-0 will place a team securely into the championship team without needing a tiebreaker, and there certainly seems to be a chance that 3-1 with an excellent point differential could get you there as well. The Clippers’ 18-point win in their opener was a great start, and they could have a chance to pick up not just another win, but more points in tonight’s game against the Lakers, who are 0-2 with a -11.5 average margin of defeat so far. Again, it really doesn’t matter at all, but neither does anything in the Summer League. If it all doesn’t matter the same, we might as well have some fun.
In order to improve to 2-0, the Summer Clippers will once again rely on major contributions from their trio of rookie and sophomore second-round selections, point guard Jason Preston (7 points, 6 assists in 21 minutes on Saturday), wing Brandon Boston (15 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals in 22 minutes), and big man Moussa Diabate (10 points, 7 rebounds in 22 minutes). You can never be sure who is going to play day-by-day in Summer League as teams rotate their lineups to get everyone some opportunities, and it’s very possible that we see some significant movement in this Tuesday/Wednesday back-to-back, but my guess (and it’s really just a guess) is that we’ll at least see the big three in the starting lineup again on Tuesday night coming off of two days of rest. On Saturday, they were joined in the starting lineup by Jay Scrubb, who has played sparingly on two-way contracts while dealing with injuries the past two years, and Jarrell Brantley, a 26-year-old forward who was the 50th overall pick in 2019 and also spent two years playing sparingly on two-way deals before launching a career overseas last season. Scrubb played poorly on Saturday, but seems in line for continued chances since he’ll be with the team in training camp, while Brantley played well but might have to take turns with other players as he currently has no deal with the Clippers.
The two key bench contributors in the Clippers’ win on Saturday were backup point guard Xavier Moon and backup center Reggie Perry, but whether or not they’ll reprise their rolls tonight is anyone’s guess–it’s very possible that if the Clippers are planning on giving their draft picks the second night of the back-to-back off tomorrow, they rotate out some of the second unit players tonight to allow third-stringers a chance before starting the backups on Wednesday. The guys we didn’t see (until the final few minutes of garbage time) on Saturday were point guard Isiah Brown, defensive-minded wings Trey McGowens and Lucas Williamson, and forward Justin Bean. I would definitely expect to see more of Williamson and Bean going forward, as they (along with backup shooting guard Michael DeVoe, who struggled in a bench role on Saturday) are on Exhibit 10 deals with a chance to come to training camp and earn a two-way contract… but in order to fit all their guys within the 20-player training camp roster limit, at least one of those three is going to have to be released at the end of Summer League.
Whatever combination of Summer Clippers wind up in the rotation on Tuesday night, they’ll go up against a Summer Lakers squad that is as devoid of drafted talent as you’ll see in Vegas–though as the Clippers themselves learned when they blew out a bunch of Memphis’ first round picks on Saturday, that doesn’t always mean much. The sole Summer Laker to be drafted was wing Max Christie, who LAL took 35th overall last month. Everyone else on the roster went undrafted, though a handful have had a cup of coffee in the NBA, including Mason Jones, who signed on with the Lakers as a two-way player mid-season last year and got a few NBA games under his belt. Two other names to keep an eye on: undrafted rookies Scotty Pippen Jr and Cole Swider, who are (as it now stands) set to be the Lakers’ two-way players next season. Christie, Pippen, and Swider are leading the team in minutes so far in Vegas by a solid margin, with Jones in fourth. The team is 0-2 so far in Vegas, but did prove themselves capable of winning by going 2-1 in the California Classic Summer League last week.
The Summer Clippers and Summer Lakers face off in the last game of the night on Tuesday, at 8pm Pacific time in the Thomas & Mack Center and on ESPN.