We're finally just days away from seeing the LA Clippers back in action, as the team is set to make its preseason debut against the Los Angeles Lakers this coming Friday, Dec. 11.
As it stands, the roster is filled to capacity at 20 players — a number that must be whittled down to a maximum of 17 by opening night on Dec. 22. — meaning the Clippers have some important decisions to make in the next two weeks.
Granted, those decisions shouldn't be too troublesome. Two players have already agreed to two-way contracts, and another four likely won't make the opening day roster. Unless one of them surprises in camp, the Clippers will be left with 14 of a possible 15 standard roster spots filled.
That feels like the right move, too. Teams can only have 13 active players on a given night, and a 10-man rotation feels appropriate for the Clippers in the regular season. Leaving that spot open allows LA to pursue buyout candidates later in the season, and the front office has shown a tendency to be active in that market in recent years.
But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let's take a closer look at the training camp roster and evaluate each player's role for the LA Clippers in 2020-21.
Exhibit 10 Players
Ky Bowman, G — Of the four players who reportedly received Exhibit 10 contracts, Bowman presumably has the best shot at earning a spot on the roster.
Bowman is the most experienced player of the bunch, having already made 45 appearances and 12 starts for the Golden State Warriors in 2019-20. His numbers weren't awe-inspiring — Bowman averaged 7.4 points, 2.9 assists and 2.7 rebounds in 22.6 minutes per game on 30.8% shooting from three — but his scrappy play on defense was good enough to catch the eye of All-NBA guard Damian Lillard.
The 23-year-old could learn a lot about playing both ends of the floor from Patrick Beverley, who came into the league in 2013 and posted similar numbers. And with an increased focus on player development this season, Bowman could seemingly settle into a role as the team's third-string point guard.
Malik Fitts, F — Fitts comes to the Clippers via Saint Mary's College, where he led the 26-8 Gaels in rebounds and steals in 2019-20. He's the ideal size for an NBA-caliber wing at 6-feet-8-inches and 230 pounds, and there's a lot to like about his skillset as well. Fitts converted nearly 41% of his three-point attempts over the last two seasons and bullied opposing wings in the post.
Fitts still needs plenty of work as a passer and decision-maker, though. He committed nearly two turnovers to 1.2 assists last season, and a lot of possessions ended with a contested jumper or drive to the rim early in the shot clock.
Fitts could help fill out a G League roster this season if he doesn't land a gig elsewhere, but it seems highly unlikely that he'll remain with LA.
Jordan Ford, G — Like Fitts, Ford also joins the Clippers following a standout season at Saint Mary's College. The 6-foot-1-inch guard carved out a nice role as a score-first guard for the Gaels, averaging 21.9 points per game and converting 49.2% of his field goals in 2019-20. His offensive efficiency is off the charts.
But Ford is limited by his size on both ends of the floor, raising questions about his ability to convert at the rim in the NBA and defend opposing guards.
A spot on a G League team — perhaps the Agua Caliente Clippers — could work in Ford's favor.
Rayjon Tucker, G — Like Bowman, Tucker has a little bit of NBA experience. The bouncy guard logged 161 minutes across 20 games for the Utah Jazz in 2019-20, a handful of which came at the tail-end of Utah's seeding games. He scored a little over 17 points per game in Utah's final two regular-season contests, showing off his efficiency in the paint and willingness to play through contact.
His athleticism is easily the most exciting aspect of his game, though, as the 23-year-old once competed against 2020 NBA Dunk Contest winner Derrick Jones Jr. in the 2015 High School Dunk Contest.
There's a good chance Tucker ends up on an NBA roster this season, but the Clippers don't necessarily need someone who fits his profile.
Amir Coffey, G/F — Coffey quickly became a fan favorite in his first season with the Clippers, and it wasn't just because of his last name.
The long, versatile swingman impressed whenever he was on the floor, often stuffing the stat sheet in a matter of minutes and making the most of each opportunity. His most memorable performance came in LA's final regular-season contest, as Coffey went for 21 points, four assists, four steals and two rebounds in a double-overtime victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
He's another player that should benefit from the franchise's enhanced focus on player development, and it wouldn't come as a surprise to many if he has his two-way deal converted to a guaranteed contract this year.
Jay Scrubb, G — Originally taken with the 55th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft by the Brooklyn Nets, Scrubb ended up with the Clippers as part of the Landry Shamet trade.
The 6-foot-6-inch guard stood out in the National Junior College Athletic Association and was named its player of the year after averaging 21.9 points on 50.1% shooting from the field in 2019-20.
Unfortunately, Scrubb recently underwent foot surgery and is expected to miss three-to-four months while he recovers, according to The LA Times' Andrew Greif.
Once he's healthy, expect Scrubb to spend plenty more time with the Agua Caliente Clippers than he does with LA.
Standard Players: Guards
Patrick Beverley — Beverley had another strong, yet injury-riddled campaign for LA in 2019-20. The Clippers' starting guard missed 26 games throughout the year, five of which came during the team's bout with the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the postseason.
Still, he was as effective as ever on defense while remaining an underrated offensive threat. Per Cleaning the Glass, Beverley's 39% mark from three-point range ranked in the 77th percentile among point guards in 2019-20, and his 58% conversion rate at the rim was the second-highest of his career.
Now fully healthy, Beverley appears primed for another successful season under new head coach Tyronn Lue, who has said he doesn't plan on altering Beverley's role.
Reggie Jackson — Jackson was the main beneficiary of Beverley's various injuries last season, logging seven starts in 29 appearances (including playoffs). He did well enough during the regular season and looked like a solid addition to the roster, but Jackson's postseason performance left a lot to be desired.
The 30-year-old guard struggled on both ends of the floor, and so much so that he eventually had to be benched in LA's second-round series with the Denver Nuggets.
Now that Jackson is back for another season, expect him to continue serving as Beverley's primary backup off the bench. He can still provide some value, but Lue will need to be creative with his backcourt pairing. Doc Rivers tended to run Jackson alongside Lou Williams and/or Shamet, which decimated the team's defense.
Luke Kennard — Kennard was delivered via the Detroit Pistons by way of the Shamet trade, and while it might have looked like a lateral move at first, Kennard is capable of doing a lot of things on offense that Shamet couldn't provide — not yet, at least.
Ultimately, it boils down to Kennard being *slightly* more seasoned and a more versatile scorer. The Duke product relies on his three-ball more than anything, but he's still a solid scorer in the mid-range and at the rim. He takes plenty more shots in those areas than Shamet, who almost exclusively shot three-pointers last season.
Kennard is also more of a threat off the dribble and as a playmaker, further rounding out his more steady offensive game. He doesn't provide much value on defense, but he's a better fit for this roster than Shamet was.
Terance Mann — Mann was LA's most surprising and impressive rookie last season by a considerable margin. The 24-year-old swingman logged 41 appearances and six starts in the regular season and got on the floor for all 13 of the Clippers' playoff games.
That wasn't by mistake, either. Mann is an extremely versatile defender who can play multiple positions on either end of the floor, and he's an above-average rebounder and playmaker. Whether the Clippers were down a guard or a wing on a given night, Mann was a viable replacement.
He still needs to work on his outside shot, but Mann is another player that should benefit from LA's newfound focus on developing young talent.
Lou Williams — As one of the longest-tenured players on the team, Clippers fans should already be familiar with what Williams brings to the table. The 34-year-old is a microwave scorer and efficient playmaker, and he'll likely go down as one of the greatest — if not the greatest — bench players in league history.
He's entering the final year of his contract with LA amid plenty of trade rumors, and it's difficult to say whether or not the Clippers will move him this year. He's one of the team's most valuable trade assets, and if a need emerges, it would make sense to part ways with him.
On the other hand, there are benefits to keeping him as well. LA will almost certainly be load managing its two stars again this season, and Williams is someone the rest of the team can rely on to win games in their absence. Those contests will carry a bit more weight this season as well, as each team will only play 72 games.
The Clippers have done right by Williams so far, but this franchise has demonstrated time and time again that it isn't afraid to make those difficult decisions.
Standard Players: Forwards
Nicolas Batum — It's hard to project Batum's value to the Clippers. On paper, he's a long, versatile wing who plays strong defense, spaces the floor and moves the ball with ease. His last few seasons with the Charlotte Hornets paint a different picture.
Batum appeared in just 22 games in 2019-20, logging 3.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists across 23.0 minutes per contest. He connected on a mere 28.6% of his three-point attempts and fouled opposing players at the third-highest rate of his 12-year career.
Some of those issues may work themselves out now that he's back with a contender and surrounded by better talent, but the Clippers will need to see more from Batum if he's going to play a key role for this team down the stretch.
Paul George — No player has been the subject of more criticism over the last few months than George, who has shouldered much of the blame for the Clippers' postseason collapse. And while he certainly struggled at times throughout LA's brief playoff run, there's no reason to believe that his time in LA is limited.
After all, George is still an All-NBA-level talent, and he should only improve in his second year with the Clippers. He never looked completely comfortable due to the various injuries he suffered and the 2019-20 season's inconsistencies, but that all seems to be behind him now.
Expect a bounceback year from George as the Clippers aim for another shot at the title.
Kawhi Leonard — Leonard was as dominant as ever in his debut season with the Clippers, posting career-high averages in points (27.1) and assists (4.9) while maintaining his status as one of the game's elite defenders.
As usual, he elevated his game once the postseason came around, bringing his averages up to 28.2 points, 9.3 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.3 steals across 39.3 minutes per game.
The year obviously didn't end as he had hoped, but with a roster that looks better-built for the postseason, Leonard shouldn't have any trouble putting LA back in position to win a title — especially with Lue at the helm.
Marcus Morris Sr. — Morris Sr. got off to a slow start with LA following his trade from the New York Knicks, but his play really picked up once the Clippers got into the postseason.
His outside shot really started falling in LA's first-round series with the Dallas Mavericks, but he was arguably more valuable as a defender. Like George and Leonard, Morris Sr. defended multiple positions and took on some of the more difficult assignments, like guarding Luka Doncic.
Now that he's had more time to get acquainted with the rest of the roster, Morris Sr. should be an even better fit with the Clippers than he was last year.
Patrick Patterson — Patterson was one of the early surprises of LA's season, and for good reason. He wasn't projected to play too large a role, given he was one of the final additions to the roster, but he ended up starting in the Clippers' first 11 contests.
In that time, he connected on 37.5% of his three-point attempts (an area of concern coming into the year) and played astonishingly good defense against Lakers big Anthony Davis.
With JaMychal Green leaving for the Denver Nuggets via free agency, Patterson should serve as the primary backup to Morris Sr.
Standard Players: Centers
Serge Ibaka — The prized signing of LA's offseason, Ibaka is the perfect addition to a team that was desperate for a more defensive-minded backup big.
A true seven-footer, Ibaka is better-equipped to handle some of the league's more dominant bigs than Montrezl Harrell, who struggled against Nikola Jokic in the playoffs. He can also space the floor on offense, which should help fill the void left by Green.
Ibaka will probably come off the bench more often than not, but his positional versatility gives the Clippers some options. Not only could he start alongside Ivica Zubac, but he could close games in his place depending on the matchup.
Mfiondu Kabengele — Kabengele didn't make much of an impact last season after being taken with the 27th overall pick in the draft, and his role probably won't change much this season. LA's coaches have noted his improvement on both ends of the floor, but Kabengele is still very much a developing big.
He shows promise as a rim protector and floor-spacer, but he still needs to work on his ball-handling and vision.
Still, Kabengele may end up spending more time in the NBA than the G League this season. He has the perfect mentor to work with in Ibaka, who Kabengele has said he wants to model his game after.
Daniel Oturu — Like Kabengele, Oturu is a developmental big who probably won't spend much time on the floor this season.
He stood out for his shot-blocking, rebounding and three-point shooting with the Minnesota Golden Gophers in 2019-20, but he isn't an NBA-ready backup big that the Clippers could confidently play behind Zubac and Ibaka.
He certainly has potential, but Oturu needs to continue refining his game before he can contribute to a title-contending team like the Clippers.
Ivica Zubac — Of all the players on LA's roster, Zubac may benefit the most from the coaching change. Rivers was reluctant to rely on the two-way big throughout the 2019-20 season, which ended up hurting the Clippers in the postseason.
Zu was a much better option to throw at Jokic, but he lacked experience in big moments and late-game situations as Rivers clearly favored Harrell.
With Lue taking control of the team, Zubac should finally get the opportunity to finish games, earn a larger role and prove why he's one of the most valuable bigs in the league.