LAS VEGAS -- Game 1 of the LA Clippers’ 2021 Summer League is officially in the books. The Clippers’ B-team, spotlighting their three 2021 draft picks and a few deep rotation players, fell to the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks 81-78. While it’s often unadvisable to take anything meaningful away from Summer League given the makeshift rosters, sub-NBA talent and small sample size, it’s worth taking notes on for record-keeping purposes. With that being said, here are some takeaways pertaining to each relevant Clipper after Monday night’s loss.
A second-year guard who barely saw any playing time last season due to injury, Scrubb was by far the best Clipper on the court against the Bucks, dropping 24 points on 10-18 shooting and snagging 10 rebounds. His off-the-dribble game was on full display, gifting his team buckets in isolation and supporting an otherwise stagnant offense.
“He’s a lot better than just a scorer,” Summer League Head Coach Jeremy Castleberry said postgame. “He can do a lot...He gets downhill at will, he makes plays for others, he can finish, he’s going to be a great defensive player.”
While Coach Castleberry hailed Scrubb’s ability to playmake, his facilitating left something to be desired on Monday night. Scrubb did not record an assist, and many of LA’s possessions ended in Scrubb taking his man off the dribble while the rest of the team cleared out. Scrubb delivered possession after possession, hitting tough midrange jumpers and drawing contact at the rim, but it would’ve been nice to see him kick out to shooters a bit more. Even so, this sort of microwave scoring could be useful on LA’s second unit in the regular season.
Brandon Boston Jr.
The no. 51 pick in the 2021 Draft, Boston was acquired by LA via trade and officially signed on Sunday to a three-year, $2.5 million deal. Boston looked extremely comfortable in his first game donning a Clipper jersey, scoring 10 points in 23 minutes. He hit a pair of corner threes, and relocated wisely and often without the ball. Coach Castleberry also gave him several opportunities to create off the dribble (Boston seems to prefer to cook on the left wing), and although he didn’t always finish, he showed an ability to break his defender down with his ball-handling. Defensively, Boston’s length and athleticism looked NBA-ready.
When asked postgame what aspects of his skillset he’s excited to show off at Summer League, Boston was confident:
“Creating off the pick-and-roll for others and myself,” Boston said postgame. “Definitely just going downhill, reading the defense, kicking it to the open man.”
The Clippers’ first-round pick out of Tennessee struggled from the floor in his debut, contributing just eight points on 4-16 shooting and missing all five of his three-point attempts. He looked a bit overwhelmed at times offensively, but at least the 16 shot attempts proves he’s not shy.
Defensively, he made a great read early in the fourth quarter, getting into the passing lane and breaking away for a nasty slam.
“Got a great ability to see passing lanes,” Castleberry said of Johnson’s defense postgame. “Does a great job of getting through screens, whether it’s on the ball, off the ball.”
Johnson once said he patterned his game after Kawhi Leonard’s, and cited his two-way ability as a similarity between them. While he still has a long way to go to get to his Defensive-Player-of-the-Year-teammate’s level, Johnson can earn minutes in the regular season if he continues to get stops and be a disrupter against opposing benches.
Clippers’ President Lawrence Frank recently heralded Preston, LA’s No. 33 pick, as the second-best passer in the draft. Preston did a great job of proving Frank right, dishing out eight assists and turning the ball over just once in his 25-minute Summer League debut. A standout dime was a bounce-pass to big man Isaiah Hicks in the lane out of pick-and-roll that led to a Bucks’ shooting foul. Preston showed patience and craftiness, and his vision will only look better if he’s ever paired with a great roll-man like Ivica Zubac.
Like his new teammate Johnson, Preston struggled to shoot the ball, going 1-4 from the field and 0-3 from deep. If defenses do not need to respect his jumper, they’ll elect to drop their big back and limit his ability to find rollers. His jump shot looks a bit odd, but his release is lightning-quick. He shot 39% from three on 4.1 attempts per game his final year at Ohio, so there’s no reason to write him off after one poor shooting night in Vegas.
His defense is where true concern should be given. Johnson looks extremely slight in-person, and he was moved out of the way easily multiple times while trying to slow down NBA-sized guards either in transition or in half-court settings.
Coffey, the Clipper who saw the most playing time in last year’s regular season of anyone on this Summer League squad, had quite an off-night against the Bucks. He went 1-9 from the field, 1-6 from three, turned the ball over six times, and overall made quite a few poor decisions throughout the game.
Many of these struggles could be a result of Coffey being asked to do too much. As a part of the senior team, Coffey was a spot-up shooter who was asked to do nothing but let it fly from deep and occasionally finish in transition. While he showed flashes last season of creation, he’s by no means best-suited as a lead ball-handler, which is what he was on Monday night. Even so, he made sloppy passes out of pick-and-roll, and had a costly turnover with under a minute remaining that helped the Bucks seal their win.
Oturu, LA’s fourth-string big man last year who is now heading into his sophomore NBA season, proved effective in the second half after struggling in the first. He finished the game with a solid double-double: 12 points and 10 rebounds (a whopping eight of those boards were on the offensive end). Oturu has a tendency to fumble passes fed to him, and he’ll probably never be an effective post-up threat (unless the the effect desired is to intentionally lose to the Oklahoma City Thunder on the last night of the regular season), but his energy on the glass and willingness to rim-run make him a serviceable big in this setting.
The Clippers will have a quick turnaround, as they’re set to play Game 2 of their Summer League against the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday at 8 p.m.