Ready to begin play in Las Vegas, the Los Angeles Clippers’ summer league team is full of young players looking to impress and lock up a spot on Lob City’s opening night roster.
The only player with a guaranteed spot is first-round pick Reggie Bullock, selected No. 25 overall in this year’s draft. The rest of the roster is composed of former college stars like Samardo Samuels, and guys that have played sparingly for the Clips—like Maalik Wayns, DaJuan Summers, and even a former lottery pick in Jonny Flynn.
With the recent additions of Darren Collison, J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, the Clips are already pretty stacked in the backcourt and on the wing. Even though the Clippers are rather thin on the front line, any big man that is lucky enough to take his talents from Las Vegas to Los Angeles will likely play sparingly in the pros, if he can make the roster.
Let’s take a look at some of the summer's key storylines, including who to keep an eye on, and who might be in red, white and blue this fall.
Looking to add more versatility to their roster this offseason, the Clippers went out and drafted Reggie Bullock out of North Carolina, a compelling 3-and-D prospect. Although Bullock will have no pressure to earn a roster spot this summer, he most certainly will be the most scrutinized and heavily observed Clipper in Las Vegas.
Shooting 43.6 percent from three-point land for the Tar Heels last season, Bullock will be expected to drain open looks. According to DraftExpress, Bullock averaged 1.29 points on catch-and-shoot attempts last year.
Although Bullock is behind both Dudley and Barnes in the depth chart, he should excel on open jumpers from the corner afforded to him by the dribble penetration of Chris Paul and the attention in the post paid to Blake Griffin.
Bullock is also an above-average on-ball defender. He is athletic, with a 6’9” wingspan that should give him the length and speed to cover shooting guards and small forwards. His height and length make him a capable wing or shooting guard on the floor.
The North Carolina product is the only real 3-and-D player on the team’s summer roster and could surprise the Clipper faithful. For a fanbase that has grown accustomed to tracking summer league for a historically futile franchise, Bullock is a welcome change of pace. Any production that he can contribute will be icing on the cake to what has already been an impressive offseason in Lob City.
The Clippers were hoping that Lamar Odom could double as the team’s stretch 4 last season, but another underwhelming campaign left Los Angeles looking for a big that can rebound and stretch the floor. LAC has at least two intriguing products in Samardo Samuels and JaJuan Johnson.
Samuels has played the last three seasons for the Cleveland Cavaliers, earning the most burn in the lock-out shortened 2011-12 season when he appeared in 54 games for the woeful Cavs. Samuels was a stud at Louisville however, averaging 15.0 points and seven boards in 33 games for the Cardinals in 2009-10.
Samuels works best in the paint, but his 6’9” frame and lanky arms make him a capable candidate to draw defenders out to the perimeter. The big man is coming off of a tremendous season in the D-League for the Reno Bighorns, dropping 19.5 points and 9.9 boards in 32 games last season.
While Samuels is a compelling candidate, former Boston Celtic JaJuan Johnson might also have a chance at a roster spot this season.
The 6’9” Johnson was likened to a raw Kevin Garnett when he came out of Purdue in 2011. Johnson is a defense-first big man with capable range that likely has some history with new head coach Doc Rivers from their time together in Beantown.
With the Celtics’ tremendous depth in the 2011-12 season, Johnson appeared in just 36 games for the C’s—averaging 8.3 minutes per night, mostly in garbage time. Johnson spent his 2012-13 campaign working on his game while bouncing around D-League teams, playing for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the Canton Charge and the Idaho Stampede.
Johnson averaged a modest 9.4 points and 5.3 rebounds in 42 games in the D-League last season. Although his numbers do not jump off the page, Johnson could compete with his defense awareness.
In Jonny Flynn and Brandon Davies, the Clippers have two young players that will be looking for some NBA redemption after well-publicized college careers.
Davies might be best known for his suspension from Brigham Young in 2011 after violating the school’s honor code. Prior to that, fans might have forgot that Davies was enjoying the best season of his collegiate career, averaging 17.7 points and eight boards for the Cougars. A skilled passing big, Davies also dropped 2.4 dimes per contest.
Davies' size and skill set make him a potential candidate to back up Hollins on the bench. If he can impress in Las Vegas, then he could earn one of Lob City's final roster spots.
Other than Davies, former Syracuse superstar Jonny Flynn will be looking to sustain a spot on an NBA team after a tumultuous beginning to his career. The sixth-overall pick in the 2009 draft, Flynn bounced around on the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Houston Rockets and the Portland Trail Blazers, before heading to Australia to play for the Melbourne Tigers in 2012-13.
The Big East tournament MVP in 2009 and All-Rookie Second Team guard in 2010, Flynn is yet to find any sustainability in the NBA. Once likened to Damon Stoudamire by NBADraft.net, Flynn has yet to come close to living up to the hype he generated at Syracuse.
Flynn is certainly the most well known player on the Clips’ summer roster. With Paul and Collison already in the fold, Flynn might be a long shot to make the team. Nevertheless, an impressive summer league could turn some heads in the Clippers' front office.
All statistics used from Basketball-Reference.com, ESPN.com, NBADraft.net and DraftExpress.com.