The Los Angeles Clippers could not have found a better fit when the 25th pick in the 2013 NBA draft rolled around. The team sorely needed perimeter shooting in order to space the floor around Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. Also in demand was someone who could be counted on to defend the league’s athletic wings.
Reggie Bullock fills both of those needs, according to Doc Rivers. Via Harold Gutmann of The Herald-Sun:
Having been a guy who’s been to a lot of Duke vs. North Carolina games, I got a chance to see him up close. He can play the small forward position, he can shoot it on the catch and he can defend. Those are all of the things we have targeted and that’s what we got.
However, the Clippers' wing rotation is rather deep with J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes and Jared Dudley ahead of Bullock. In order to see meaningful minutes, Bullock is going to have to master a few things early on.
First, Bullock needs to fully understand what his responsibilities are on defense. What are the rotations and which way does he slide to cover up shooters and bigs?
From all accounts, Bullock picked up Roy Williams’ system at the University of North Carolina well. That is a good sign moving forward, because Rivers’ entire philosophy is based upon his team’s defense.
Young players such as Avery Bradley and Jeff Green played vital roles on Rivers’ Boston Celtic teams, because they understood their assignments and responsibilities on defense. Bullock needs to earn the trust of his head coach or else he will be buried on the depth chart this season.
Secondly, Bullock’s primary contribution on offense will come from his shooting. Much like on defense, Bullock needs to understand his role as a floor spacer, especially when on the floor with Paul and Griffin.
He shot 43.6 percent from three last season at North Carolina and limited his mistakes on offense. According to Jovan Buha of ESPNLosAngeles.com, Rivers said:
He never put himself in a position that he could make a mistake. And that’s really nice when you see players like that. That takes years sometimes for guys to understand who they are. One thing he did when he was open was he shot it. There was no hesitation. When he wasn’t open he passed it and he didn’t try to do too much.
His ability to play shooting guard and small forward will keep him in the rotation, but mainly it will be his shooting from the corners. If Bullock can prove that he is capable of taking advantage of kick outs and knocking down threes, he will be a staple in that offense for years to come.
The final box that needs to be checked off for Bullock to thrive in Los Angeles is his rebounding. According to one scout that Sports Illustrated's Andy Glockner spoke with, rebounding is a strong suit of Bullock’s game:
He can really stroke it. Just an OK athlete. OK defensively. I’ll tell you what else he does is he rebounds. When they had that run after Roy Williams went small, he averaged like nine rebounds a game. He doesn’t pass it much, but he doesn’t turn it over, either.
A wing averaging 6.5 rebounds per game, like Bullock did during his last season at North Carolina, is extremely impressive. Rebounding was one area the Clippers needed to address at times last season.
Despite having athletic marvels like DeAndre Jordan and Griffin on the team’s front line, the Clippers finished tied for 17th in rebounds per game.
As mentioned previously, the Clippers found a perfect fit to Rivers’ style of play in Bullock. If Bullock can show the coaching staff that he understands the basic principles of the offensive and defensive systems, it will allow the staff to trust him, even as a rookie.
But it will be Bullock’s shooting that dictates his minutes as the season goes on. Shooting is one of the main attributes the team targeted in free agency. Gary Sacks, the team’s vice president of basketball operations, deems shooting as an extremely valuable attribute to the organization, via Buha's report:
It’s going to take a little bit of time, especially on a team like ours, to put himself in a position to be in the rotation. But we feel like we got a guy who brings a skill set to our team that we can never have a shortage of and that’s shooting. So being able to do that will help him get on the floor quicker, but it’s hard to say.
Bullock was one of the most NBA-ready players in the draft. It may be easier said than done, but defending well, rebounding and knocking down his open looks will result in Bullock thriving with the Los Angeles Clippers.