Winners and Losers from LA Clippers Summer League
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Coming off of an ugly 1-4 Las Vegas Summer League performance, the Los Angeles Clippers had little to smile about as they left Sin City. With only one win against the Atlanta Hawks, the Clips struggled mightily in the desert. While the team’s play as a whole was underwhelming, summer league coach Tyronn Lue should still be leaving pleased with the performances of some of his players.
Among them was the play of Reggie Bullock, the Clippers’ first-round pick and No. 25 overall selection. Bullock lived up to his reputation as a smart playmaker and a solid perimeter defender, suggesting that he will fit in perfectly in Lob City. His shooting was rather cold, but we will get to that later.
Outside of Bullock, there was also the compelling storyline of the battle for third-string point guard between Maalik Wayns and Jerome Randle. Front office looks for another Clipper big were also prevalent at summer league, as new coach Doc Rivers, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin all stopped by to watch their potential teammates.
With summer league over, who came out on top for the Clippers? Who were the big winners, who were the losers and who might we see on LAC come opening night?
We will evaluate the winners and losers by their summer league performance as well as their potential roster fits.
All statistics used from NBA.com.
Winner: Maalik Wayns
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Featured in six games for the Clippers last season, Maalik Wayns was the only player on the summer league to have appeared in any previous games for Los Angeles.
Playing limited minutes behind Paul and Eric Bledsoe, Wayns played in garbage time, averaging just over six minutes per contest. This summer, Wayns was limited to four games, sitting out Lob City’s playoff game against the New York Knicks.
Wayns hardly overwhelmed the Clippers’ coaching staff this summer, putting up double-digit points just once over the four games. What he did bring was versatility offensively and defensively, demonstrating that he is capable of scoring or distributing while defending either backcourt position.
The Villanova product averaged four assists per game, second best on the team. Where Wayns might have beaten out his competition for a final roster spot is in his familiarity with the Clippers’ locker room.
Spending time in the NBA last season, Wayns developed a relationship with Paul, something not to be underestimated. Bringing back Wayns would mean one less new face to integrate into the locker room. However with a completely new coaching staff, Wayns surely had to impress Doc and Co. Nevertheless, Wayns history with the likes of Paul, Griffin and DeAndre Jordan could give him the edge over some of his summer league teammates.
Loser: Jerome Randle
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On the other side of the battle for the final point guard roster spot, Jerome Randle had a productive summer league but faces the difficulty of competing against the incumbent Wayns.
A noted playmaker while at Cal, Randle impressed while leading the Clips in assists at 5.4 per night this summer. Randle had his best performance against the Mavericks when he came off the bench to score 15 points, grab four boards and drop six dimes, while shooting 60 percent field the field.
Despite his success in summer league, Randle lacks at least one thing that might restrict him from nabbing a spot on an opening night roster: size. At a generous 5’10”, Randle is undersized for the point guard position.
The Clippers’ already compromise enough length at the point with small guards Paul and Darren Colllison. Nevertheless, Randle’s summer league could lead to an invitation to training camp or a partially guaranteed contract.
Where he could earn favor is with summer league coach Tyronn Lue. Notably undersized in his playing career, Lue did not let length bother him en route to winning multiple championships with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Winner: Reggie Bullock
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The most well-recognized player on the Clips summer league roster, Reggie Bullock might have had the least to prove. Already with a guaranteed contract, Bullock did not have to face the same pressure as his peers that are struggling to find a home in the NBA.
Bullock produced, leading the Clippers in scoring at 18.0 per night. Bullock’s offensive savvy was on full display in the Clips’ opening win against the Hawks, when he scored 18 points on an efficient eight for 15 shooting. In a postseason performance against the Mavs, Bullock went off for 20 points, along with five boards and four assists.
Bullock’s summer league campaign did not come without its pitfalls, however. His average of 4.2 rebounds was a bit underwhelming for the athletic 6’7” forward. The dead-eye shooter’s field goal percentage was especially dismal, as Bullock connected on just 28.2 percent of his three-point attempts. Among his off nights included a three for 11 clunker from downtown in the Clips’ loss against the Knicks.
The Clippers’ offseason acquisition of Jared Dudley and re-signing of Matt Barnes will certainly limit Bullock’s playing time this season. Luckily for Bullock, the next time he suits up for the Clippers, he will be flanked by playmakers Paul and Griffin. Despite his poor shooting, Bullock should be afforded better looks in the regular season.
Loser: Samardo Samuels
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Even with a strong summer league performance, Samardo Samuels will struggle to make the Clippers’ roster given the depth at the wing.
Samuels has a big NBA frame at 6’9” and 260 pounds, earning a reputation as a strong finisher in Las Vegas. The Louisville product was second on the team in scoring, averaging 11.2 points per contest, and first on the team in rebounds, pulling down 6.8 boards per night. His 5.0 fouls per game were a bit suspect, and could be reflective of either over-aggressiveness or perimeter laziness.
Unfortunately for Samuels, the Clips already have wing roster spots committed to Matt Barnes, Jared Dudley and Reggie Bullock. Where Samuels might have been able to differentiate himself was in his ability to crash the boards and get into the paint. Still, it is hard to see Samuels locking up a spot on the Clippers given their depth chart on the wing.
Nevertheless, Samuels’ prior experience playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers suggests that he might be more fortunate in finding a home in the NBA then some of his other summer league peers.
Loser: Elijah Johnson
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Coming into the summer league, Elijah Johnson had earned somewhat of a reputation for poor decision-making. A miserable summer league performance leaves little chance that he will make the Clippers’ roster.
Johnson earned just 13.6 minutes per night, averaging 4.2 points while shooting a miserable 28.6 percent from the field. He added little elsewhere, finishing with an average of just 2.4 assists and rebounds combined.
Even worse, coach Tyronn Lue publicly criticized Johnson. According to ClipperBlog’s Fred Katz, Lue said, “I thought Elijah at times was messing around. Didn’t take it serious.”
It is one thing to mess around when one is an established player in the NBA, but quite another for a young player trying to make a final roster spot in a summer league. Even though Johnson was unlikely to make the Clippers’ roster in the first place, Lue’s comments might have closed the door on what little chance he had.
Winner: Brandon Davies
Brandon Davies could be one of the only summer league prospects to take his talents from Sin City to Lob City.
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The former BYU big man, Brandon Davies signed a partially guaranteed contract for the Clippers following his summer league performance. Essentially an invitation to training camp, Davies was one of the big winners on the Clips’ summer league team.
Although Davies averaged just 4.2 points in Sin City, he demonstrated good decision-making and poise around the basket. A lanky 6’9”, Davies played big in the paint defensively.
His average of 4.0 rebounds is cause for concern, but Davies played like a college veteran. Fittingly, his best performance came in his last game, when he scored 14 points in a loss against the Knicks.
Luckily for Davies, the Clippers need another big that can finish around the basket or step out on the perimeter. While he has a lot to improve upon, Davies was one of the few players on the summer league roster that looks to have a legitimate chance of suiting up for LAC in the regular season.