The Los Angeles Clippers have a record of 16 wins and only four losses in their last 20 games. With the playoffs looming, the Clippers seem to be surging at the right time, having cemented the third seed in the loaded Western Conference.
They’ll face a tough road in the playoffs, most likely having to face Golden State in the first round and then inevitably will have to play Oklahoma City and San Antonio. Regardless of how the season finishes out, the Clips have a lot to look forward to in the coming years, being one of the most exciting teams in the league.
With two superstars on the roster, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, along with great contributors in J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford and DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers have an outstanding nucleus to build around.
However, to continue the movement of establishing themselves as a franchise that has staying success, they’re going to need to do what all good franchises do, and that is to draft well. The upcoming 2014 NBA draft is one of the deepest in recent history.
The Clippers have very solid depth at shooting guard and small forward but lack quality depth in the frontcourt and could possibly consider adding one more piece on the outside.
According to draftexpress.com, if the season were to end today, the Clippers would have the No. 28 overall selection. Let’s take a look at their best options.
The two following players may or may not be there when the Clippers are on the clock, but they would be dream picks at the No. 28 spot.
Adreian Payne: Michigan State, Senior Power Forward
At 6'10'' and 245 pounds, Payne is a versatile and athletic big man who should be able to contribute several different attributes to an NBA team. This season, he averaged 16.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game while shooting 51.5 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from downtown.
Payne is a terrific shooter for someone of his size and also has the size and athleticism to bang in the post. He’s quick and can also defend and rebound at a high level.
Payne may or may not be there when the Clips are on the clock, but he would be their dream pick at that spot. He would be an ideal fit in Los Angeles, providing much needed depth in the frontcourt, with the ability to score as a stretch 4 who can also bang down low.
Clint Capela: Switzerland, 19-Year-Old Power Forward/Center
The big man from Switzerland is an intriguing young prospect and has all the potential in the world. At 6'11" and 220 pounds, Capela is long and athletic, having a wingspan of 7'5".
He is great in transition, very good at finishing above the rim and is also an excellent defender and rebounder. Lately he has been shooting up draft boards, but it is still unknown where he will go in the first round. I’ve seen mock drafts of him going anywhere from the lottery to the end of the first round.
This would be another dream situation for the Clippers. Capela would be an exciting, young addition who could come off the bench to spell either Griffin or Jordan, and fans would hardly even notice a difference in athleticism and explosiveness.
More Realistic Options
The following players are more realistic in still being on the board when the Clippers select at No. 28 overall.
Jusuf Nurkic: Bosnia, 19-Year-Old Center
At 6'11" and 280 pounds, Nurkic is absolutely huge. He’s an old-school big man who possesses soft hands and thrives around the basket.
He is big, strong and skilled; however, he’s not super athletic. His lack of athleticism is the only real knock on him, and for what he doesn’t have in athleticism, he makes up for in skill around the basket.
For the Clippers, he would be a great addition at center, providing depth, fresh legs and an upgrade on the second unit.
Mitch McGary: Michigan, Sophomore Power Forward/Center
Mitch McGary only played in eight games this past season, where he averaged 9.5 points, 8.3 boards and nearly two steals per game. Injuries kept him out of play, but many people remember what he did for Michigan in his freshman year and realize he has serious NBA potential.
At 6'10" and 250 pounds, McGary is a physically imposing big man in the paint. He is an extremely high-energy guy who has great hands and a fantastic motor. He can finish with authority at the rim and is also an excellent rebounder. He has nice range on his jumper and can step out around the high post and hit the 18-footer.
He still needs to work a bit on post moves, but McGary would be perfect in Los Angeles. With some great attributes already in his arsenal, McGary has all the potential to become a very good NBA player. He would thrive with the Clippers, being a perfect back up for Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan.
Nick Johnson: Arizona, Junior Shooting Guard
Nick Johnson was the player of the year in the Pac-12 this season. The only reason he’s not projected higher is because of his size, being a 6'3" shooting guard.
Despite being undersized at his natural position of shooting guard, Johnson can switch to point guard at any time with relative ease. He is incredibly athletic and has a great motor. He’s a good shooter with NBA range, and perhaps his best quality is his outstanding on-ball defense.
Johnson could be a good fit in LA. He would bring energy off of the bench, and his athleticism and tenacity would work well as a lockdown defender who can also handle the ball and knock down threes.
Jarnell Stokes: Tennessee, Junior Power Forward/Center
Jarnell Stokes would normally be considered to go somewhere in the early or middle part of the second round, but since this draft does not have great depth of quality big men, and considering the Clippers’ needs, the team will certainly take a look at him.
Guys like Payne and Capela are dream situations for the Clips, but in the case that they are gone by the time LAC is on the clock, then Stokes will certainly be among the players the Clips consider drafting. He’s undersized at 6'8", but he weighs a beastly 250 pounds and can straight up out-muscle guys in the paint.
Stokes is a tremendous rebounder, decent shot-blocker, solid defender and provides a good scoring option in the paint. The only knock on him as that he can sometimes struggle against longer players because of his height.
For the Clippers, he’s another guy who would be able to upgrade the depth in the second unit, mainly providing solid scoring, energy, strength and rebounding.