Is There a Future in Los Angeles for the Clippers' Young Shooting Guards?

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Is There a Future in Los Angeles for the Clippers' Young Shooting Guards?
Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Clippers' selections of shooting guards C.J. Wilcox and Reggie Bullock in the first round of the 2013 and 2014 NBA drafts are not hard to dissect. The Clips want spot-up shooters.

But with so much talent in that regard, is there a future for the youngsters? 

J.J. Redick is firmly in place as the starting 2-guard, and reigning Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford is on hand to back him up. Those are two veterans chewing up 28.2 and 30.3 minutes per game, respectively, and deservedly so.

The disclaimer here is that Redick missed significant time due to injury, but the heavy minutes average still illustrates how each is a key component in the rotation. 

If that weren't enough, there's this: 

Doc Rivers had been in contact with Ray Allen earlier this summer. Expect the Clippers to make a run at him again.

— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) August 29, 2014

What all that means is that Wilcox and Bullock are the odd men out on a roster loaded with talent. But will the situation stay that way, and did the Clips waste two first-rounders on players with no real shot at making an impact on this championship contender? 

Before looking into the crystal ball, it's important to examine where both players came from and why the Clippers chose them.

 

Bullock: A natural shotmaker

According to DraftExpress.com, Bullock ranked No. 1 among his 2013 top-100 peers with an average of 1.29 points per shot-on-catch. Considering he fell to the Clippers at pick No. 25 in 2013, it's not hard to see why he was coveted as a potential role player who could benefit from playing alongside a world-class distributor like Chris Paul:

(One note here: Bullock was projected as a small forward but has played primarily at shooting guard in the NBA. It's conceivable that with his 6'7" frame, he could move over and find some playing time at the 3.) 

Just weeks after selecting Bullock on June 27, 2013, the Clippers found an NBA-ready version of the then-rookie in Redick. The three-team deal that sent the sharpshooter over from the Milwaukee Bucks made sense from the Clippers' perspective. They were built to win immediately, and Redick brought a career 39 percent mark from the three-point line and superb off-ball ability that complemented Paul. 

That set of circumstances limited Bullock's opportunities. His 9.2 minutes per game in 43 appearances last season serve as evidence he didn't have a chance to show what he could do consistently, even with Redick missing 47 games due to injury. 

 

More of the same with Wilcox

A look into what Wilcox brings to the table is eye-opening in terms of the Clippers' intentions. The former University of Washington star is another catch-and-shoot projected role player who can help space the floor with his perimeter game.

In fact, DraftExpress pointed out that he ranked second in the top-100 of the 2014 draft class on catch-and-shoot jumpers during his final collegiate season with a healthy mark of 43 percent. What's more, he shot 39 percent from deep in 32 games while hoisting 7.2 attempts per contest. 

Here's another player who's a systematic fit alongside a master assist-maker like Paul. Wilcox can shoot with accuracy off screens and thrives in off-ball situations. If he learns a few tricks from Redick, he'll get even better in that key area. 

If this sounds familiar, it's because Los Angeles brass made a calculated move to load up on these types of players by first acquiring Bullock and Redick. The Clippers covet shooters, and in Doc Rivers' offense, the half-court sets he employs will work best with players who can keep defenses stretched at the wing. 

More evidence of how Wilcox fits that mold:

 

The plan

With the Clippers built to win right away, it's clear the youngsters will have to exercise some patience. Both Wilcox and Bullock bring unique attribute to the table. The release of newly acquired shooting specialist Carlos Delfino further substantiates the notion that there may be room for them to grow within the Clippers organization. 

In addition, Wilcox understands the challenge of coming into a logjam at guard and has personal experience to draw on. As Wilcox said, via Eric Patten of Clippers.com:

When I got to UW, there were like six guards ahead of me at that time, so I had to kind of figure my way out and work my way into the rotation. I think being in that situation helped me prepare for a situation like this. So, I’m going to take it as a challenge and work hard and try to squeeze my way in.

As far as what's next for the Clippers' young wings, Rivers summed it up expertly when pressed on the question of having solid depth at one position: 

Once camp starts, you just go and compete. That’s what makes our league so neat. Once the contracts and everybody is signed, then it’s who plays the best. You just see that, at least from a coaching standpoint.

So, is there a future for both players?

At this point, the answer is still yes. Crawford and Redick are both north of age 30. Redick's recent injury history could leave the door open for either player to have a considerable impact. And even if Allen does come to Hollywood, he'll be a short-term option at the tail end of his career.

Do Reggie Bullock and C.J. Wilcox have a future in Los Angeles with the Clippers?

Submit Vote vote to see results

As Rivers said, training camp will help determine whether Wilcox or Bullock, if not both, will see chances to prove their worth come the start of the season. At this point given their potential, there's plenty left to learn about where they fit in within the framework of the Clips' rotation. 

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