Saturday, July 04, 2015

2015 NBA Summer League Rosters - L.A. Clippers

Branden Dawson

From this year's NCAA small forwards list:

Dawson is a power forward in a shooting guard's body, which of course makes him a small forward by default. He is undersized but explosive, and capable of defending inside and outside. Capable in various matchups, Dawson can match up at the two, three and four positions, and is a physical specimen, combining athleticism with strength and a wide, wide frame.

Normally defending the post, Dawson gets by on defense despite the height disadvantage with this strength and with great discipline. He might be smaller than most opponents, but he is almost always stronger and more athletic than they are, and his long arms help make up for some of the difference. Dawson grabs tough rebounds and is measured in his aggression, and has good anticipatory skills and positional awareness. This does not negate the size disadvantage, but it surely helps a lot.

Offensively, Dawson has developed a little bit of a mid-range shot, but it's not pleasant looking, and he has absolutely no three point range at the moment. With little handle to speak of either, Dawson is entirely a finisher and not a creator, not even down low in the post. Rarely getting to the line (and shooting dreadfully when he does), Dawson is an opportunistic offensive player who gets by through transition, cuts, offensive rebounds and hustle. Yet when he does get such a look, he tears the rim off. This is pretty much all he does on offense, but it's both fun and useful.

Dawson, then, is limited to only a couple of areas of the game, but is extremely effective within them. If he can spot up a bit and keep the energy up, he could stick in the league for a while.

Diante Garrett

Garrett spent last season in the D-League, trying to make it back to the NBA in which he had spent the bulk of the previous two seasons. He started with the Iowa Energy and averaged 14.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists in 36.5 minutes per game, then was traded to the Grand Rapids Drive in exchange for Willie Reed, and averaged 11.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 23.0 minutes per game there. Garrett shot 40.4% from three point range across those two stints, and has found his niche as a player; a big combo-with-point-tendencies guard with a good wing span and defensive effort, who hits open jump shots and makes relatively few mistakes. Whether he has the athleticism to make it back to the NBA is another matter - not able to get beyond the first line of the defense much, Garrett's upside at the NBA level is limited, and now aged 26, others may have the advantage.

Eric Griffin

The extremely athletic Griffin is back once again after a fine summer league performance with the Dallas Mavericks last season that led to a training camp contract with the team. And although he didn't quite make it out of camp, a fine season with the Mavericks' affiliate Texas saw him average 19.0 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game in 35 minutes a contest. Although Griffin seems to become a less and less interested rebounder with each passing season despite his physical tools, he continues to improve as a shooter, last year knocking down 98 three pointers at a 36.8% mark. That plus 2.4 blocks per game is quite the combination, and Griffin has a legitimate chance of making the NBA next year, including behind his namesake Blake.

Jordan Hamilton

After some time in the D-League, Hamilton finished up the season with the Clippers, averaging 2.7 points in 14 games. The book is mostly out on Hamilton now; scoring bursts, OK athlete sufficient if not stand-out defense, prone to forcing things at times and passing up at times, and a good not great shooter. There's perhaps some three-and-D potential there, but not the Tobias Harris potential there was once thought to be.

Darington Hobson

Hobson is back for summer league visit, five years after first being drafted. He spent the first half of last year in Brazil, averaging 17.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists with Brasilia, then came back to the D-League with the Santa Cruz Warriors and added further averages of 12.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists in 29.2 minutes per game. Hobson also upped his three point volume, taking four a game and hitting them at 36.7%, and had a very strong final stretch of the season. In the final game of the D-League season, Hobson led the Warriors with 22 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists over the Fort Wayne Mad Ants; a team that was 15-10 after Hobson's debut ended up 35-15 and the league champions, and Hobson was a big part of that. Hobson does much the same sort of thing as what Joe Ingles does, and Joe Ingles just played a full season in the NBA. At this point, so could Hobson.

Geron Johnson

From last year's NCAA shooting guards list:

Johnson was [Chris] Crawford's team mate at Memphis for the last two years, and played off the ball just as much as he did in an entirely different way. The hallmarks of his game are playing hard and playing athletically, and he thrives on all the things those things avail. He runs the court, is always pushing the ball, and can drive to the rim and finish explosively. He really is a dynamic full court player, a tremendous rebounder for a 6'3 guard, and, at times, a quality defensive presence. Johnson's speed and hands make him a very capable defensive player of both guard positions when the tenacity is there (and it normally is, but there are lulls). Strong with a long wingspan and a great leap, Johnson's physical profile belies his lack of height for the two guard position, and yet he can also masquerade as a point, bringing the ball up when needed and a good extra passer, if not a defense collapser.

All good so far. Sounds like the upcoming Chris Kramer if Kramer could do something with the ball, if he had longer arms, and if he was even more athletic. Indeed, Johnson shares Kramer's poor shooting ability, struggling with any form of jumpshot and yet not letting that stop him from trying them. The comparison goes further - Johnson struggles to create his jumpshots or any offense of his own, cannot shoot off the dribble at all and struggles with poor touch around the rim, but is a good extra passer and has good hands and drives open lanes. Johnson can split a double team and drive baseline in ways Kramer can't, but there are many similarities nonetheless. Yet what really separates them is Johnson's knack for turnovers, stemming from forcing the issue, not being able to dribble at the same speed as he can run, throwing the ball away and making too many poor decisions. Johnson makes much happen when he is on the court, but when he's on the ball, those things are all too often not good things.

This all lends itself terrifically to a workout setting, and Johnson played himself into fringe NBA range in that period. But it may be as close as he gets.

Johnson signed with the Houston Rockets for three days right at the end of training camp so that the Rockets could get him to their D-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. But although Johnson spent the whole year there, he didn't play much, averaging only 12.9 minutes in 33 games and averaging 5.2 points and 1.4 assists. The 23% shooting means the jump shot is still not there yet.

Haakim Johnson

Johnson is out of NAIA school Pikeville, and having graduated in 2009 has spent the vast majority of his time in non-English speaking countries. He spent one year in Puerto Rico, two in Japan, a couple in Europe, all interspersed with trips to Saudi Arabia. He has also spent time in Mexico and in the PBL (apparently the Clippers are hitting up the non-D-League minor leagues this summer). A 6'7 face-up four man (not to be confused with a small forward), Johnson fancies himself a shooter, but is inconsistent in his mechanics and shoots a bit flat, and has never been a good shooter at any of these many stops despite his best intentions. He has some post-up play and driving in his arsenal and is decently athletic, but Johnson does not stand out in any facet of the game, and still just wants to be a shooter.

Amath M'Baye

M'Baye played in summer league for the Clippers last year, as well as for the Jazz and Spurs in 2013, at which time I wrote this about him:

M'Baye's incredibly ambitious declaration for the draft didn't really work out, in the sense that he wasn't drafted, although it does mean he can begin earning professional basketball paychecks sooner. And earn paychecks, he will. Last year for Oklahoma, M'Baye averaged 10.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 0.8 blocks per game, hitting some jumpers, defending some forwards, grabbing boards, whilst hardly handling or playmaking. Yet there was no one determinable calling card. A solid college player whose lure is his physical profile, M'Baye will be in the pro game for several years, but this is likely the closest he'll get to the bigs.

To be fair, his career trajectory right now rather mirrors that of the aforementioned Jeff Brooks. And yet it has worked out for Jeff. But not in the NBA.

The two years hence have been spent in Japan with the Mitsubishi Dolphins, for whom M'Baye averaged 23.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game last season. He also shot 33% from three on more than three attempts per game, which is an improvement on pretty much every year prior. M'Baye impressed the Clippers last summer with his willingness to run and his athleticism, and two years as a go-to guy at both forwatd spots has helped him develop his once raw skills to go with his physical profile. M'Baye has continued to improve year on year and expand his game, and is back here on merit, despite my (not intended) pessimism of yester year.

Liam McMorrow

Tennessee Tech graduate McMorrow is also a one time summer league back for a second go, who played for the as-were Hornets in the 2013 edition. He has spent the two years hence in various places, firstly in Taiwan, and then splitting last year between the Halifax Rainmen of NBL Canada and Barako Bull in the Phillipines, the latter of which he averaged 27.5 points and 20.2 rebounds per game for. Even in a league where every import's stats (especially rebounding stats) are huge, McMorrow's stand out. Turning 28 in a couple of weeks despite his relative newness to the game, McMorrow is a project starting to come good - 7'2, strong and a good leaper, he is a rare physical specimen, who never fails to make himself known on the glass. The offensive game is extremely limited, the mistakes high, and the defensive awareness slowo and clumsy (for some reason he never does much in the way of shotblocking, despite it all), yet in spite of this and his advancing age, McMorrow's profile is suitably rare as to always merit a look.

Yanick Moreira

From this year's NCAA centres list:

Moreira leaves Southern Methodist as a very experienced and much developed player. His awareness and understanding of the pace of the game improved markedly as a senior, and he went from being something of a project to a developed professional player.

Moreira is a fluid and mobile athlete, not a huge leaper or especially explosive but one who moves well and runs the court especially well for a centre. He has also added some muscle to a slightly thin frame, and has skill to go with this profile. Armed with a turnaround jump shot and a quick set-shot from the 15 feet or so area, Moreira also scores with a running righty hook, but can also use a left, and is a good interior passer to boot. He will take a dribble or two from the mid-range area and is always a threat in pick-and-roll situations. Moreira is pretty much entirely a mid-range threat, without the strength to create position in the post and without the range to step any further out, and shoots line-drives free throws poorly that belie his shooting abilities from that area in open play. But he will occasionally flash a spin move in the post and is certainly effective overall offensively, a skilled and smooth big man who presents an option in the half court, and definitely in the full court.

Defensively, the lack of strength again hinders Moreira a bit, and he is a bit soft with his interior defense. He also goal tends quite a lot of shots, and I don't say this because of his one most famous one. He nevertheless competes defensively and is a good paint protector, lively and active, who gets up quickly from standing - the goal tends are the trade-off from the overall good defensive presence.

Were he slightly stronger and slightly more skilled, Moreira would be a sure-fire NBA player. As it is, he's not far short anyway.

D.J. Newbill

From this year's NCAA shooting guards list:

Newbill is an extremely big time scorer, partly because Penn State have always needed him to be, but always because he is capable of being so.

Best as a slasher, Newbill scores in many ways, if not every way. He has added better three point range year on year, but is certainly no three point bomber; indeed, for a while, he took too many two point jump shots. But he's put them away, in favour of more three pointers and more barrels to the paint. Newbill can get to the paint using good athleticism and a very good handle that allows him to change direction quickly, particularly in the form of a crossover that is something of a staple. Once at the rim, Newbill's power and aggressive nature makes him an unafraid finisher (albeit almost entirely with the right hand), which he combines with a runner (supposedly which he learnt from Tim Frazier) for those moments when he can't or won't get the whole way there. Newbill also shoots a pull-up two pointer well, and has a stronger mid-range game than most.

Capable of playing point guard, Newbill is best served more off the ball, where his efficiency improves markedly and where he can focus on the thing he does best - scoring. He is much better at getting to the basket off of curls and closeouts than in isolation, and although he shoots few jump shots off these screens, his catch-and-shoot shot is servicable. Furthermore, Newbill is also a fairly decent defender. His lateral quickness is perhaps better than his straight line speed, and although there are some lapses on that end (which can perhaps be attributed to the huge offensive load he has been carrying), his ability to stay in front when plugged in is quite good.

Ideally, Newbill would be bigger (only 6'4 with a 6'6 wingspan, not great for a two guard). This, of course, he cannot control. He can however control the shot selection, which is not great at times, and he can be accountable for the defensive lapses and underdeveloped jump shot. There is also a hero ball tendency in clutch situations that needs to go (and which the team must be somewhat accountable for), yet that will likely go with newer pastures.

There is no one remarkable facet to Newbill's game, yet there is a bit of most of them. Newbill can be a tremendous European guard.

Tim Parham

Parham is almost certainly going to be the oldest player in any of the three summer leagues going on this season. Now aged 32, the 6'9 centre graduated from Maryland Eastern Shore way back in 2006, and has very much toured the world in that time. He has played in such far ranging places as Taiwan, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Turkey, the D-League, the UAE and Germany, and now he gets to (kind of) add the NBA to that list. It's a bizarre inclusion, however; Parham has spent most of the last two years with the Halifax Rainman of the NBL Canada league, but he averaged only 5.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game for them last year, before averaging 2.2 points and 2.4 rebounds down the stretch of the season for the Windsor Express after being traded for a future draft pick. Ironically, Parham had lost his place on the Rainmen to the aforementioned Liam McMorrow. Old, extremely limited offensively, not a shot blocker and not especially athletic, Parham is a 6'9 strong rebounder and fouler who plays a limited role well, but only at the right level. He's therefore an odd inclusion on this roster - although he attended summer league with the Chicago Bulls once, that was back in 2006.

Royce White

White did not play last year, and still has precisely 24 games played in a three year professional, 20 of which were in the D-League. It's hard to know how this ends - notwithstanding the anxiety issues and the burnt bridges, it is not apparent what role White would fill on a team, or that he ever could have done. Not a defender or a shooter, White's abilities as a playmaker are heavily mitigated by not being of a sufficient talent level to merit the ball in his hands much in the first place. So on what basis would he be called up?

C.J. Wilcox

Wilcox barely played as a rookie, recording only 101 minutes, which is not enough time to make a judgement of any substance. We then have to return again to his projection, that of being a three-and-D potential player. With his size, wingspan and good set shot, Wilcox certainly has this, but with the trade for Lance Stephenson, it doesn't seem as though he will get any minutes with the Clippers again this year either. A change of scenery might be the best thing for him - then again, it hasn't helped Reggie Bullock.

Nate Wolters

After starting 31 games as a rookie, Wolters was cut early last season by the Bucks, and although he was soon picked up by the New Orleans Pelicans, he didn't last but ten games before being waived again and confined to the D-League for the remainder of the year. In 12 games for the Grand Rapids Drive, however, Wolters averaged 15.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 7.2 assists, with a near 4:1 assist to turnover ratio. Wolters still can't shoot, and that, in an era of heightened awareness of offensive efficiency, is a bigger problem than ever. But that ratio is extreme efficiency, and even if he can't shoot to compensate it, Wolters's playmaking out of the pick-and-roll is not easily found elsewhere.

Patric Young

From last year's NCAA power forwards list:

Way back in the day, I anointed Patric Young with the title of "future SEC Defensive Player of the Year". And it came off; Young won the award as a senior after making the All-Conference Defense Team as a junior.

Over time, Young made strides in learning how to turn his great physical profile into a defensive presence. Certainly, he looks the part; athletic and quite strong, Young is also laterally quick, plenty big enough to defend the post while also fast enough to defend the perimeter. That said, his defense is far from imperfect - sagging off too far on said perimeter defense, Young's effort and effectiveness are a bit inconsistent, and his feet on the perimeter need work. Also, for all the athleticism, Young's offense is limited, mostly just powerfully finishing the work of others or getting the looks only available to one so athletic. He's always a lob threat, but he's rarely a post threat, and there is little jump shot to speak of.

Young intrigues with size, strength and athleticism. He runs and he dunks, he explodes and he blocks, and he has decent hands to boot. But he needs to lock down defensively, and either become a much more viable threat in the pick-and-roll, shoot jump shots, or both.

Signed by the New Orleans Pelicans last summer after going undrafted, Young made it only one month through his rookie season before being waived in favour of Dante Cunningham. He then spent the rest of the season with Galatasaray in Turkey, averaging 10.5 points and 7.8 rebounds in Turkish league play. Young has agreed to play for Olympiakos next season and thus likely won't actually play in summer league, but given that I had written this before that news broke, the blurb stays.

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