NBA draft night is Thursday, though in the case of the Clippers it has historically been more precise to describe it as something else.
Each draft since 2015 has involved at least one Clippers transaction, from buying their way into the second round with cash, to swapping first-round picks, trading a future first-round pick to move up, or shipping out established veterans for experienced rotation players. In 2020, a three-team deal netted them Luke Kennard, last year’s most accurate three-point shooter. In 2021, they swung three trades to grab Brandon Boston Jr., Keon Johnson and Jason Preston.
The methods change, as do the front-office decision-makers, but the moves have not.
This year could be the exception.
The Clippers do not possess a first-round pick; Oklahoma City controls the team’s selection because of the 2019 trade to acquire Paul George. What they do have is the 43rd overall pick, and league observers have described the team as uninterested to trade out of the draft altogether, while also not appearing driven — at the moment, anyway — to move up.
If they keep their 43rd overall pick, the Clippers will be adding a player to an already deep roster with expectations to compete for the franchise’s first NBA Finals appearance next spring. The majority of next season’s minutes for the prospect could be in the G League.
The Clippers’ roster is already loaded with wings, and combined with the belief the Clippers are pursuing a veteran point guard this offseason, and a point guard draft class described as not particularly deep, some league observers believe the Clippers could end up with a forward or center.
Unlike other teams, the Clippers do not announce which players they have hosted at their facility for predraft workouts. Still, those confirmed to have worked out in front of the team’s brass reflect a wide spectrum of positions and skill sets.
Guards included 6-foot-5 Javante McCoy of Boston, who worked out twice, 6-5 Jalen Williams of Santa Clara, 6-3 Collin Gillespie of Villanova, 6-3 Alonzo Verge Jr. of Nebraska, 6-4 Izaiah Brockington of Iowa State, 6-5 Dereon Seabron of North Carolina State, 6-5 Taze Moore of Houston and 6-4 Lucas Williamson of Loyola Chicago.
Wings and forwards have included former Chino Hills High star Eli Scott of Loyola Marymount, 6-7 Christian Braun of NCAA champion Kansas, 6-8 Gui Santos from Brazil, 6-7 Darius Days of Louisiana State, 6-6 Buddy Boeheim of Syracuse and 6-6 Jared Rhoden of Seton Hall.
Big men have also been a focus, from 7-2 Aleksander Balcerowski of Poland, 7-2 Kai Sotto of the Philippines, 6-9 Keve Aluma of Virginia Tech — one of Aluma’s 15 predraft workouts across the NBA — and 6-10 Terrell Brown-Soares of San Diego, who was also said to work out twice. Brown-Soares is a product of the Boston Amateur Basketball Club, which was founded by Clippers scout Leo Papile and also counts Clippers wing Terance Mann among its alumni.
Once the draft concludes Thursday, the team will quickly turn its attention to filling out the roster that will play at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, with games July 9, 12, 13 and 15. By June 29, the team must decide whether to exercise its $7.5-million option next season on starting center Ivica Zubac, and whether to make Amir Coffey, Jay Scrubb and Xavier Moon restricted free agents by extending them one-year qualifying offers.
Forward Nicolas Batum is expected to decline his player option for next season worth $3.3 million, making him an unrestricted free agent, a move that would allow Batum to secure a larger contract because the team has the forward’s early Bird rights. Publicly he has indicated a strong desire to remain with the Clippers on a new contract.
In May, in a translated appearance on French media, Batum said that coach Tyronn Lue had “saved my life” for helping rejuvenate his career at its low point, after a career-worst year led Charlotte to waive him.
“I’m sticking with Tyronn Lue until he wants to get rid of me,” Batum said. When the interviewer suggested the matter of his free agency was settled, Batum responded, “totally.”