Do the Clippers already have their backup point guard for Kawhi Leonard, Paul George led roster?
LAS VEGAS – The LA Clippers, newly constructed around Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, are in desperate need of a backup point guard. They’ve built their roster with depth at every wing position, and even have guys who can play small-ball center, but their point guard depth is lacking.
But who should the Clippers be looking at for that position? Recently waived and Clippers fan favorite Shaun Livingston? Current NBA Champion Jeremy Lin? Journeyman scoring point guard Trey Burke? What if the Clippers’ backup point guard was Terance Mann, the guy who they just drafted with the 48th overall pick and signed to the 15-man roster.
Your first thought is probably, ‘Oh, this is just another Summer League overreaction piece to a young kid who won’t get rotation minutes.’ Maybe you’re right. Maybe Mann won’t get a lot of minutes in his rookie season with the Clippers. A case can be made, however, that the job could be his or, at the very least, split with him if he continues to rise as he has.
Mann is not an ordinary rookie in today’s NBA. For starters, he was 22 years of age at the time of the NBA Draft and will be 23 by the time the regular season starts. He played four solid seasons at Florida State, but didn’t have a definitive role as a scorer, defender, shooter, etc. Instead, he was the Seminoles’ glue guy. Whatever they needed him to do, he did. Mann showed his abilities to get his team 25+ points one night, 10+ rebounds the next night, and seven or eight assists another.
“At Florida State, he was our glue guy, he was our rebounder, facilitator, scorer, he did everything,” Mfiondu Kabengele, his FSU and now Clippers teammate, told ClutchPoints after Tuesday’s game. “So when he got drafted and came to LA, whatever he’s doing in the Summer League, I’m not surprised. I was there for three years and I saw what he can do. His game has been elevating ever since, so I’m just happy for him.”
Mann’s swingman-type game has carried over into the first three appearances in the NBA’s Summer League, where he’s averaging 8.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 5.7 assists, and 1.0 steal on 60 percent shooting in 27.3 minutes per game.
“At Florida State, I believe he played a little bit of everything,” said head coach Brian Adams after Tuesday’s win. “But now, we’ve given him the reigns at the point guard spot and he’s responding. He gets downhill, he gets to the rim or makes plays, defensively, he takes the challenge, he wants to guard the best player on the other team and he’s so active, whether it’s slashing, offensive rebounding, steals. So it’s impressive.”
Mann had nine rebounds and four assists in Clippers’ win over the Lakers. He followed that up with another 14 rebounds and four assists in a loss to the Wizards. On Tuesday night, he finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists in their last game against the Wizards, their second victory.
He currently ranks first in rebounds and eighth in assists per game during the Las Vegas tournament. Unfortunately, he also ranks among the top in turnovers with four giveaways per game. Despite that, the Clippers have entrusted him with ball-handling as well as playmaking duties because they’ve simply been way better with him on the floor than they are with him off. Through three games, he also has the highest combined plus/minus on the team so far at +20.
“I’ve just kind of had that game,” said Mann after his near triple double. “That’s just how I’ve always been playing. Do a little bit of everything. I try to get out there, hang my hat on defense, and let the rest come.”
Outside of a few poor passing decisions, Mann has been going downhill, forcing defenses to react to his drives, and creating opportunities for himself or his teammates. He’s also been incredibly disruptive defensively. His on-the-court connection with Kabengele has been especially easy to spot after the duo connected on a number of plays together.
“I think what helps him a lot is the spacing of the NBA,” said Kabengele. “The lines are much deeper, the lane-line is wider, guys can’t pack the paint in, so he’s able to get inside the paint, create plays for others as well as score.”
“We’ve got really good kids, added coach Adams. “Terance came to me and said, ‘I should’ve gone downhill more.’ He’s one of those guys where we lost a game and he got upset and wanted to make it right. These guys are coming from college, you lose like 4 games a year.”
The Clippers have a roster full of hard-nosed, tough-minded players who are going to do the dirty work each and every night to ensure a victory for the good guys. All indications so far are that the Clippers plan to add a veteran to play the point guard position either in free agency or through the buyout market, and it makes sense.
A veteran point guard is probably the best route to go for a team whose current goal is an NBA Championship or bust. A guy like Shaun Livingston, who has championship experience with the Warriors the last few years, makes sense. Jeremy Lin, although his role was minuscule with Toronto, has championship experience. Jerryd Bayless, Shelvin Mack, Trey Burke, Ian Clark, Devin Harris, and Raymond Felton are other solid backup point guard options the Clippers could entertain as well.
Even if the Clippers do add an experienced guard, however, Mann should get a chance to showcase his skills early and often. Kawhi Leonard underwent successful load management last season and finished a champion. There’s no reason to believe that won’t be the case again this season. Paul George is coming off dual shoulder surgery and is rumored to be out the first few weeks of the season. The Clippers will likely work him back slowly from those surgeries. On top of that, the team probably doesn’t want to play Lou Williams or Patrick Beverley heavy minutes and save them for the postseason as well.
If and when those ends up being the cases, opportunities will surely be there for Mann. It’ll just be up to him to take advantage of it. According to the L.A. Times’ Andrew Greif, Mann earned himself a four-year contract worth $6.3 million, with the first two seasons being fully guaranteed. The front office undoubtedly believes in him and his ability to develop as a pro over the next few years. Now, it’s just his time to showcase it.
“It feels great to know that they’ve giving me an opportunity to be on the roster, especially with the team we’ve got coming in.”
The Clippers will close out their regular season Summer League schedule on Thursday night against the Sacramento Kings.