In participation with the 2010 NBA Examiner Mock Draft, the Los Angeles Clippers Examiner selection process of elimination narrowed it down to three stand-outs. Picking at the eight position is difficult, but considering this years draftees, it may not be such a bad spot to be in, especially since most of the guys the Clippers have their eyes on should be available based on current NBA fan trending and the meta analysis of the mock drafts out there in internet land.
Also, the top of the draft is loaded up with big men, forwards and centers primarily, and picking the true stud(s) from this pack is not easy do. The Clippers are in a great position to have a specific motive in their selection process which is to minimize their risks and land a shooting guard or small forward offering a potentially big upside. The player that has caught the eye of several teams is Paul George, and the Clippers have the chance to pick the 20 year old and take a chance on his his apparent talent that suggests he can fulfill the promise of signing a fairly big player with strong shooting and defensive skills.
Of course anything can happen on draft day, and most teams can be certain to have passed up their opportunity on the golden nugget of a player. At the eight spot, the Clippers will be picking with players such as Xavier Henry and Gordon Heywood on the table. Haywood has a lot going for him due to the success he and his Butler squad had in this year's NCAA tournament, but there are still plenty of skeptics who would be surprised if the Heyward was selected prior to the 15th pick.
The issues with Heyward are his slighter body build, and only mediocre shooting percentage. But the facts remains: Butler was a team led his dynamic tournament performances too difficult to completely ignore. Xavier Henry is popular with Clipper Nation for a reason. The guy is a baller and the team has been taking a close look at him during draft workouts held for these guys. Still, George's upside potential is too big to ignore.
Hindsight is too clear most of the time, and when applied, for example we see Michael Olowokandi, Benoit Benjamin, Bo Kimble, and Yaroslav Korolev (among the many other busts that have haunted the team) staring up with clueless gazes. Sometimes it is just more logical to look forward with optimism and know that, in the case of the Clippers, the 1st round draft choice should be a project player with some proven ability; somebody whose name has echoed through the phones and computers of every GM in the league but doesn't have to step directly into an impact-player role in his first season. George, the sophomore from Fresno State, has given analysts around the league a difficult time assessing just where in the draft order he belongs.
After the first seven Examiner Mock Draft selections were announced, the Clippers were left with a tough decision to make:
1 Washington Wizards (John Wall - Kentucky)
2 Philadelphia 76ers (Evan Turner - Ohio State)
3 New Jersey Nets (Derrick Favors - Georgia Tech)
4 Minnesota Timberwolves (Wes Johnson - Syracuse)
5 Sacramento Kings (DeMarcus Cousins - Kentucky)
6 Golden State Warriors (Greg Monroe - Georgetown)
7 Detroit Pistons (Al-Farouq Aminu - Wake Forest)
This left several prospects available to snare off the board, but who doesn't like a kid that grew up loving the Clippers, stands 6'9” and can nail 45% of his shots from 3-point range? George can defend, he blocks shots and he ripped off 2.2 steals per game last season while averaging 16.8 points. Oh yeah – don't forget that he shot 90% from the free throw stripe. Unfortunately for him he played for a pretty bad Bulldog team and the last two seasons they accumulated a 28-39 record. This has creating his biggest question mark – can he take over a game when he's called upon? If teams see the 20 year old Paul George for more than merely a work-in-progress, they will recognize his rising star and take a stab at him even as high as the eight slot.
George needs to develop his ball handling skills because it is an area that brought his overall game down. His strong shooting can be significantly boosted by being able to hold on to the ball. His athletic frame (think pre broken-down Tracy McGrady) is ideal for what the Clippers want, and he has a confident attitude, as he displayed in a recent workout interview:
“I haven’t been exposed to this game as much as a lot of other players and I think I’m already a great prospect with good potential,” he says. “Once I get that chance to really get that experience and learn about the game, I think my ceiling is pretty high.”
Growing up in Palmdale, Ca. also adds another unusual dimension to George's game. He has regularly expressed his devotion to the Clippers while growing up. As one of the nation's fastest rising draft-prospects, George will have a lot to prove if drafted so early, and that is the type of energy the Clippers need to bulk up properly for next season.