With the 28th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Clippers chose C.J. Wilcox from the University of Washington.
A classic Doc Rivers selection.
Rivers notoriously doesn’t play rookies and generally likes playing “known commodities.” From last summer to this season’s trade deadline, Rivers and the Clippers acquired the following players: J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley, Danny Granger, Glen Davis and Hedo Turkoglu. Even Stephen Jackson and Sasha Vujacic made appearances in a Clipper uniform!
Wilcox fits that way of thinking; he played four years at Washington, scouts know exactly what he is and he’s generally a pretty complete player. At 6’5″ with a 6’9.75″ wingspan, Wilcox has good size for the shooting guard position and the athleticism to play in transition.
He’s a good shooter (38.9 percent, consistently over his college career) who can hit spot up shots, run off of screens and hit one or two dribble pull ups.
On the other hand he has trouble defensively, getting caught ball watching on the weak side in a bad stance and allowing dribble penetration easily. Wilcox doesn’t move that well laterally, and stronger players can bully their way to the basket against him.
He turns 24 in December but still needs to add strength to his lanky frame. He doesn’t create offense at all, and took a backseat to the likes of Tony Wroten, Justin Holiday (now in the Adriatic League in Europe), Terrence Ross and Isiah Thomas when they were in college before breaking out in his junior year.
Kevin Pelton’s WARP had him projected as the 85th-best NBA prospect in eligible for this year’s draft, and there’s no way to be sure he is an actual NBA player.
The Clippers made a similar pick last year when they chose Reggie Bullock at No. 25. He’s a bit bigger and not the same athlete that Wilcox is but they both project as similar NBA players, and Bullock couldn’t get any minutes on last year’s Clipper roster.
Considering how the Clippers already have J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford, not to mention the minutes Darren Collison (if he re-signs) gets playing next to Chris Paul, playing time in the back court is at a premium. The Clips could have really used a bigger wing like Cleanthony Early or K.J McDaniels, who were still on the board and expected to be drafted before Wilcox on most draft boards.
The Clippers are already over the projected salary cap and luxury tax threshold (with cap holds they are at $78,587,031, $1.5 million over the projected tax line. According to reports, they will waive Willie Green‘s $1,448,490 option, and hope to re-sign him to a smaller deal), barring any trades, and won’t necessarily have any of the mid-level exceptions to use.
Even if they are happy with the Matt Barnes/Jared Dudley combo in addition to playing tons of really small lineups at the 3, they could have really used someone the front line.
Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are the bigs under contract, and last year the Granger/Davis/Turkoglu/Ryan Hollins group was unreliable to say the least. The Clips are an elite team with championship aspirations, but they match up really poorly on the wing against the likes of Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard right now.
Picking up a player who could play minutes against those guys without getting completely killed would’ve been great. In the second round of this year’s playoffs, the Clippers were forced to with Paul on Durant for big parts of the series because there was no one else trustworthy to battle him on the wing. Wilcox is not going to help.
The point is the Clippers had other needs, and it’s more than likely that a good, not great college player in C.J. Wilcox isn’t impactful enough to move the needle at all next season. More than likely he’ll find himself “Reggie Bullocked” and at the end of the bench for much of next year.
The one way out of that is if the Clippers move either Crawford or Redick in order to find a big man or a taller wing, but they should be hesitant to do so and only move one of them if they are confident they can get something like a reliable 15 minutes from Wilcox every night.
Wilcox can turn into a solid role player in the NBA, but considering their current situation, the Clippers maybe should’ve gone with someone who fit immediate needs better.