New faces for Clippers might help team win over LA

The Los Angeles Clippers have been trying to rebuild for the second time in the past couple of years as they traded away many of first-round draft picks in order to get Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

Their strong attempt to exit the shadow of their Staples Center neighbors almost worked as they reached the Western Conference semi-finals, but were dramatically eliminated, blowing a 3-1 lead in the series against the rising Denver Nuggets.

Now they have once again started that process by trading and moving players in hopes to get the right acquisitions to get the franchise the one thing they have never gotten: an NBA Finals trophy. During the 2020 NBA Draft, the Clippers picked up two rookies that might infuse the roster with their youth and may help push the team with the assets they already have.

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The Clippers added Daniel Oturu from Minnesota, signing the rookie to a two-year contract worth $2.4 million guaranteed. They acquired the draft rights to Oturu, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ 33rd pick in the 2020 NBA draft in exchange for the Detroit Pistons second-round draft pick in 2023 and the draft rights to Mathias Lessort.

Oturu led the Big Ten with 11.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks to go along with 20.1 points in 33.9 minutes during his sophomore season at Minnesota. The 6-foot-10 center shot 56.3 percent from the field last season, which also led the Big Ten. The Woodbury, Minn., native was named to the 2019-20 Big Ten All-Defense team and 2019-20 All-Big Ten second team for the Gophers.

First-year, Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue would expect Oturu to do what he did in Minnesota by being an elite finisher and space the floor as a pop man.

“I feel like one thing that’s important for all the great shooters is that they all have great balance,” Oturu said with ESPN in a virtual film session. “You see Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, they all shoot the same shot because their core is so balanced. Once you are in balance you don’t need to wind up, you can just catch it and go up.”

Oturu is one of several big men on the roster, including starting center Ivica Zubac, free-agent pickup Serge Ibaka and veteran Joakim Noah. 

He is also not the only Gopher on the team as Amir Coffey is also on the roster. The Clippers are expected to keep Coffey as he is another two-way player entering his second year with the team.

In regards to winning with the Clippers, Oturu is all in.

“I think this team is built to compete for a championship,” Oturu said. “I’m excited to step into this unique opportunity to fight for a ring my first year in the league with these guys. There are a lot of expectations for this team.”

The other rookie added to the Clippers roster is Jay Scrubb, the national junior college player of the year, which they got in the second round. Scrubb’s two-way deal will allow him to make frequent trips to the Clippers NBA G League affiliate, Agua Caliente Clippers, in Ontario, where he’ll likely see most of his playing time during his first professional season. The G League, however, is still up for debate if it shall start again.

It will not be the first time Scrubb will be wearing red, white, and blue colors as he trained at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs with Team USA Under-19 FIBA World Cup.

Jay Scrubb, the national junior college player of the year, is now part of the new-look Los Angeles Clippers. Courtesy photo

Scrubb spent two seasons at John A. Logan College. In his first year, he filled up the stat sheet with 19.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists per game and 48 total blocks as a freshman in 2018-19. He shot 54.6 percent from the field, 46.4 percent from 3-point range and 79.1 percent from the free-throw line. 

This last season, he averaged 21.9 points, 2.7 assists and 6.8 rebounds, which is how he was named the 2019-20 National Junior College Athletic Association Player of the Year. 

The 6-foot-6 guard shot 52.4 percent from the field throughout his collegiate career, earning a 2019-20 NABC All-America First Team selection as a sophomore and a 2018-19 NJCAA Division I All-America First Team selection as a freshman. He initially opted to transfer to Louisville next season but instead entered the NBA draft.

Scrubb was the first JUCO player to be drafted since Donta Smith in 2004. As a junior college player, the Clippers must have coveted Scrubb as it is obvious that not many from his ranks get scouted. 

“I was extremely impressed from the management side of it, from their scouts to their GM’s to their assistant GM’s,” John A. Logan Men’s basketball coach Kyle Smithpeters said with WSIL News 3. 

“I just thought it was well organized and well ran,” Smithpeters continued. “[The Clippers] did a lot of due diligence and a lot of homework. One thing that is extremely impressive about Jay and anyone who’s watched Jay in person, it’s just seeing his skill set in person and watching him in a workout his 12, 13, 14,15 shots in a row. Those were the things they got to do that most of those other organizations really couldn’t do. So I thought with the amount of depth they had with him I think it really allowed them to know what they were getting.”

What Scrubb’s former coach believes separates him from other players is his natural ability to score, both inside and outside, and his defensive tenacity to stay in front of his opponents without fouling. He has explosive athleticism and can make space for himself.

Both Oturu and Scrubb will no doubt have the potential to be key pieces for the Clippers down the line, but both players are to be a work in progress. With coach Lue at the helm for the Clippers 2020-2021 season, there might be a new dynamic with the squad. Despite that, the Clippers showed that they are still keen on competing for this rapidly coming season, but have also indicated they want to build for the distant future.

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