The Los Angeles Clippers currently hold the No. 25 overall pick in the NBA draft this year, and with point guard an obvious need, many feel the Clips will go that direction with their only first-round selection. It’s also entirely possible L.A. packages the pick with a few key players if it’s looking to trade for talent instead.
In his latest mock draft for Sports Illustrated, analyst Jeremy Woo has Los Angeles selecting Auburn point guard Sharife Cooper at No. 25, which could really be a hit or miss pick for the team. Let’s break it down.
Cooper is a Mixed Bag
Here’s what Woo said about why he sees the Clippers taking Cooper at No. 25:
The Clippers can go a few directions here, but they need depth at guard, and Cooper’s special passing ability and high-level handle appears to be keeping his stock afloat in the 18-25 range. Those unique traits have helped mitigate his diminutive stature and disinterest in defense. While he most likely profiles as a backup due to those drawbacks and a streaky jump shot, Cooper does have the potential to be a very good one, with a demonstrable knack for getting into the paint and drawing fouls. There’s a point in the draft where his playmaking skills become worth the gamble, and on a team with established talent like the Clippers, Cooper should be in a better position to succeed.
Cooper spent one year at Auburn, averaging 20.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 8.1 assists. He’s a dynamic player who can create oodles of scoring opportunities — but as Woo noted, he’s a definite liability on defense — and that makes him a decent-sized risk.
Here’s a snippet of what NBA DRAFT.net has to say about Cooper as a draft prospect:
Does not offer much defensively other than occasionally as a pest applying on-ball pressure, and will need to be “masked” often by a good defensive scheme or a bigger bodied back court mate to not be a liability on this end. … His lack of size and some of the limitations that come with it, especially defensively, will likely polarize and make some teams paused on him, but he has some of the characteristics (anticipatory passing, basketball instincts and understanding of timing and angles as a finisher) of smaller players who overcame the odds and have gone on to have success as pros.
Could Clips Deal the 25th Pick Instead?
Other than snagging a point guard similar to Cooper, the other likely scenario for Ty Lue’s squad is that they trade the pick away.
“There’s not much of a track record to suggest impact from that draft slot,” Law Murray of The Athletic wrote about the Clippers’ draft options on July 23. “There’s even more of a chance that the Clippers move the pick, either on draft day or (in less than ideal situations) in the middle of the 2022-23 NBA season. Staying attached to the team selecting at 25 (and only at 25) is not advised.”
With superstar Kawhi Leonard out indefinitely, the Clips are likely going to get active in free agency — but how active is the question. We’ll know soon enough.