The Los Angeles Clippers have already trimmed their roster despite being just eight days into their training camp sessions.
The Clippers, who made the playoffs for the fourth straight year, made a lot of noise this offseason with the re-signing of center DeAndre Jordan as well as the signings of Paul Pierce and Josh Smith. In total, Los Angeles made 10 roster transactions this offseason and went into camp with only 17 players — NBA rules permit teams to carry up to 20 players during training camp and preseason schedule. The Clips have 14 players with fully guaranteed contracts and all of those players are expected to make the team.
Free agents Nikoloz Tskitishvilli, Chuck Hayes, and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute were the players without fully guaranteed contracts and expected to compete for the Clips’ last roster spot. Now the battle for the team’s 15th spot is down to Hayes and Mbah a Moute as the Clippers waived Tskitishvilli yesterday, according to Arash Markazi of ESPN.
Tskitishvilli’s NBA comeback appears to be over before it really got started as the former first round pick did not appear in the Clips preseason opening victory (103-96) over the Denver Nuggets, ironically — the Nuggets selected
Tskitishvilli with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2002 draft (per ESPN). The 32-year old has career averages of 2.9 points and 1.7 rebounds in 172 career NBA games with Denver, Golden State, Minnesota, and Phoenix. The 7-foot power forward/center last played in the NBA during the 2005-2006 season.
So, will Mbah a Moute or Hayes secure the last roster spot?
It is hard to tell right now but neither one will likely see much playing time.
According to Basketball Insiders, the Clippers rotation is pretty well set — as long as everyone stays healthy. Jordan and Blake Griffin will start in the frontcourt with either Pierce or Wesley Johnson getting the nod at small forward. Chris Paul and J.J.Redick are the starters in the backcourt. Smith, Austin Rivers, Pablo Prigioni, Cole Aldrich, Lance Stephenson, and either Johnson or Pierce will join reigning Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford as options off the bench. Rookie small forward Branden Dawson and guard C.J. Wilcox are also expected to team.
Just by looking at the composition of the roster, it appears that center is a position of weakness as only Jordan and Aldrich are true five-men, which would theoretically give Hayes a slight advantage. Despite being just 6-foot-6, Hayes is a power forward or center as he is an excellent rebounder and very scrappy player who knows how to use his body on defense.
However, Griffin is very capable of playing the center position and Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times previously reported that coach Doc Rivers likes the idea of playing “small ball.”
- “Going small was something Clippers Coach Doc Rivers has wanted to do since his arrival more than two years ago. He’s finally able to do it for sustained stretches…. Stephenson is part of a three-guard alignment that also includes Crawford and Austin Rivers. Pierce, a veteran of 17 NBA seasons and seemingly as many position switches, will man power forward off the bench, if he doesn’t start. Smith, a former small forward who likes to shoot three pointers, will be the center in what feels like name only. Calling it small ball might be somewhat of a misnomer considering the height of the guards: Crawford and Stephenson are 6-5 and Rivers is 6-4, giving them the size needed to post up their counterparts. Maybe it should be dubbed the biggie small lineup considering it also includes the 6-7 Pierce and 6-9 Smith.”
Mbah a Moute is a strong defender and while not particularly a shooter, he averaged 9.9 points a game last year in over 28 minutes of action. The 6-foot-8, 230-pounder produced four double-doubles and reached double-figures in scoring 37 times in 67 games with the Philadelphia 76ers last season.
No matter who wins the last spot, the decision likely will not come until teams need to hand in their official roster prior to opening night. Mbah a Moute and Hayes have each received a DNP “Coaches Decision” in the Clippers (1-1) two preseason games.
Mbah a Moute played five minutes against Denver, scoring four points (all free three throws), hauling in three rebounds and also blocking a shot. He didn’t play in the Clips 93-73 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Sunday.
Hayes, who didn’t play against the Nuggets on Friday, recorded a steal in six minutes of action against the Raptors.
[photo by Scott Halleran/ Getty Images]