Thursday, June 23, 2011
Updated: June 24, 11:20 AM ET
Clippers draft Georgia's Trey Thompkins
By Pedro Moura
Special to ESPNLosAngeles.com
PLAYA VISTA -- Los Angeles Clippers general manager Neil Olshey joked that his team selected two University of Georgia products in the second round of Thursday's 2011 NBA draft with the intention of saving money by having the two room together on the road.
Whatever the reason, the Clippers indeed drafted Georgia Bulldog teammates Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie with their two mid-second-round selections, teaming the three-year teammates with 2010 first-rounder Al-Farouq Aminu to make for a trio of Atlanta-to-L.A. transplants on their roster next season.
Olshey indicated the Clippers had rated both players as potential first-round selections leading up to the draft.
"From an incremental growth standpoint, we added two guys tonight that we definitely had higher on our board," Olshey said after the team's selections Thursday. "We think they're both good fits for us, so it was a good night."
Thompkins, a 6-10, 239-pound power forward, was a three-year starter for the Bulldogs who earned first-team All-SEC honors each of his final two years in college. He also spent two summers playing with USA Basketball for the U-19 and Select Team squads.
Selected 37th overall, Thompkins averaged 16.4 points and 7.6 rebounds for Georgia in 2010-2011, a step down from his 17.7 and 8.3 averages as a sophomore the previous season. Both sets of numbers were team highs each year. He was named the preseason SEC MVP prior to his junior year.
Olshey characterized him as an ideal backup to star forward Blake Griffin in that their skills conveniently contrast. Griffin primarily makes his on-court living inside 15 feet; Thompkins shot 36 percent from 3-point range in college and is comfortable shooting two-pointers at any distance.
"He's got an incredibly high skill ratio that's a nice counterpart to what Blake gives us at the four," Olshey said. "He brings a lot of things that we need on this team."
Second-year Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro "fell in love" with Thompkins after interviewing him at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, Olshey added.
"The skillset of Trey is impressive, the way he can shoot the basketball," Del Negro said Thursday. "His skills can translate to the NBA because he can make shots and he can do it from different areas, opening up the floor a little bit."
Leslie, taken with the 47th overall pick, was second in the SEC in offensive rebounds per game last year. A 6-4, 202-pound guard, his scoring numbers also decreased from his second to third collegiate seasons, but he averaged a combined 14.6 points per game his final two years at Georgia.
"He's an elite athlete, and we think he can be a lockdown defender," Olshey said. "He's an improving jump shooter and he's getting better with the ball in his hands.
"But he already brings tools to the table that are going to make us a better and more complete team next year."
Leslie was chosen by a panel on ESPN's College GameDay as the top dunker in college basketball last year. He also won an Atlanta-area dunk competition at the high-school level.
He registered the third-highest vertical jump in Chicago, had a number of highlight-reel dunks throughout his college career and was altogether regarded as one of the best athletes available in a weak draft class.
Said Olshey: "We want to make sure Blake Griffin has some competition in the dunk contest next year."
Neither draftee worked out for the Clippers in the pre-draft season, which Olshey attributed partially to the team's belief both players would go higher than where their picks positioned them. He also said the team made less of an effort to bring players in from across the country over the last month, as it usually does, because the team's brass felt it had already adequately scouted potential prospects over the course of the previous year.
The 37th pick used to select Thompkins was originally acquired by the Clippers in a 2009 trade with the Detroit Pistons. The Clippers' original second-rounder, the 38th pick, went to the Rockets in exchange for the 47th when Houston exercised its right to swap picks, acquired in the 2008 Steve Novak trade.