Draft Day Reactions

June 23, 2011
Clippers Draft Central
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With the 37th and 47th picks in the NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Clippers selected forward Trey Thompkins and guard Travis Leslie, both from the University of Georgia.

Thompkins, a 6-foot-10 power forward taken with the 37th pick, was one of the most productive players in the nation during his three seasons at Georgia. Thompkins averaged 16.4 points and 7.6 rebounds on his way to an All-SEC first team selection.

“I think Trey brings a lot of things that we need on this team,” Vice President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey said.

As a 36 percent 3-point shooter in college, Thompkins was regarded as one of the better inside-outside scoring threats in the draft -- something that Olshey and his staff coveted.

“Vinny fell in love,” Olshey said. “We watched a lot of film on Trey. The fact that we can move him around the court and he’s another facilitator, another playmaker, and is another guy who can step away from the hoop and make shots…you can’t have too many bigs and too many guys that can make shots. Especially around guys that demand double-teams like Blake Griffin.”

Del Negro and the rest of the Clippers draft room were elated to see Thompkins last to pick 37.

“I’m very excited. To get Trey and Travis is better than I expected to be honest with you,” Del Negro said. “The skill set of Trey is impressive, the way he can shoot the basketball.”

With 36 picks coming before the Clippers selected Thompkins, Olshey was busy working the phones all night. But ultimately, he got the conclusion he was looking for.

“Ironically, if we had traded into the early twenties, we probably would have taken Trey Thompkins anyway,” Olshey said.” He was rated that high on our board. We had Travis and Trey rated well ahead of where we selected them at 37 and 47. We’re lucky to get both those guys.”

Leslie, a 6-foot-4 swingman taken with the 47th pick, steadily improved in nearly every statistical category during his three seasons at Georgia, registering 14.4 points and 7.2 rebounds a contest his junior year. Leslie was also tabbed the best dunker in college basketball by a number of media outlets, including ESPN’s College Gameday show.

“Travis Leslie is probably the best athlete in the draft,” Olshey said. “He is an elite athlete and can be a lockdown defender. He’s an improving jump shooter and he’s getting better with the ball in his hands. Blake Griffin has some competition in the dunk contest next year. “

With Thompkins and Leslie both falling, the Clippers stayed true to their draft board all night, using their “tier rankings” system to evaluate each player in the draft not by position but instead by skill. When their picks finally rolled around, they stuck to their scouting without any hesitation.

“We’ve been watching Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie for three years,” Olshey said. “They weren’t hiding – they were in the SEC. You don’t second guess yourself when you’re on the clock with 90 seconds to make a pick. You take the guy you’ve been looking at for months. They’re both guys that can make our team and impact our team and continue to grow with the young core we’ve put together.”

“I’m excited because we get some size and we get a backcourt guy,” Del Negro said. “There will be some familiarity with those guys playing together in college, so that’s a plus as well.”

Thompkins and Leslie felt the same way. In a telephone interview shortly after the draft ended, both expressed joy over getting to play with each other on the next level.

“It’s just a blessing. I have a chance to play with guys that I’ve known for years. I feel like I’ll be able to step in and build relationships with my teammates,” Thompkins said.

“I was very glad to see we'll still be playing together,” Leslie said. “It seems like we can't separate. At Georgia we were always together, and now we'll be playing in the NBA together. It's a great feeling.”

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