The Clippers got their man.
For much more than a month leading up the 2013 NBA Draft, the Clippers had zeroed in on athletic wing players and with the 25th selection Thursday they landed North Carolina small forward Reggie Bullock.
“We had targeted him as one of the guys we wanted,” Clippers senior vice president of basketball operations and head coach Doc Rivers said. “We felt like we needed more shooting. He does that.”
Bullock is 6-foot-7, can run the floor and is the kind of long-distance, catch-and-shoot wing player the Clippers sought all along. The 22-year-old played three seasons in Chapel Hill where he led the Tar Heels, shooting 43.6 percent from 3-point range and scored 13.9 points per game as a junior. He made 88 shots from behind the arc last year, the third most in school history and showed stark improvement with his jumper from year to year, raising his percentage 14 percent overall from his freshman to junior year.
“I feel like I can really contribute with my shooting and defense,” Bullock said in a phone interview following the final pick of the Draft.
The shooting comes as little surprise. Bullock was one of the premier shooters from distance in the country last season, hitting on at least three 3-pointers in a game 17 times. And when the Clippers worked him out a week ago, they saw that first hand. According to Clippers vice president of basketball operations Gary Sacks, Bullock also stood out as a defender.
“He takes pride in guarding his man,” said Sacks, who saw Bullock in person twice during the NCAA season. “I think he’s really good as a team defender and working within a system. He puts a lot of effort into his defensive ability and he wants to shut down the guy he’s guarding.”
Rivers, who was head coach of the Celtics when Bullock worked out in Boston, agreed with Sacks.
“I didn’t know that he could defend the way he did in that workout,” Sacks said. “I had heard about it, but I was surprised by his size and the way he defends.”
According to a Tweet from Clippers point guard Chris Paul, was a member of Paul’s first U15 All-Star team.
The newest Clipper said Paul was the first person to give him a chance on the AAU circuit when he invited him to play in a tournament in Las Vegas with the U15 squad. To some degree, it may have served as a springboard for the North Carolina native.
Bullock finished second behind John Wall in the AP Player of the Year voting in his home state as a high school junior and went on to play three seasons at prestigious UNC.
“I love the fact that he’s a big program guy,” said Rivers, who attended several ACC games when his son Austin was a star guard at Duke. “He’s kind of been a guy who understands his role. That’s what he did at North Carolina. Having been a guy that went to a lot of Duke games, and Duke-North Carolina games, I got a chance to see him up close. I saw two of his games live, which is unusual for a coach in the NBA.”
In Draft that included several trades and moving pieces, Bullock said he remained patient. He was projected by most mock drafts as going anywhere from No. 17 to falling out of the first round. Finally, his name was called shortly after 7:15 p.m. PT.
“I was just happy to hear it,” Bullock said. “It was a blessing to hear my name called. As it got closer to [pick] 22, 23, 24, I was getting more nervous, but it was great when it happened.”
The Clippers felt similarly.
“We feel like Reggie’s a guy we were hoping was there,” Sacks said. “We felt like shooting was something that we really wanted to get in this Draft.”
And that’s precisely what they got.