Clippers select Michigan’s Moussa Diabate in NBA draft

The Clippers selected Michigan’s Moussa Diabate with the 43rd pick in Thursday’s NBA draft, a selection representing a bet on the 6-foot-10, 20-year-old’s long-term potential.

Diabate entered the draft after one college season in which he averaged 9.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, nearly one block and 1.5 turnovers per game, and made 56% of his shots inside the arc with the Wolverines. He averaged 24 minutes in 32 appearances.

With the Clippers in win-now mode and expecting to compete for an NBA championship next season with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George back healthy, the most logical pathway for developing the French-born Diabate appears to be spending plenty of time with the team’s Ontario-based G League affiliate next season, possibly on a two-way contract.

League observers believed the Clippers, who have a returning starting center in Ivica Zubac but not much other big-man depth — backup center Isaiah Hartenstein will be a free agent June 30 — would target a forward or center and indeed they went after Diabate and his 7-3 wingspan, which Clippers brass saw in person during a workout before the draft.

His selection was the team’s first move of an uncharacteristically quiet night. The team had made a draft-night trade in every draft since 2015 before Thursday.

The Clippers have had trouble developing young big men in recent years after drafting frontcourt players. They traded a future first-round pick in 2019 to move into the first round for Mfiondu Kabengele, but he didn’t last two full seasons with the team before he was traded.

Brice Johnson, the 25th overall pick in 2016, played only 12 games with the Clippers. Diamond Stone, another 2016 acquisition, played seven career games. The current front office wasn’t in place for the Johnson and Stone picks.

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