NBA AM: Willie Reed Excited About Opportunity With The Clippers

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Blake Griffin and Patrick Beverley were among the first people to text Willie Reed after news broke that he agreed to a deal with the Los Angeles Clippers.

It was first reported on July 18 by ESPN that Reed agreed to a one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Clippers. For Reed, receiving a welcoming message from those two accomplished players all but justified his decision to join the Clippers.

“When you have your superstar like Blake Griffin, who gets in contact with you early and lets you know he’s happy you’re on the team and he’s ready to get to work with you, that’s exciting,” Reed told Basketball Insiders. “I’m looking forward to that opportunity.”

Reed previously played for the Brooklyn Nets and, most recently, the Miami HEAT. In those two seasons, he has established himself as a solid backup center behind Brook Lopez and subsequently Hassan Whiteside. He brings intense energy to the court and is a capable defender that can control the paint and block shots.

He enjoyed his best success as a player last season in Miami. In 71 games, Reed averaged 5.3 points and 4.7 rebounds, but his per-48 minutes stats paint a better picture of his production: 17.4 points, 15.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks. He earned five starts last season and averaged 14.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in those starts in place of Whiteside.

The opportunity for Reed with the Clippers is what most appealed to him. Plus, having a chance to learn from players like Griffin and DeAndre Jordan helped, too.

“Being able to go up against those guys in practice, getting better and learning from a Defensive Player of the Year candidate [in Jordan],” Reed said, weighed heavily on his decision. “Being able to grow under [Jordan] and then Doc Rivers, one of the best coaches in the NBA. I think he’ll be able to take me to the next level. I feel like Coach Spoelstra helped raise my game and raise the bar a little bit and I think that Doc Rivers can do a tremendous job as well.”

Given his abilities, some were a bit surprised to see that Reed signed for just a minimum deal. He would have stood to make slightly more next season with the HEAT, but he declined a $1.6 million player option after hoping for a bigger payday. Many expected Reed to sign for much more this offseason and believe his deal is a steal for the Clippers.

Among those that were surprised about his deal was Dwyane Wade.

Although Wade and Reed didn’t play together in Miami, Reed said the two have worked out a couple of times and spoke throughout his free agency process. Wade saw Reed work out firsthand and realized his potential.

“It was fun to know you have a Hall of Famer like that backing you up,” Reed said. “The fact that he respects my game that much speaks a lot. I understand that things didn’t happen the way I wanted it to happen this summer, but I’m still blessed with the opportunity to play in the NBA and play for a team like the Clippers so I’m excited about that opportunity.”

Reed joins a Clippers team in a transition phase. Chris Paul informed the team that he wouldn’t pick up his player option for next season and would test the free agency waters. Rather than leave for nothing, he opted into the final year of his deal to allow the team to trade him to the Houston Rockets in order for the team to get some assets in return.

In addition to losing Paul, free agent J.J. Redick signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia 76ers. Despite losing two starters in Paul and Redick, the Clippers added Beverley, Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari, Milos Tedodosic and Sam Dekker among others. Reed still believes the Clippers has what it takes to compete in the Western Conference.

“You got players like DeAndre, Blake, Patrick Beverley and you got some of that core still there,” Reed said. “You lost CP3 and J.J. Redick, but you have those guys there and you have Doc Rivers. I feel like when you have that combination you always have a chance. I still believe and I still have faith in the team we can finish top four in the Western Conference.”

Reed sees an opportunity with this Clippers team, similar to what he had in Miami. He sees a similar player to him in Jordan ahead on the depth chart and feels as though he can match his intensity and style of play.

“Doc specifically told me that he just really loves the energy that I bring and then what I bring on the defensive end,” Reed said. “It was kind of similar to the HEAT and what Coach Spoelstra wanted. He was telling me that he wanted to be able to have 48 minutes of a DeAndre-type of player out there, which was kind of what Coach Spoelstra wanted for 48 minutes of Hassan out there. I felt like it was a comfortable position and it was kind of similar to the role that I played in Miami so it wouldn’t be difficult for me to adjust.”

Reed is excited to be able to get to work with players that are as accomplished as Griffin and Jordan are. He feels like playing with them can help his game grow and expand. He has improved each season in the NBA and feels as though he still has more room to grow.

“I have pretty high expectations for myself,” Reed said. “I feel like I’ve improved every single year that I’ve been a professional and that’s key. Even though that people think I’m 27 years old and think I’ve reached my potential, I keep constantly getting better. I really have that goal in mind to be Most Improved Player in the NBA next year.”

As he gets set to sign with the Clippers in the coming days, he can’t help but be thankful for his time with the HEAT.

I’m thankful for that organization for giving me an opportunity to expand my game,” Reed said. “I only played 39 games the year before in Brooklyn and had an opportunity to secure myself as a rotational player in Miami and have an impact. Since I was a little kid, that’s all I wanted to do is have an impact on the NBA and have an impact on winning.”

While the HEAT valued his impact last season, it sounds as though the Clippers value his arrival as well. Now, it’s time to help the Clippers.