Last June, this site had a piece examining the game of then-NBA Draft prospect Amir Coffey and investigating why he’d be an excellent fit for the G League. Part of that mindset came from how he’s a 6’8 forward that can effectively facilitate for a player his size and be able to get to the basket whether he’s in transition or half-court. With those tools, we predicted that he could be a fit for a league that relies on space and pace.
In addition to fitting into the style of play in the G League, that article also examined how the minor league would allow him to improve as a perimeter shooter. During his junior year with the University of Minnesota, he shot 30% from 3 on 135 total attempts.
A few weeks after that piece, Coffey went undrafted only to sign a two-way deal with the Los Angeles Clippers on July 9th. Following solid performances at both Vegas Summer League and preseason, the young prospect seemed to set to make his professional debut. However, he’d have to wait due to suffering an ankle sprain in mid-October, right before the start of the NBA season. That injury was so severe that we had to wait until December 17th before the rookie was able to step foot onto a basketball court.
Although the sample size is still small, it’s becoming clear that the predictions made last June are turning into a reality. In his 13 games with the Agua Caliente Clippers, Coffey is averaging 16.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.1 steals on 51% from the field and 43% from beyond the arc on 4.8 attempts per game.
One glance at those numbers and his progression as a perimeter shooter is the biggest thing that jumps off the screen. The fact that his 3-point shooting percentage has improved by 13% after going from the Big Ten to the G League is incredible in itself.
That astonishment becomes more abundant when you recognize that Coffey hasn’t made any adjustments to his shooting stroke. In the below video that shows two clips from Minnesota and the Clippers, his jumper mostly looks the same. It begins with the ball directly in front of his eyes and then finishes with a compact release where he pushes the ball out with his left hand.
Coffey’s progression as a perimeter shooter has opened the door for him himself as a threat to get to the rim both on and off-ball. As an on-ball driver, he currently likes to utilize screens to give him a clearer path to the rim. Once he does that, he can use his quickness to get to the rim before finishing with his left hand. If there isn’t a clear path available, the 6’8 forward can use a slick left-handed floater to score.
Off-ball, the rookie already does a great job of being able to make cuts to the basket. Whether that comes from him working around screens or just taking advantage of a mental lapse from a defender, Coffey’s quickness allows him to blow by most defenders that are his size. That trait, combined with his ability as an on-ball threat, has allowed him to shoot 78% from the restricted area on 41 total attempts. Although that’s an example of a small sample size, it’s an impressive average for a player that was out for two months with an ankle injury.
Coffey’s solid work on the offensive end has unsurprisingly helped the AC Clippers. Currently, the team is seven points better per 100 possessions when he’s on the court (112.4 points per 100) compared to when he’s on the sidelines or with Los Angeles (105.6 points per 100). Those seven points mark the difference between the AC Clippers having the 2nd best offense in the G League and finishing 22nd, which is in the back of the pack in this 28 team league.
At this point, the one significant weakness that Coffey possesses would be on the defensive end. Currently, there are way too many times where he loses focus off-ball or doesn’t show much determination while guarding on-ball drivers. An example of that second weakness is evident in the clip below as he gets shaken by a nice move from Isaiah Taylor and doesn’t show the energy needed to recover.
Although those rough moments are occasional rather than regular occurrences, consistent effort on the defensive end is still something that the rookie needs to work on.
Despite that weakness, the Minnesota alum has impressed since making his debut with the Agua Caliente Clippers. Despite making no noticeable changes in his shot release, he’s progressed from shooting 30% from 3 to being one of the best shooting forwards in the NBA G League. Will that efficiency persist over the last month of the season? We’re going to have to wait and see. However, Amir Coffey is undoubtedly a better player now compared to when he went undrafted seven months ago.