Thompkins, Leslie become teammates again with Clippers

It was a long wait on a late night in the NBA draft for Georgia’s Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie on Thursday.

Georgia’s Trey Thompkins (33) was taken by the Los Angeles Clippers with the 37th pick in Thursday’s NBA draft.
David Manning

They left the Bulldogs after their junior seasons, but went slip-sliding down in the draft.

Both landed with the Los Angeles Clippers as second-round picks.

Thompkins, a 6-foot-10, 239-pound power forward, finally went with the 37th overall pick. That came before 10:45 p.m, more than three hours after the draft began.

About a half hour later, the Clippers also selected Leslie, a 6-4 guard from Decatur, with the No. 47th pick.

“I almost cried to be honest with you,‚Äù Thompkins said about his reaction after Leslie was also picked by the Clippers. ‚ÄúHe called me and I’m trying to go meet up with him right now and talk about how crazy this is.”

Leslie, who averaged 14.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game last season, is a highlight-making dunk artist, but his perimeter shooting and ball-handling were concerns.

Vinny Del Negro coaches the Clippers, who finished 32-50 last season.

Leslie will join slam dunk champion Blake Griffin in L.A.

‚ÄúLeslie can be a lock-down defender and we want to make sure Blake has competition in the dunk contest next year,” Clippers vice president of basketball operations Neil Olshey told reporters. “Trey is a great compliment to Blake.”

Eighteen college players who entered the draft early were selected in the first round, but not Thompkins and Leslie.

They became the first Georgia players drafted since Rashad Wright went to Indiana in the second round with the final pick of the 2004 draft.

“Congrats to Trey and Travis on being drafted,” Georgia coach Mark Fox posted on his Twitter account. “Never thought I’d say I was going to cheer for the Clippers. …I will now.”

NBA commissioner David Stern had stepped aside at the podium in the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. after the first round.

NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver called the names of Thompkins and Leslie.

First-round picks get guaranteed contracts. Second-rounders don’t.

With an NBA lockout expected on July 1, summer leagues have been cancelled, perhaps making it tougher for a second-round pick to make a roster.

Leslie said the day before the draft that he hoped he was capable of being a first-round pick, but was happy to get a chance to play with Thompkins again.

‚ÄúI was very glad to see we’ll still be playing together,‚Äù Leslie said. ‚ÄúIt 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.‚Äù

Thompkins, from Lithonia, was the SEC preseason player of the year, but his scoring average (from 17.7 to 16.4) and rebounding (8.3 to 7.6) dipped from his sophomore to junior seasons and his draft stock slipped this spring due to conditioning concerns and reportedly some lackluster workouts.

“This is a good second-round value because Trey Thompkins has first-round talent,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said on the air. “He just hasn’t put it all together yet. He’s got a very good skill level. …A nice shooting touch. Not an explosive athlete and his conditioning has been an issue. He needs to get his body in better shape and his toughness frankly has been a question mark.”

Bilas said that Thompkins and Leslie “could have used another year in school.”

Olshey brushed concerns about conditioning aside.

“The game comes too easily to him at times,” he said. “He was able to get away with it because he was so much better (in college).”