Amir Coffey: The Los Angeles Clippers Secret Weapon

(Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

When Kawhi Leonard and Paul George eloped to Los Angeles to become Clippers in the summer of 2019, it was easy to imagine that the star-studded “Battle for LA” would quickly become the NBA’s marquee matchup. Thanks to their proximity and celebrity, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Anthony Davis and Lebron James seemed poised to be the principal actors in a potentially era-defining rivalry. Two years later, that rivalry has yet to come to fruition as both teams have struggled with injuries and the psychic weight of high expectations. This year, the Lakers have been sabotaged by a malcontent, misshapen roster and the mangled Clippers face a nightly struggle to field seven ambulatory players for their games. But amidst the Clippers’ injury carnage, there have been ample opportunities for hungry young players to showcase their talent and establish themselves as part of the Clips’ long-term plans: Amir Coffey has done just that.

Going undrafted out of the University of Minnesota in 2019, Amir Coffey signed a two-way deal with the Los Angeles Clippers. After spending most of his first two seasons in the G-League, Coffey has made the most of his opportunities this season and grown into an important rotation piece. In the Clippers’ 20 games since 2022 started, Coffey has averaged 13.2 points per game and drained 42.5 percent of his 3-point attempts.

One of the most overlooked aspects of any great team is their role players. Superstars may do the heaviest lifting, but it’s impossible to succeed without trust-worthy glue guys who can knock down jumpers and make smart decisions with the ball; for Coffey, the biggest difference between this year and last year is that he’s now making enough jumpers to fulfill both of those requirements. Over the last few years, Coffey has improved his true shooting from 53.7 percent during his senior year at Minnesota to 62.8 percent this season. Simultaneously, Coffey has ramped up his 3-point-shooting volume to 3.6 attempts per game, more than double his average from last year.

Although Coffey has shined under the radar for weeks, his value to the team was most readily apparent when the Clippers mounted the second-largest comeback in NBA history last month against the Washington Wizards. Against the ‘Zards, Coffey led his team in scoring, exploding for a career-high 29 points (including nine in the fourth quarter) and helping the Clippers overcome a 35-point deficit to win the game.

Admittedly, there’s a very real possibility that this month might represent the high-water mark of Coffey’s career. Last week, the Clippers nabbed Norman Powell and Robert Covington from the Portland Trail Blazers, introducing more competition for playing time on the wings. Additionally, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will presumably return at full-strength next season. But even if Coffey is forced to readjust to life as a 20-minute-per-game bench player, he’s cemented his status as an important piece of the Clippers’ future as a role player who can ably fill any size role.

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