Amir Coffey: The Unexpected Evolution

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Forward Amir Coffey cursed in frustration as he struggled during the LA Clippers’ summer league game. Unfortunately for the Clippers, his outburst was directed at an official. He was quickly ejected from the game. Coffey, whose father Richard Coffey played one season in the NBA, is currently on his third consecutive season as a two-way player. While his summer league showing was disappointing, he did not let it affect his play in the regular season. Coffey spent solid time switching between the Agua Caliente Clippers and their main roster. In his first two seasons, he barely saw playing time. But with all the injuries and players entering health and safety protocols, the lanky forward finally got his opportunity.

After only averaging 3.2 points per game in his first two seasons, Coffey is making the most of his opportunity in his third campaign. Since the new year, Coffey is averaging 12.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 3.7 assists a game. During that span, he is shooting 51.8% from the field and 45.1% from three. But what has made Coffey so good during that span? Injuries to rotation players, yes. But he is showing flashes of development that no one saw coming.

Amir Coffey: The Unexpected Evolution

What He Does Well

There were skills that Coffey already brought to the table when he arrived in 2019. Like most G-League players, Coffey needed to prove that he can help a team win by doing the little things. These are things he still does today such as running the floor, shooting with confidence, competing on defense, and moving the ball.

Almost everyone that is called up to main rosters is not a high-usage player. Coffey understands that and demonstrates his understanding with the way he plays. There are instances in a game when Coffey catches the ball and surveys the floor to see if he can attack. If he does not see an immediate opportunity, he swings the ball and moves. Off the ball, he cuts to keep the defense honest. And in spot-up situations, he stays locked and loaded and even showed the ability to shoot with a closeout coming. It’s plays like these in which some within Clipper Nation compared him to his teammate, Nicolas Batum. Both are team-oriented, don’t pound the ball, and make plays that connect the team.

In addition to the offense, Coffey shows great effort on defense and provides versatility to switch 1-4 with his 6″7 build. That coupled with his athleticism make Coffey an asset for small-ball lineups to switch everything. He can still improve on that end, but he has the potential to be one of the better defenders on the team.

His Development

There were instances in which Coffey was asked to play point guard. Whether it was the G-League or the main roster, he performed the duty. The fruits of his labor did not appear early, but as of late he has shown legitimate playmaking ability. Specifically out of the pick and roll. On numerous occasions, he has shown the ability to make pocket passes and hit the open window after reading the help side slide over on the roll man. As his confidence in the pick-and-roll grew, so did his passing. In one of his more impressive plays of the season, Coffey rejected a Serge Ibaka screen, creating space from his defender, then hit him with a perfect pocket pass for the score.

It’s not just in pick and roll that Coffey is impressing in. His one-on-one ability improved as his confidence grew. His ability to get downhill without pounding the ball is a useful skill that even some All-Stars lack. The next step in his offensive development is his ability to get a shot up even when the defense is guarding him well. At 6″7, he is a solid-sized wing. In previous games, Coffey was able to get into the paint and get up a turnaround, but it was not very consistent. Hopefully, he can build upon this season and continue to add to his offensive arsenal.

Amir Coffey Deserves A Legitimate Contract

Three seasons. Three two-way deals. The 2021-22 season is proving to be the evidence that Amir Coffey is more suited for the main roster than the G-League. He already earned the trust of head coach Ty Lue, who’s playing him almost the entire first and third quarters before subbing him out. Coffey’s development is dependent on getting main roster reps since he is used to it now. And in a season that could be lost with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George potentially missing the season, Coffey is one of the numerous players that is taking advantage of their absence in order to develop. With his steady improvement, Coffey can be a contributor to a championship roster next season when the team is fully healthy.

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