After two hard-fought seasons in the G League, former Cal men’s basketball player Tyrone Wallace has finally arrived on the scene with the LA Clippers.
With Patrick Beverley out for the season with a knee injury and Austin Rivers and Miloš Teodosić sidelined with other injuries, the Clippers signed Wallace to a two-way contract, and the former 60th overall pick in the 2016 draft made his NBA debut Jan. 6 against the Golden State Warriors.
In 31 minutes, a healthy serving of playing time for any rookie’s first game, Wallace posted a very impressive 13 points, three rebounds, three steals and two assists. Wallace was also tasked with guarding none other than two-time MVP Stephen Curry, who would torch the Clippers for 45 points while only playing three quarters.
Four days later against that same Warriors team, albeit one that was missing both Curry and Klay Thompson, Wallace got a little bit of revenge, dropping 22 points, six rebounds and four assists, all of which are highs in his young career.
On a Clippers squad that has struggled with health, Wallace’s early production has brought much-needed stability, averaging 12.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game over seven contests.
Wallace’s instant production mirrors that of Yogi Ferrell when he jumped onto the scene with the Dallas Mavericks last season around this time. After Ferrell was signed to a 10-day contract, the guard began to garner national attention, capped off by his breakout 32-point performance against the Portland Trail Blazers in which he drained nine 3-pointers.
Although Ferrell only played 46 games last season, 36 of which were with the Mavericks, the guard earned a spot on the NBA All-Rookie Second Team. While last season’s rookie class was relatively weak, this season’s group of young bucks is oozing with talent and Wallace has little chance of finding his way onto an All-Rookie Team, barring a string of Herculean performances down the stretch.
Even if Wallace doesn’t haul in the hardware, a lucrative contract may be in his future. Ferrell signed a contract after his fourth game with the Mavericks, that fourth game being against the aforementioned Trail Blazers. There has yet to be an inclination that the Clippers will re-sign Wallace after this season, however, although it is still very early.
Should the options of Beverley, Rivers and Teodosić be exercised this offseason — Beverley’s is a team option while Rivers’ and Teodosić’s are player options — the Clippers will have a solid three-guard unit before accounting for Wallace. After the 2018-19 season, however, all three are primed to become free agents, which could leave the Clippers with a massive hole at the guard position.
Wallace, despite his solid performances, likely won’t be able to command too much money from the Clippers or another possible suitor, but even the minimum annual salary of approximately $800,000 would be a major step up financially.