Fresh on the heels of signing former All-NBA center DeMarcus Cousins to a 10-day contract, the Los Angeles Clippers are expected to do the same with 6-foot-8 combo forward Malik Fitts.
Raised in California, Fitts played one season at the University of South Florida before transferring back out west to St. Mary’s in 2017, where he went on to be a two-time All-WCC selection. Fitts declared for the 2020 NBA draft after his junior year, but despite his powerful build and athleticism—Derek Bast of NBAdraft.net described him as “one of the most athletic players in the draft”—Fitts went undrafted.
He signed an Exhibit 10 contract with L.A. in November but was waived on December 14. In February of 2021, Fitts joined the Agua Caliente Clippers of the G League.
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Capable of Offense but Expected to Play Defense
Coming off Agua Caliente’s bench for more than half the season (which ended in March), Fitts was promoted to the starting lineup for the final six games—and made the most of his increased exposure. As a starter, Fitts averaged 18.0 points on 53.1% shooting from the floor and 43.5% from three, adding 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists.
While capable of stepping behind the arc or using his bulky athleticism to get to the hoop, it’s unlikely the Clippers will look to Fitts for much scoring. Instead, it’s expected the 23-year-old will be asked to help out primarily on defense, which was actually Fitts’s plan when he joined Agua Caliente.
“By the end of [the G League season], I wanted to be known as a guy who really locks up on defense,” Fitts said in March. “That was the emphasis that I had prior to this season. I thought it played out pretty well.”
Fitts will probably find himself guarding the wing most of the time for L.A., but his lower body is sturdy enough to defend on the blocks as well, something he did most often in college.
Fitts Knows a Guy Who Knows a Guy
While new to the big leagues, Fitts is connected, albeit thinly, to some big-time players.
He graduated from the same high school—Damien High School in La Verne, California—as long-time NBA agent Bill Duffy. Duffy’s BDA Sports Management represents three current Clippers — Patrick Beverley, Terance Mann and Rajon Rondo. Fitts, meanwhile, is represented by Kashif Pratt and Derek Jackson of UNLTD Sports Group.
And at Damien, even though Fitts was only considered a two-star recruit, the relatively mediocre designation didn’t keep him from being mentioned in the same breath as future NBA star Lonzo Ball. (Fitts became a three-star recruit after a post-graduate season at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire.)
After helping lead Damien to a Division 3 state championship in 2015, Fitts was selected to the All-Inland Valley First Team—alongside Ball, who won Player of the Year. Fitts’s selection was surely bolstered by a regular-season matchup versus Ball’s legendary Chino Hills squad. In the game, which also featured Lonzo’s highly-touted brothers, LiAngelo and LaMelo, Fitts scored 23 points in a losing effort.
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