After Brice Johnson was selected by the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2016 NBA Draft, Lucas Hann of our SB Nation Clippers site, Clips Nation, emailed to see if I'd answer some questions about their newest player. In return, he also answered some questions for me about the Clippers' plans for Brice and where he fits into their game plan.
You can check out my half of the Q&A by clicking this link to Clips Nation. Here are Lucas' answers for me.
Tanya: What was the Clippers’ thought process behind selecting Johnson?
Lucas: This draft had the most relative parity and depth of any in recent memory. Slides and reaches were both more dramatic than usual because there just wasn't that much separating players who were seen on the internet as lottery picks from players seen as second-round prospects. Players like Deyonta Davis and Skal Labissiere were ranked much higher than Johnson on sites like DraftExpress, but I think the Clippers liked Johnson's experience at high-level program and took a shot at a guy who could help as a rookie. From what I heard, they had already decided by the morning of the draft that if he was there, they were taking him, regardless of who was dropping.
Tanya: Where do you see him fitting in on the team as currently constructed?
Lucas: Johnson's fit could be interesting, because last year the Clippers didn't play a backup power forward. For the 12 minutes or so a game that Blake Griffin is on the bench, the Clippers rolled with small-ball lineups that gave them a contrasting style while keeping more options in rhythm at SF, which remains their weakest position. They either liked Johnson enough that they're changing that stylistic choice, or they think his rebounding and athleticism make him a legitimate option as a small ball center.
Tanya: What do you think his role on the team will be out of the gate?
Lucas: It will largely depend on free agency, but Johnson is definitely going to have a shot to get minutes as a rookie, even if it's not a nightly thing. Right now, I have him slotted in for about 12-15 minutes a game, sometimes playing next to Griffin (where he'll need to rebound and protect the rim) and sometimes next to DeAndre Jordan (where he'll need to be able to hit mid-range jumpers). If the Clippers add a veteran big man in free agency, Johnson will be competing for minutes if the Clippers stick with small-ball on the second unit, or playing alongside that veteran if Doc Rivers switches up his rotations.
Tanya: What does Johnson need to do to cement a place on the team for next season?
Lucas: The most important thing will be to defend and rebound. Nobody is expecting him to stuff guys that are 3" and 50 pounds bigger than him on the block, but that means that he'll have to feast on weak-side blocks and rebounds to stay on the floor. He's also going to need to show that he can use his light frame and quick feet to contain pick-and-roll guards, which is not an easy task at the NBA level. Offensively, a reliable mid-range shot is required to play alongside DeAndre Jordan, but even without it he'll be able to play next to Blake Griffin.
Tanya: How are you feeling about the pick right now?
Lucas: I'm fairly happy with the pick. I think I started saying in May that Brice was my gut feeling for pick 25, and it stayed that way up until the morning of the draft when I learned that my hunch would come true. In a vacuum, I think I like some other guys who ended up on the board better as prospects, but in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin's contract year, I'll gladly trade a shot that Deyonta Davis will be serviceable in two years for a shot that Brice Johnson will be serviceable now.
Thank you to Lucas for taking the time to answer these questions, and good luck to Brice!