Clippers: Doc Rivers seems closer to starting Wesley Jonhson


March 16, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Wesley Johnson (11) during the second quarter against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Lakers 108-105. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

We know that Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers wants to give Paul Pierce solid minutes at power forward, but we still don’t know who he plans on choosing to be the Clippers’ starting small forward. It’s between wily veteran Pierce or the younger and more athletic Wesley Johnson, although there are reasons to both sides of the argument as to why they should start.

For instance, resting Pierce more allows him to be in good condition for the playoffs, but at the same time, Johnson isn’t the best 3-and-D player to replace Matt Barnes as their new starter. Whichever way Doc Rivers goes, though, he can continually change the lineups he uses throughout the season now that the Clippers are armed with far more depth and far more versatility.

On the issue of who will be the starting small forward for the beginning of the season, Zach Lowe of Grantland has recently sat down with Doc Rivers to discuss various issues, which has shed some light on the matter of Pierce vs. Johnson:

Whilst it may surprise some that Doc Rivers seems to be leaning even closer to starting Johnson over Pierce — when the latter is still the more talented player even at 37 years of age — it makes sense when considering the longterm results of playing Pierce off the bench instead.

Doc has said that he wants to use The Truth “a lot” at power forward (read the full story here), and that won’t happen if a lot of his minutes are used at starting small forward while Blake Griffin runs everything as the Clippers’ frontcourt star. If Pierce comes off the bench, though, he can step in with minutes spread between the three and the four.

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Furthermore, if Pierce is going to be rested fully for the playoffs so he can bury more game-winners and make the most of his deadeye shooting, the Clippers can’t use him too heavily throughout the regular season (ideally around 18-22 minutes per game). This means that having him come in as the second guy off the bench — behind Lance Stephenson as the likely sixth man — Pierce’s playing time can be managed effectively whilst using him as a reliable three point small forward and a better floor spacing option at power forward than Josh Smith.

As of right now, though, it appears that Doc is still weighing up his options now that he has so many players who can be used at multiple positions at his disposal. So, until we know who’ll actually be stepping into the starting lineup at small forward and how Doc will use his bench, be sure to stay tuned here at Clipperholics for discussions of how the Clippers’ different positional battles may be resolved.

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