8 things to know for Clippers’ preseason opener vs. Nuggets

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Jul 21, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Josh Smith at press conference at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

6: Josh Smith… at center

Josh Smith may be the most versatile player that the Clippers added this summer. He can play at either the three, four or five when necessary, and can guard multiple positions when switching to using his defensive talents as well.

Doc has discussed how his plan this summer was to assemble a bench where no player was limited to playing at just one position, as well as having five guys who can all handle the ball and bring the offense up court. This idea gives the Clippers a great deal of versatility and fast paced movement on offense, not to mention the amount of playmakers that will be able to set up teammates. On top of that, the arrival of Smith means that we can expect plenty of small-ball lineups to be used throughout the season.

The position isn’t totally new to him either, as Smith spent 12 percent of his playing time at center for the Houston Rockets.

At 6’9″ he has the size and explosiveness to compete with centers, and even averaged 1.7 blocks per 36 minutes whilst holding opponents to a mere 46.7 percent shooting at the rim last season. With that kind of defensive presence, speed, and improved shooting to test slower big men on offense, Smith may well be tested as a backup center against the Nuggets.

5: Austin Rivers is questionable: Enter Pablo Prigioni?

In addition to Stephenson, Austin Rivers is also questionable to play against the Nuggets. Melissa Rohlin of the Los Angeles Times has reported that Rivers has a left ankle contusion.

This isn’t anything to worry about, though. As Rohlin pointed out, Rivers has not been limited in practice and said himself that “I just lightly turned it. We were competing today. I’m good to go” (per Rowan Kavner of Clippers.com).

With the understanding that this really is a very minor injury and Rivers feels good about his condition, it isn’t much of a concern as to whether or not the Clippers play him against the Nuggets. However, if he does stay on the bench, it gives Doc a chance to test out the team’s third option at point guard instead by giving Pablo Prigioni some increased playing time.

If that’s what Doc decides, we can see some of the passing, composure, and pesky perimeter defense that Prigioni has to offer for the first time.

Next: Power forward Paul Pierce