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

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Jul 21, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers players Cole Aldrich (45), Paul Pierce (34) and Wesley Johnson (33) pose with jerseys at press conference at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

4: Paul Pierce at power forward

He may be the Clippers’ best small forward with his veteran swagger and late-game ability, but one of the best attributes that Pierce possesses is that he can be used off the bench at power forward. It’s been Doc’s plan since bringing him onboard, and now he has a chance to use him at the four in a competitive game for the first time as the Nuggets come to Los Angeles.

Pierce’s 38.9 percent three point shooting makes him an instant nightmare for slower power forwards when it comes to defending him on the perimeter, and he just about has enough quickness — even at 37 years of age — to be a mismatch inside at times. Even if he lacks size and post defense, Pierce can trouble opponents with his shooting when Doc adopts smaller lineups.

With Johnson looking as though he’s taking the starting spot, you can expect to see Pierce come in as the backup small forward and as a power forward throughout preseason.

3: A Chuck Hayes appearance?

When it comes to the Clippers’ 15th roster spot, the battle heading into the season is between Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Luc Mbah a Moute and Chuck Hayes. As for the likelihood of who may actually make the roster, though, Mbah a Moute and Hayes should emerge as the favorites due to the fact they both offer a defensive mindset that the Clippers need after ranking 15th in defensive efficiency last season.

To expand on this roster battle, it seems that Hayes’ ability to play at both power forward and center, not to mention his physical defense and passion, could make him the favorite.

As Arash Markazi of ESPN has reported, that is believed to be the case.

In the preseason, Doc has six games to begin experimenting with his new versatility and depth. However, when it comes to finding the last player to keep with the Clippers to help ensure they have a better chance of being crowned champions this season, he can give those at the bottom of the rotation more minutes to prove themselves.

With that in mind, expect Chuck Hayes to see slightly increased minutes against the Nuggets and through the other five preseason games.

Next: The Clippers are going small-ball