Clippers: Austin Rivers and Wesley Johnson opt for free agency


Austin Rivers and Wesley Johnson will not take the options in their contracts to return to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Clippers reserves Austin Rivers and Wesley Johnson will decline their options to return to Los Angeles, so they will become free agents July, 1.

That does not mean Rivers and Johnson will not both return to Los Angeles. However, it means the Clippers will have to negotiate terms with the pending unrestricted free agents like all the other teams in the association.

Earlier in the day, it was reported that Rivers would not pick up his option.

Rivers averaged 8.9 points and 1.5 assists as the Clippers backup. More impressively, Rivers earned the reputation as a relentless defender off the bench.

The tenth pick in the 2012 NBA Draft seemed like he was approaching his potential with Chris Paul and father Doc Rivers in his corner since he was acquired via a trade during the 2014-15 season.

More impressively, Rivers filled in nicely for an injured Paul during the final two games of the Clippers postseason run. He battled Trailblazers guard Damian Lillard with an eye almost swollen shut in game six of that series loss.

Hence, the 23-year-old guard could find a nice pay raise in July. The combo guard offers great versatility and upside. Not to mention, Rivers proved he can fill in as a starter if injuries plague a team.

must read: Should the Clippers consider moving to Seattle?

Rivers was not the only player to turn down his player option only a year into his contract.

Johnson said he wants to return to Los Angeles, but he plans to decline the $1.2 mill. player option from a contract which he signed as a free agent last year. That would make him a free agent too.

Johnson played a career-high 80 games with the Clippers in 2015-16. The 2010 No. 4 overall pick also registered career-highs in field goal percentage, games played, three-pointers made and steals.

Nonetheless, Johnson could find his third home in three years. Johnson was never consistently in the lineup. He averaged about 20 minutes per game as a rotational wing behind Luc Mbah a Moute.

The 28-year-old Johnson could find a nice raise on the open market. Johnson offers a great wing span and  athleticism. Another team will probably try to harness his potential into a three-and-defense kind of player, despite the fact that Johnson is only a 34 percent three-point shooter.

More from Clipperholics

Many expected Johnson and Rivers to opt out of the deals they signed a season ago, as it seems like Rivers and Johnson both outplayed their roles and contracts. Both could be headed for a role and pay increase internally or on the open market.

In the end, the Clippers may decide to bring both, either or one of them back. First, Los Angeles must figure out the futures of pending free agents Mbah a Moute, Jeff Green, and Jamal Crawford, who were all instrumental in last season’s team.

Added, Cole Aldrich has a player’s option in his contract from a season ago.  He has until June 29 to inform the Clippers of his intent. Many expect he too will choose free agency.

Regardless, the Clippers might find themselves scrambling for role players who can put them over the top as Doc Rivers maintains he will keep the core intact.

Next: Grading every Clippers 2015 free agency move

The salary cap is not yet set, so it remains to be seen how much negotiating power the Clippers will have to retain their free agents or add new ones.