LA Clippers: The backup small forward battle


The backup small forward position is still up in the air for the LA Clippers. Who will earn the spot once the regular season rolls around?

Danilo Gallinari finally gave the LA Clippers a small forward who is capable of scoring. Now, the team has to decide who will back him up. There are three candidates who could earn the spot (or just split minutes, but what fun is that?)

The candidates: Wesley Johnson, Sam Dekker and Jamil Wilson.

Wilson, despite a decent showing in the team’s first preseason game, is a long shot. He isn’t polished yet and Doc Rivers has a history of not playing rookies, so we won’t focus on him.

Sam Dekker

Dekker has a lot of upside. The young forward got minutes as part of the Houston Rockets last season and has a career average of 6.3 points per game on 47% shooting. He was hampered by injury in one of his two years with Houston, so he has only appeared in 80 games across the two years.

At 6’9″ and 230lbs, Dekker could be a solid backup, capable of playing both the 3 and the 4 slot. His athleticism also fits well with Milos Teodosic off the bench, assuming that is where Milos stays. In the first game, he didn’t see the court until late in the second half. During the second game, he started to get some time, but was injured and didn’t return.

Dekker definitely has some upside. His biggest concern thus far will be just staying on the court so his game can expand. As stated earlier, he is extremely athletic and has the perfect frame to play small ball. If he can consistently knock down threes (he’s 32% from deep in his career), he could find himself with a majority of the backup minutes. That being said, he’ll have to prove he’s better than the incumbent.

Wesley Johnson

Maybe it’s an aberration. It has only been two games after all. However, Wes Johnson has been pretty great this preseason. In Sunday night’s game, Johnson scored 10 points on 4 of 5 shooting. He also pulled down 4 rebounds and got a steal. For 18 minutes of play, this is all the team could ask of Wes.

Wes has been inconsistent through his career and at 30 years old, there’s not a lot of hope for improvement. However, if he can play with some confidence, Wes does have the tools to be decent rotational piece. During the 2014-15 season, he averaged 9.9 points per game, albeit in almost 30 minutes a game for a poor Lakers team. He wouldn’t need to score that much, but would have to knock down shots when he has the opportunity.

Wes, like Dekker, is also capable of playing the small ball 4 position. Wes stands at 6’7″ and 215lbs. He is also athletic and has some length to bother players with. Wes just needs to be confident and make smart basketball plays. Wes has been his own biggest enemy and he’ll have to capitalize any time he is able to get on the court, or he’ll find himself hidden at the end of the bench like he did last season.

Who do you want to see in the backup small forward position? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook!