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Clippers Keeping Options Open for Starting Small Forward

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When the Clippers signed Paul Pierce in the off-season, many felt that he was a shoo in for the starting unit as a small forward, but Coach Doc Rivers is keeping his options open, and strongly considering Wesley Johnson as a starter.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With training camp set to open 2 weeks from today in Irvine, the Clippers have 4 of their 5 starters for the upcoming season penciled in. Chris Paul and J.J. Redick at the guard spots, DeAndre Jordan at center, and Blake Griffin at power forward. With the trade that sent Matt Barnes to Charlotte for Lance Stephenson, the Clippers lost their starting small forward for the last 2 seasons. They were able to sign Paul Pierce this off-season, but at 37 years old (38 before the season starts), the Clippers need to monitor his minutes to ensure he is full strength come playoff time. Dan Woike of the Orange County Register is reporting that the Clippers are strongly considering Wesley Johnson to replace Barnes in the starting lineup.

Pierce, who entered the NBA in 1999, is entering his 16th season, and has started all but 10 games he has played in his career. Last season with the Wizards, he started all 73 games he played, while the Wizards limited his minutes per game to 26, the lowest in his career. We can expect the Clippers to try and limit his minutes as well, possible around the 20-25 minute per game mark, which makes keeping him as a starter difficult. With 48 minutes in a NBA game, If Pierce is kept at 22 minutes per game as a starter, you would be looking at a potential of him playing about 7-9 minutes to start the game, then sitting the rest of the first half. He would again start the first 6-8 minutes in the second half, before sitting the remainder of the 3rd quarter and start of the 4th, before returning for the final 6-8 minutes of the game.

If Wesley Johnson is the starter, it allows the Clippers the opportunity to limit Pierces minutes, while putting Johnson on the court with the best point guard in the game, Chris Paul. Paul is excellent at setting up his teammates, and is the type of point guard that Johnson has never had the opportunity of playing with. With Johnson starting, we should be able to anticipate his shooting stats bumping up above his career norm. With the boost in confidence, we might also see a more willing defender.