One of the biggest advantages of being in a network like SBNation is the network itself--tons of brilliant minds covering all of the Clippers' competitors that we get to work with a ton. We don't get the chance often, but these relationships extend well past the boundaries of the NBA, and it's fairly common for us to connect with NCAA basketball writers post-draft to enhance our understanding of certain prospects.
I'm happy to have e-mailed back and forth with Tanya Bondurant, managing editor of Tar Heel Blog, SBNation's UNC site (I know, their name is almost as original as ours), and Pinstripe Alley, SBNation's Yankee site (though I didn't ask any Jeter questions). Here's our chat!
Lucas: How real is Brice Johnson's jump shot? If he's going to fit alongside Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan long-term, he has to be able to combine his above-the-rim finishing that mirrors their style with a little bit of an outside game to complement it. He says that the NBA three is part of his game, but wasn't part of his job at UNC. Are you buying it?
Tanya: Brice has a beautiful jump shot. The fact that he can shoot from some distance does make up for the fact that he can't always muscle up guys inside. I can't imagine there will be any problems for him there at the next level. As far as the three goes, I can't really see it being a consistent part of his game. Maybe one here or there that gets you up out of your seat, but I don't think it'll be a regular thing.
Lucas: The biggest factor that will determine if he's playable as a rookie will be his defense. We know that he doesn't have the frame to bang down low with NBA bigs, but is he smart and quick enough to defend combo forwards and contain pick-and-roll guards?
Tanya: If there is any knock on Brice it's that he has sometimes fallen asleep at the wheel a little bit. He's very smart and definitely has the ability to knock the ball into the stands multiple times per game. There may be times here and there where you wonder where he was on a play, and that might be a big deal, but it's something I think he could certainly improve on.
Lucas: Rebounding is one of Johnson's most enticing skills, but his size brings up worries about whether or not it will translate. Do you think his length and fundamentals will be enough to make up for his relatively short and skinny frame at the next level?
Tanya: If I had to guess I'd say that his rebounding will be fine. I trust Brice's work ethic to carry him, and he'll definitely have to work to be able to stand his ground against bigger guys. He likes to get super fired up when he does well and that seems to fuel him, so I think he'll do what it takes to be able to stack up with his competition even if he doesn't have the size advantage.
Lucas: Are there any skeletons in the closet? Some suspension early in his career or rumored failed drug test that could be indicative of future trouble? Does he have any unique or interesting circumstances in his family that would be good for fans to know about?
Tanya: I think Brice is a good guy. Roy Williams rode him pretty hard at times, probably harder than I've ever seen him get after a player, but Brice really seemed to respond to that. I think that sort of drove him to compete a little harder. His mother passed away from colon cancer in 2008 and his jersey number at Carolina was to honor her memory.
Lucas: If you had to project, would you say that he is a) never going to be NBA-caliber, b) could develop into an NBA-caliber player, or c) is going to be an immediate impact player?
Tanya: Brice should definitely be an NBA-caliber player. I'm not sure if it will be an instant thing or not, but I'd never bet against it.
Thanks to Tanya for taking some time to help us out with information about the third-newest Clipper (he didn't have the "newest Clipper" title for long). A lot of Clippers fans have been looking forward to Brice since before we knew for sure that he'd be a Clipper. We're definitely happy to have him in Los Angeles.