Name: Brice Johnson
Weight: 230 lbs
Key Stats: (college) 17 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.1 steals, and 1.5 blocks a game as a senior at UNC. He shot 61.4% from the field and 78.3% from the line on 4.6 attempts a game.
Contract Status: Drafted by Clippers with 25th pick in the draft. Signed to a rookie scale deal with first two years guaranteed and team options for years 3 and 4. Team options are almost always picked up for 3rd year, and usually for 4th.
Breakdown: Brice Johnson was perhaps the best player on a North Carolina team that was one shot away from winning the National Championship in 2016. His rebounding and offensive skills were also on display in the Orlando Summer League, where he made the “1st Team” despite being the victim of poor guard play. He can soar for dunks on the roll and in transition, but is also able to step back and consistently hit jump-shots (he was voted 2nd best shooter of this rookie class by his peers). Other aspects of his game still need work, particularly on the defensive end, but Brice could contribute some positive things to an NBA team right away.
Outlook for 2016-17: Unfortunately, Clippers fans might not see much of Brice this year. At the start of the season he will be the 5th big on a team with two starting big men who will see at least 33 minutes every game. Three of the players ahead of him—DeAndre Jordan, Brandon Bass, and Marreese Speights—have all been generally healthy in their NBA careers, which is good for the Clippers but bad for Brice’s chances to get significant minutes. Blake Griffin has sadly seen far too many injuries in his career already, but hopefully he is fully healthy going into this season. While Johnson has talent and skills, the Clippers are so stocked with big men that he doesn’t have anything unique to bring, at least this year.
Even if one of the players ahead of Brice got injured, Coach Doc Rivers might opt to go small with his lineups, shifting to a three big rotation with a wing at power forward. A Raymond Felton-Austin Rivers-Jamal Crawford-Wes Johnson-Speights/Bass lineup might actually be the primary bench unit at some point this season, which puts Brice even further away from playing time. Unless he stands out in an incredible way during training camp/preseason, or the Clippers’ roster is ravaged by injuries, Brice is unlikely to be in the rotation.
Unlike fellow rookie Diamond Stone, however, Brice should at least be on the NBA roster for most of the season. This will enable him to play spot minutes if Doc wants to see him in a certain lineup or in case of severe foul trouble. There will also be garbage time to get fans excited with highlight dunks, but those minutes are never very useful for really projecting players going forward. Hopefully Brice doesn’t see too many minutes this season, but if he does, I think Clippers fans will be happy with how he produces.