This was a bit unexpected. Teams rarely decline the third year options on 1st round picks, even those who have struggled mightily in their first year-plus. That the Clippers did so with Brice Johnson shows they don’t have much hope for him ever being a significant part of their rotation. Declining the option also makes Brice harder to trade— he will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and any team trading for him will lack any control over his future contract status.
Brice had a rough rookie year, losing most of it to a shoulder injury before returning to the Clippers late in the season. His missing of training camp and preseason was particularly brutal, as those are incredibly important for rookies in learning the ins and outs of being on an NBA team. He played a minuscule nine minutes for the Clippers his rookie season, spread out over three games. That isn’t even garbage time.
Things haven’t gone much better for Brice this season. He had a relatively poor outing in Summer League, looking a step behind play on both offense and defense. The Clippers’ signing of Willie Reed and trade for Montrezl Harrell also ensured he probably wouldn’t see many minutes this season. That has proven to be the case, as he has only made appearances in garbage time. Sadly enough, those limited minutes are still double what he played last year. He continues to show skill, length, and athleticism, but the Clippers have decided they have seen enough.
The Clippers’ selection of Brice looks especially unfortunate considering the bevy of role players (at worst) picked after him in the 2016 Draft: Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon, Pat McCaw, Pascal Siakam, Skal Labissierie, and Dejounte Murray are just some of the more prominent names on that list.
If the Clippers had picked up his option, Brice would have made $1.5 million next season. They will still have his bird rights, so if he all of a sudden turns things around and becomes a rotation player, they will be able to overpay for his services this summer. That is unlikely to be the case.
Brice will probably get picked up by some team taking a chance on his athleticism and shooting next summer, but that could very well be his last stop in the NBA unless he improves his awareness on both sides of the ball. Hopefully he is able to do so— it would be great to see him get his career in order on a team able to provide more opportunities for him to play.
Clippers declined to pick up 3rd year option on Brice Johnson's contract, per source. Johnson was due to make $1.5 million next season.— Brad Turner (@BA_Turner) November 1, 2017