According to James Herbert of CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Clippers are considering starting Wesley Johnson over Paul Pierce.
I’m sure this will have plenty of people jumping out of their seats and saying that the Clippers are crazy if they put Pierce on the bench. I think this is a great move, and that is not a knock on Paul Pierce at all. It’s actually not a knock nor a praise of either player’s skills. This gameplan would just benefit both parties and in turn benefit the team in the long run.
Paul Pierce, now 37 years old, is not getting any younger. While in Washington, he started every game he played, but he only averaged 26.2 minutes per game. Even with the lower amount of playing time, he still was an integral part of the Wizards’ success. He averaged 11.9 points and 4.0 rebounds per game, and he shot a little under 45% from the floor(stats from basketball-reference). The skills that Paul Pierce brings to the table that not a lot of players can, are leadership and poise in the clutch. Pierce is a great locker room personality to have on the team, and he can lead this team if he’s on the floor when Chris Paul is not. He also gives the Clippers a great go-to guy when they need a big shot late in the game. All of this can still be prevalent coming off of the bench. Pierce’s minutes are going to be limited anyway so that he stays healthy come playoff time, and the biggest weakness the Clippers had was their bench production. Finally, they now have a guy to help out Jamal Crawford on the bench. We don’t have to see Crawford having to take on two defenders and chuck up a shot, instead we get to see Rivers, Crawford, Josh Smith, and Pierce work some presumably interesting sets to give the team some much needed bench scoring.
As for Wesley Johnson, this wouldn’t be his first time starting for a team. In his five seasons in the league, he has started a total of 269 games. Johnson, only 28 years old, averaged just about the same points and rebounds per game as Matt Barnes did last season. The biggest difference between the two is their defense. While not being particularly good, Barnes had a 107 defensive rating compared to Johnson’s poor 112 rating(stats from basketball-reference). Johnson, however, has yet to play for a quality, playoff contending team. He has length and an athletic ability that could fit in perfectly with the “Lob City” regulars in Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Matt Barnes was never really someone to be afraid of in the offense, but Johnson has big dunk ability and he can shoot the three better than Barnes.
So, looking at the lineups that are possible for the Clippers, this move putting Wesley Johnson in the starting lineup could be a positive. I believe this will be better for them when the playoffs roll around, and it could benefit in helping some of these guys staying healthy.