The recent swoon has had one unintended benefit:
The Clippers have quietly moved into the No. 8 position for the June draft. This morning, they stand only one game behind Philadelphia for No. 7, and two games behind Detroit for No. 6.
What does this mean?
So far as odds of winning the lottery, the bump is negligible. The No. 8 position has only a 2.8 percent chance of winning the lottery. But the Clippers’ reverse rise in the standings means that a couple of players who wouldn’t be available at the No. 10 slot — where the Clippers resided for the better part of the past month — will now be on the draft board.
According to DraftExpress — Jonathan Givony, the site’s principal, has shown uncanny prescience in his predictions over the years — Syracuse small forward Wes Johnson could be available at the No. 8 slot.
For years, we’ve discussed how small forward has been the most trouble spot on the floor for the Clippers. Rasual Butler has filled that role this season with varying success, but the Clippers need a long-term solution at the 3.
Johnson is an intriguing talent who would fit snugly into the Clippers’ starting lineup next season. A transfer from Iowa State who sat out the 2008-09 college season, Johnson arrived in Syracuse and dramatically improved in a couple of key areas: 3-point shooting, defensive instincts and the ability to assume multiple functions on the floor. Johnson’s penchant for moving off the ball was one of the things that struck me about his game while watching him in March. He could be a valuable 3-and-D man at the small forward and can rebound the basketball, something that’s been an problem of epidemic proportions at the wing positions for the Clips.
Ultimately, it’s not just Johnson’s body of work that impressed — but his body itself. With Eric Gordon situated at the 2, the Clippers need someone with size and versatility who can defend big perimeter scorers. They need a guy at the small forward who has the versatility and mobility to handle either end of a 1-3 pick-and-roll, who can both help on penetration, but still has the reach and quickness to close out on a perimeter shooter. We’ll need to see more of Johnson to determine the full breadth of his game (come June, we’ll go back and study some film at Synergy Sports and give you a full scouting report) but if the Clippers are lucky enough to have Johnson fall into their laps, a Wes Johnson-Blake Griffin tandem at the forward spots has a very Thunderian quality to it, doesn’t it?