Doc Rivers leaning toward starting Wesley Johnson over Paul Pierce

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Clippers coach Doc Rivers was reportedly considering starting Wesley Johnson at small forward over Paul Pierce.

It’s a little more than a consideration now.

Zach Lowe of Grantland:

Pierce is better than Johnson. There’s no question about that.

But starting Johnson might be the right call.

The Clippers’ starting lineup is loaded with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick. There won’t be many touches for the starting small forward. So, it makes sense to balance the starters with the reserves and bring Pierce off the bench.

But the Clippers’ bench – featuring Lance Stephenson, Jamal Crawford, Josh Smith and Austin Rivers – has its own gunners. Pierce might get more touches off the bench, but the difference won’t be huge.

The key is finding Pierce minutes at power forward, his most effective position the last few years. A related question: How much can Griffin and Smith play center? Those two natural power forwards could eat up a lot of the minutes at the four. Once Rivers determines how much they can shift down, the coach can assemble a rotation that maximizes Pierce’s minutes at power forward. If that means starting Johnson and bringing Pierce off the bench, that’s fine.

Ultimately, I think a key factor is the ability to fix the initial rotation if it doesn’t work. Benching Johnson for Pierce would go over a lot better than benching Pierce for Johnson. That – above all the other considerations – could push Rivers to start Johnson.

For now, at least.