You have heard and know a lot about the six-player trade the Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Clippers signed off on just a few days ago; however, it was convenient for most to place all focus on just the main piece of the trade: five-time All-Star Blake Griffin. After all, this is the first time Blake Griffin has been traded in his career, and, wouldn’t you know it, Detroit is the beneficiary. Can you really blame us if we all have Blake Griffin — and only Blake Griffin — on our minds right now? Please spare us for the next month or so.
But there’s more to the deal.
The least notable player involved in the deal is Brice Johnson, a 6’10, second-year forward out of the University of North Carolina.
Brice Johnson was a four-year player at North Carolina, averaging a healthy 18.2 points and 10.2 rebounds in 28 minutes per game during his senior season in 2015-2016 (UNC lost in the championship game to Villanova).
Brice became a Clippers first round pick in the 2016 NBA draft, selected at pick No. 25. As you may know, Reggie Bullock was also a first round draft pick of the Clippers, also taken with the 25th pick, and in fact, Bullock and Brice played one season together at UNC.
Brice has seen action in only 12 NBA regular season games (3.9 minutes per game), spending much of his time as a pro either injured (back and shoulder) or playing in the G League. His last NBA game appearance was December 18th. At the beginning of this season, the Clippers decided to decline the third year rookie-scale option for Brice, allowing him to be a free agent this summer.
His G League averages in 29 games played are 13 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks. He’s attempting to develop a three-point shot, and is at 27.8 percent on 54 attempts. In 148 games played at UNC, Brice attempted zero three-pointers.
Now here’s where I want to tell you that Brice just needs a chance to shine, to show off his stuff, to actually get an opportunity for playing time that didn’t come close to materializing in Los Angeles. I really want to tell you he’ll amount to something!
But all I can say for sure is that he’ll be 24 years old this summer, and it’s a decent enough sign that the Pistons haven’t waived him already. They want to see up close and for themselves if he’s worth developing as a forward prospect off the bench. That sounds like a good plan for now. Keep in mind that at the moment the Pistons roster is power forward heavy with Griffin, Anthony Tolliver and Henry Ellenson in front of him (and an injured Jon Leuer). While personnel is bound to change, even then, who knows if Brice makes enough of an impact this season to be signed for next season?
Here’s a short video of NCAA hoops analyst Seth Davis talking up Brice Johnson’s rebounding prowess and offensive ability prior to the 2016 NBA draft. Worth a listen:
Here’s a few bright plays I cut of Brice (#10) in a 2017 summer league game.
The full version of the summer league game above is here.
Finally, here’s a short video of Johnson putting on a clinic in the post in a G League game just a mere five days ago. He has bounce and an ability to make tough shots around the basket, not totally unlike the way Blake Griffin often uses his foot work, athleticism, brute strength and deft touch to finish. I think Brice has been taking legible notes and soaking it all in during his time as Griffin’s teammate in Los Angeles. Let’s see if everything he has learned and experienced can pay off for him in Detroit.
May Brice Johnson and Stanley Johnson flourish in their new roles as the Blake Griffin in Detroit era begins. Two good basketball Johnsons are better than none!