Wesley Johnson, Clippers Reportedly Agree to New Contract: Details, Reaction

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJuly 3, 2016

April 12, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Wesley Johnson (33) shoots against the Memphis Grizzlies during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Settling into a role off the bench is often hard for a former top-five pick, but Wesley Johnson has emerged as a solid two-way reserve on the wing. The Los Angeles Clippers and Johnson agreed to a three-year, $18 million contract Saturday, per Shams Charania of The Vertical.

Johnson, 28, spent last season with the Clippers. He averaged 6.9 points and 3.1 rebounds per game, shooting 40.4 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from three-point range.

While the Syracuse product appeared in a career-high 80 games, he started a career-low nine.

Johnson had a $1.2 million player option for 2016-17 but declined it in search of a better, longer-term deal. He played for minimum salaries in each of the last three years after making more than $11 million during the first three seasons on his rookie contract.

Nothing about Johnson's game screams "irreplaceable," but in an era when the salary cap has ballooned to $94 million, as the NBA announced Saturday, he was due for a pay raise. Johnson lacks star power and doesn't have any overarching top skill, but he's decent at a lot of things. At 6'7", he's long and athletic enough to defend 4s in small-ball lineups and was a solid defender last season.

Per NBA.com, opponents shot right around their season averages when he was their primary defender, which made him a valuable wing piece in the leaky Clippers defense. He spent most of the season dealing with plantar fasciitis as well, which makes those numbers more impressive.

Johnson isn't going to move the needle much. He's an average three-point shooter and defender and can't do much with the ball in his hands. But sometimes average is what a team needs when it's been scrounging for decent bench cogs.

Head coach and president of basketball operations Doc Rivers has struggled to compile talent around his core four of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick. Johnson was one of the few gambles he's taken that have paid off. It was better to keep him around than to go fishing for another potential low-cost failure.