PLAYA VISTA, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Clippers entered the night with the 25th and 33rd picks in the 2016 NBA draft. And despite coach and president of basketball operations Doc Rivers' skepticism that they would acquire another pick, L.A. wound up with three draftees.
The Clippers selected North Carolina senior Brice Johnson at No. 25 and traded No. 33 to the New Orleans Pelicans for picks 39 and 40. Johnson led all major conference players in double-doubles (23) and player efficiency rating (33.0).
"That was a guy we liked from the very beginning, actually," Rivers said after L.A. had made its picks. "We had a ranking. And we pretty much stuck to it, to be honest. Brice was the guy. We had a couple of guys on the board -- well, we had a lot of guys on the board -- but where we thought at 25 who would be there, the main guy we wanted to be there was Brice and one other guy, and the other guy went a little bit in front of us."
With the Clippers ranking 29th in rebounding rate last season, Johnson figures to make an immediate impact if given the opportunity. The four-year Tar Heel clocked in at fifth in the nation in total rebounds. "Well, he does a lot of stuff," Rivers said. "I mean, he's athletic, he can rebound, runs the floor, got a great motor and he can shoot the ball."
But the immediate production wasn't all the Clippers hoped for.
"He's a guy that has -- right now, he has 15- to 18-[foot range], but we think he can make it out to the 3-point line. We like a lot of the things he can do and has done. You know, he's played big in big games in college. And we like his upside, too. We like the fact that he has a chance to help right away. But we also feel like he has a high ceiling, and he can get a lot better."
Prior to the start of the draft, Rivers tamped down inquiries about acquiring picks, like the Clippers did in the 2015 draft, when they sent $660,000 to the Pelicans for pick No. 56 (Branden Dawson).
"No, we don't want three picks," Rivers said before the draft. "There is a scenario where we would do that, but most of the time -- we're a team that's trying to win a title, and to have three picks, three rookies plus C.J. [Wilcox] -- now you have a lot of young guys at the end of your bench. And I don't know if you want that either."
Michineau, especially, was a surprise, as he was under the radar in mock drafts. "We loved his speed," Rivers said. "We loved his defense -- his ability to play both positions."
Stone, meanwhile, was the AP's Big Ten newcomer in 2016, averaging 12.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 35 games and helping Maryland to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament.
Rivers expected both Stone and Michineau to be on the Clippers' summer league squad in Orlando and on the roster next season.
For a contending team that carries salary cap and roster concerns into the offseason, for the moment the Clippers have at least three more spots filled on the bench.