Clippers draft North Carolina's Brice Johnson with 25th pick
LOS ANGELES (AP) The Los Angeles Clippers had North Carolina power forward Brice Johnson in mind when the NBA draft began on Thursday.
When their pick came up and Johnson was still available, the Clippers quickly pulled the trigger.
The Clippers selected Johnson with their first-round pick, No. 25 overall. The 6-foot-10, 230-pound power forward averaged 17.0 points and 10.4 rebounds per game as a senior for the Tar Heels last season.
''Brice was the guy,'' coach Doc Rivers said. ''That was a guy we liked from the very beginning. We were happy he was there.''
The Clippers also drafted Kansas power forward Cheick Diallo in the second round, No. 33 overall. Rivers confirmed they then traded Diallo to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for French point guard David Michineau and Maryland center Diamond Stone, who were drafted with the Nos. 39 and 40 picks, respectively.
''We really liked both guys and the way the draft worked out we took a gamble,'' Rivers said. ''We could have clearly drafted one of those two at 33 and we took the gamble that one of them would be there. It just so happened both were there, and that was good.''
Johnson, 21, was a consensus first team All-America selection last season and the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA East Regional.
He had a school-record 23 double-doubles last season and became the fifth UNC player to average a double-double for a season. He also became the first Tar Heel to score 20 points and grab 10 rebounds in three consecutive NCAA Tournament games.
Johnson increased his scoring and rebounding averages every season at UNC. He shot 57.5 percent from the floor in his career and 70.8 percent from the free throw line.
''I'm really thankful for this opportunity,'' Johnson said. ''(The Clippers) said they've had the eye on me the whole time, but I didn't really know that until now. I feel like I fit in with this team well with the style they play and the style I played in college. I really think I can come in there and be effective from the jump.''
Rivers agreed with that assessment, and the Clippers may need Johnson to make an immediate contribution with last year's reserve big men Jeff Green, Luc Mbah a Moute, Wesley Johnson and Cole Aldrich all scheduled to become free agents.
''We believe he has a chance to help right away,'' Rivers said,'' but we also feel like he has a high ceiling and can get a lot better.''
Johnson is expected to back up Blake Griffin, the only power forward the Clippers have signed for next season.
''I was very nervous the entire night,'' Johnson said. ''Now I'm just happy. I'm ready to get in there and get to work.''
Michineau, 22, played the last three seasons in France. The 6-foot-3, 175-pound guard averaged 4.2 points and 1.3 assists while shooting 40.7 percent from the field in 74 games last season.
Stone, 19, was the Big Ten Newcomer of the Year at Maryland last season and finished second in the conference in scoring among freshman. The 6-foot-11, 255-pound center averaged 12.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game in his only season with the Terrapins.
''We're hoping that while they turn out to be good players, we can't say that any one of those guys we took in the second round will be ready right away,'' Rivers said. ''We just liked their abilities. I would say I expect both guys to be on the team next year.''