NBA Position: Playmaking Four/Wing
|TS%||eFG%||% FG Rim||FG% at Rim||% FG 3pt||3pt FG%||FT%||FTA Per 100||Steal %||TOVPER 100||ASS PER 100||USG||PER|
*Stats provided for by synergysports.com, sportsreference.com, draftexpress.com and hoop-math.com
- Prototype NBA Height, Elite Frame, and Plus Length (6’11.5”) for an NBA Wing/Small Ball Four
- Not Vertically Explosive, but an Above Average Athlete With Strong NBA Ready Body
- Defensive Versatility: Can Switch and Guard Both Guards and Wings, Plus Most Fours
- Plus (Though Not Elite) Lateral Quickness Walling Off Defenders
- Wears Opponents Down Defensively With His Body
- Strong Rebounder with Strength to Leverage/Box Out
- Recovery Ability on Defense When Caught Out of Position
- Over Aggressive at Times Playing Passing Lanes, But Creates Turnovers
- Polished Enough on Offense to Contribute Right Away
- Above Average Handle Permits More Scoring Versatility than Straight Line Drives
- Good First Step and Body Control
- Gets to the Foul Line
- Can Split the Pick and Roll and Finish With an Array of Shots, Including His Patented Floater
- Post Game: Can Exploit Smaller Wings With Combination of Strength and Body Control
- Excellent Shooter Off the Dribble
- Improved Three-Point Shot
- Willing Passer With Good Court Awareness
Much of Johnson’s attractiveness as a prospect centers around his frame. At 240 pounds he is one of the strongest wing/small ball four prospects you’ll see, and possesses good height at almost 6’7 and plus length with almost a 7 foot wingspan to afford him the physical tools to succeed in the league. Johnson isn’t the athlete some tout him his as however, as he does not possess vertical explosiveness, but he’s still an above average athlete with an NBA ready body.
Johnson’s most translatable NBA skill is defensive versatility. Johnson’s build fits the mold of versatile perimeter defenders in the 6’6-6’8 range capable of guarding multiple positions and thus employed in switch heavy schemes. Johnson has the strength to guard most NBA fours, and has the lateral quicks and nimbleness of foot to stay with more agile perimeter players. Few NBA players can lay claim to guarding 4 or 5 positions while being able to hold their own on the glass, and Johnson projects to do so.
Johnson’s frame allows him to absorb contact on dribble penetration from bigger players and not get knocked off-balance when retreating, a rarity. Similarly, Johnson can absorb contact in the post without ceding ground and uses his lower body strength to leverage position well, which bodes well for him both as a post defender and as a rebounder. As an on-ball defender Johnson has good but not great lateral agility, and combined with his strength allows him to effectively wall off dribble penetration most of the time. He has shown the ability to fight over picks as a pick and roll defender in staying on the opponents hip and has faired reasonably well as an isolation defender.
|P&R Ball||21%||.577||80%||Very good||31.3||25||15.4|
As an off-ball defender, Johnson loses focus at times and over pursues on closeouts, but shows good recovery ability when he misdiagnosis a play to challenge shots, where his solid length makes him a hindrance on closeouts. His frame allows him to fight over screens effectively off-ball and wear opponents down with his body. While he does show a proclivity for being overly aggressive at times as a help defender, he shows good instincts creating turnovers and his respectable steal rate bodes well for his defensive transition to the league.
Offensively, Johnson is polished enough to contribute to a team right away. He has natural scoring instincts with good ball skills, and has enough off the dribble to be a scoring threat in the league either attacking closeouts with a plus first step or in pick and roll settings (most likely secondary pick and roll). He’s more than just a straight-line driver, with enough craftiness and wiggle in close spaces to get to his spots. On dribble penetration, Johnson shows good body control using his strength to absorb contact and still have the ability to create shot opportunities, albeit at times he seeks out contact at the expense of a better shot opportunity. At the very least, Johnson has the first step and enough off the dribble to attack closeouts and navigate his way near the basket in large spaces, but he has demonstrated enough handle ala splitting pick and rolls that gives him some upside as a secondary ball handler/creator. He’s also one of the best prospects in the draft at getting to the foul line, showing his ability to draw contact.
Johnson’s go-to offensive move, likely stemming from his struggles finishing at the rim, is a running floater. He has the scoring instincts and enough touch that bodes well for this component of his game to translate to the NBA, and he’ll need it with his vertical explosiveness limitations. While not advanced as a post scorer, Johnson has the strength, body control and touch to exploit smaller wing players either on designed plays or on switches in the league. A lot of teams run 1/4 middle pick and roll rub actions, and if the defense switches Johnson has the ability to make point guards pay on post-ups. Teams wont be able to switch small guards onto Johnson, as he is comfortable enough operating in the post as a scorer and passer to make defenses pay.
Perhaps the biggest area of intrigue with Johnson is his shooting ability. Not seen as a three-point shooter coming into Arizona, Johnson obviously put in the work to develop his shot, demonstrating respectable three-point range jumper.
|Catch & Shoot HC||Frequency||PPP||Rank||Rating||FG%||aFG%|
Johnson is not just a spot-up shooter however, ranking in the 94th percentile in college basketball on dribble jumpers, a very encouraging mark. Johnson is comfortable taking mid-range pull-up jumpers, and as touched on above thrives on his patented floater. He isn’t a prolific shooter by any means, but he is well rounded enough both off the catch and off the dribble to garner defensive attention on the next level.
- Elite Frame but Not an Elite Athlete
- Finishing at the Rim, Especially Over Length
- Transition Scoring Efficiency
- Low Release, Shot Consistency
- Discipline Defensively: Over pursues, Jumps Unnecessarily on Closeouts
- Gets Beat Off the Dribble With Non-Elite Lateral Agility
Johnson has two major red flags, both of which shed light on his athleticism limitations. First, while he has the scoring instincts and plus ball skills to be a go-to scorer, he doesn’t have the athleticism to match, and nowhere is that more crystalized than transition scoring.
|Spot Up||22.7||1.07||78%||Very Good||45.8||60.9||11.4||6.1|
Johnson has a below average .993 PPP in transition, and while some of that is attributed to a high turnover rate via questionable decision making, some of it is just that Johnson has trouble finishing over length, even in large spaces. He’s just not an explosive finisher, and that stood out even on the college level. Second, Johnson sported a 52.9% finishing clip at the rim overall. To put that in perspective, lower-end NBA wing prospects finish around 63% in college, and on the higher end in the 70’s. Basically, Johnson is an outlier finishing 10% less at the rim than the absolute lower end of NBA wing prospects, which is unnerving. He has notable issues finishing over length, and not even NBA length.
Johnson also has a low release on his shot, and while his release is quick enough to mitigate some of this, he is prone to potentially getting his shot blocked on closeouts in the league. I see Johnson as someone NBA defenses will willingly concede shots too however, and thus don’t believe his lower release point will be a stark detractor, as most of his shots will be taken with ample space.
While Johnson shows good effort defensively when engaged, he does undergo frequent amounts of indiscipline. Too often Johnson loses his man off ball, either coming of the players body on pin downs or flex screens. He then tries to overcompensate for this, and while he has good recovery ability, he often times over pursues on closeouts, jumping unnecessarily and getting blown by. He also gets beat off the dribble in one on one situations more than you’d like for a projected defensive stopper by guards who don’t have elite first steps or athleticism. Most of Johnson’s off-ball defensive issues can be resolved with NBA coaching, but his overreliance on strength and lack of elite lateral quickness raise questions about his ability to guard quick twitch perimeter players. He projects much better defensively defending less explosive wings where he can use his strength to wear down opponents.
Offense: Scheme Versatile, Best Utilized as Third or Fourth Option
Due to his finishing limitations Johnson isn’t a must to plug into a transition-based system offensively. In the half court, Johnson projects best if surrounded by pristine spacing on the wings and at least one other ball-dominant creator, enabling him operate as a catch and shoot player with the ability to attack closeouts in large spaces.
Defense: Switch Heavy
Simply put, you draft Johnson with the intention to put him in a defensive system that capitalizes on his versatility via switching. Johnson is some cases will be able to switch onto all 5 positions with his combination or strength and nimbleness, and his ability to do so will help stymie opponent off-ball screening/floppy actions.
Team Fit: Miami Heat
I can’t think of a better fit for Johnson’s skill-set than Miami. The Heat are in win now mode and could use Johnson’s NBA ready game, both as an additional perimeter defender to take pressure off of Wade and Deng, and as a versatile playmaking four. Spoelstra has shown enough offensive creativity to use Johnson’s versatile skill-set, especially as a playmaking four next to either Whiteside or Bosh, both of which would create different dynamics offensively and defensively. The Heat also have enough perimeter shot-creation from Wade and Dragic (assuming the latter is retained) to take shot-creation pressure off of Johnson and simplify the game for him. I’m wary of placing Johnson in a system where he is a primary ball-handler/creator that instills that scoring mindset in him. Miami is the antithesis of that.
NBA Player Comparison: Draymond Green
I may differ here in seeing Johnson as more of a Draymond four instead of a traditional wing, but I think that’s where his skill-set fits best. It’s also difficult to compare anyone to Draymond intangibles wise, who was a more seasoned player coming out of college and had the fact he was selected in the second round as a humbling fire burning inside him. Much of Johnson meeting this comparison will be based on the mental component of the game: does he think he’s the go-to scorer he was in high school or college, or will he accept a secondary scorer, playmaking and defensive role? Projecting the transformation of mindset from a scorer/primary option to a secondary role requires information that we don’t have. Johnson is a hard worker and is touted as a team first winner, so maybe this is feasible. If everything goes right I see him as a rare Draymond type player with his frame in being able to guard bigs with his ability to leverage position while shooting well enough from three and being enough of a threat as a playmaker with the ball to carve out a niche impact role in the league.
Upside: High Level Starter
While possessing good scoring instincts, I don’t think Johnson has the athleticism or handle to thrive as the primary focal point of NBA defenses, the finishing ability via vertical limitations and isn’t enough of a shooter to be a go-to scoring option in the league. He’s much more cut out to be a third or fourth option, where he can use his ball-skills to make a positive impact from that spot in a way most could not. In the right role however Johnson could be a tremendous asset to a team, and outside of the top 8 prospects, Johnson’s defensive versatility gives him an edge over any other prospect on my board.