On Monday, the Kings completed a trade with the Raptors bringing fourth-year small forward James Johnson to Sacramento for a future second-round pick. Johnson spent just one season in Toronto, but I asked Adam Francis of SB Nation's Raptors HQ (Twitter) to give us a peek at the player we're getting. What follows is Francis' scouting report on JJ.
To be honest I had very low expectations of JJ when he was acquired, mostly because as an "older" draft pick out of Wake Forest that didn't excel in any one area, I simply didn't think he could be anything more than a fringe NBA player. Considering the Raptors were in the early stages of rebuilding, I would have preferred they kept their draft picks as opposed to using them on the likes of Johnson, who I felt he had limited upside. However as he began to get consistent playing time with the Raps, we began to see Johnson in a new light as he possessed lockdown defensive potential, and an intriguing all-around offensive game as well.
On offense, he could me a match-up nightmare for opponents, using his size and strength to post up smaller 3s, and take slower 4s off the bounce. But it was on the defensive end of the court that he really stood out, guarding some of the league's elite 3s, and leading the league in blocks, and blocks per game at his position. He could be a monster on the glass, and it was hard not to look at JJ and wonder if with some polish to his offensive game, he couldn't be the Raps future starting small forward. Per 36 minutes he averaged 13 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists and nearly 2 blocks a contest. He also posted a defensive win score of 2.5, the same as Tony Allen.
The problem was, Johnson wouldn't play to his strengths.
Terrible shot selection, forced passes, dribbling head-down through traffic, these were the norm and drew the ire of Dwane Casey and the rest of the Raptors' coaching staff. Johnson was eventually benched for two games and while a reason was never given, the belief was that Casey simply couldn't get Johnson to play the way he needed him to play.
As well, it would have been one thing if Johnson looked for his own offense and was successful in this regard. But the former Demon Deacon has one of the more broken shots in the league, something reflected by both his sub-50 percent True Shooting percentage, and middling PER (14.5 last season.) He's not an efficient scorer and often settles for long-range bombs instead of using his size and strength to take advantage closer to the hoop. And Kings fans beware. Once or twice a game Johnson will turn the ball over in a fashion that makes you wonder why he's not still playing in the D-League. [Ed note: so he'll fit right in!]
That being said, I feel the Kings are getting a great deal here. Considering the cost (a second-round pick), the Kings could be getting at worst worst a serviceable bench player and as mentioned above, at best, a future key component to their club. Johnson still needs to buy into the philosophies of the coaching staff in Sacramento, but maybe this trade is the wake-up call he needs to realize that he's not LeBron James but could be a great "Shawn Marion light."
Thanks again to Adam for the great breakdown.