NBA Position: SF
General Information: 19 year old freshman, played at Arizona. From Fullerton, California.
Measurables: 6'6.5", 242 pounds, 6'11.5" wingspan, 8'6" standing reach
2014-15 Season Statistics: 13.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.5 SPG, .4 BPG, 2.2 TOPG (28.4 minutes per contest) - 44.6% FG, 74.2% FT, 37.1% 3P, 55.1% TSP
Summary: A physical player with good strength, size, and athleticism, Johnson has a well-rounded skill set and should be ready to impact the NBA game on both ends of the floor. He showed significant improvement as a shooter in his time at Arizona, and he has the potential to become a star defensive player, although he needs to improve his consistency in both areas.
Offensive Breakdown: An aggressive and well-balanced scorer, Johnson showed significant improvement as a shooter after entering Arizona with a less-than-stellar reputation for his shot. He's got a quick release, but he should stretch out his motion as his release point is low and he'll risk getting blocked by taller NBA defenders. His mechanics are fairly consistent, and he showed he can hit on spot-ups and on the move which combined with his strength and quick feet made him a dangerous all-around weapon. In his first 13 games through November and December, he hit 43% (16 of 37) from three; when Arizona began its conference schedule, defenders had to respect his long-range ability enough he was able to take advantage of quick close-outs and attack the basket.
One concern is Johnson's ability at the rim, a curious weakness for a 240 pound small forward. He has a nice first step and used his strength to get past small opponents, but he finished just 40% of his shot attempts inside the paint according to DraftExpress' Jonathan Givony. He's more strong than explosive, but he's still a capable NBA level athlete who could outmuscle most NCAA players, so his struggles at the basket are worrying. He added a mid-range floater to his game to help compensate, but given his physical make-up you'd hope this isn't his long-term solution. Johnson needs to learn to take contact better when he gets into the paint, but his 4.7 attempts per game was a solid rate for a player who was primarily a jump shooter (71.2% of his offense came from two point jumpers or three pointers).
Johnson's aggressiveness is also a weakness for him; while he improved on it over the year, at times his decision making was a serious weakness for Arizona's offense. He'd attack the paint, find multiple defenders waiting for him, and force up a midrange shot or depend on foul calls that didn't always come. Johnson doesn't deserve the ball-hog label—he's a willing passer, as his 11.6% assist rate showed (second best among SFs behind Justice Winslow), but his all-around decision making needs improvement, both in his shot selection and in his passing instincts. As the year went on, Johnson still drove into double/triple teams, and while he wasn't so quick to pull up for bad shots, he'd just as often find defenders waiting in his obvious passing lanes. His turnover rate of 14.7% isn't a terrible number given his role in the offense, but needs improvement.
All-around, Johnson is a promising scoring prospect. He showed an ability to create his own shot (although his handles aren't anything special), and his massive improvements as a shooter should offer confidence that he can become a long-term offensive option.
He also had solid success on the offensive glass thanks to his excellent determination, length and strength. His 1.9 offensive boards a game and 8.9% offensive rebounding rate are behind only teammate Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in terms of the classes small forwards.
Defensive Breakdown: Johnson showed strong defensive abilities at times last year, and with his physical gifts and solid defensive awareness he has the potential to be an excellent, versatile NBA defender. He was quick enough to handle many guards and also strong enough to switch onto some power forwards, and should be able to do the same in the pros. While his lack of top-notch burst limited him when faster opponents got an early step on him, he showed an ability to fight through screens and recover with decent consistency. His instincts are sharp, especially when facing the pick-and-roll, but he also got caught too often going around the screen. The major weakness in his defense was a lack of consistent effort. That became less of a problem as the season wound down, but he'd still show moments of sloppy determination on close-outs or recoveries.
Most impressively, he finished with 1.5 steals a contest and a 3.3% rate, near tops among the classes small forwards. He's got a good instinct in the passing lanes, and his massive seven foot wingspan helps. He gambled a bit too often in the open floor, which left him scrambling to recover, so NBA teams may want him to reign in his ball hawking instincts a tad.
Intangibles: As a physical prospect, Johnson's value can't be ignored; his 240 pound body combined with his solid athleticism and quickness will present his future team with a player much more ready to handle NBA opponents than most small forwards. He also showed significant improvement over his time at Arizona; he entered the year with a reputation as a below-average shooter, and ended the year with improved long range ability. He was Arizona's top scoring threat, and he averaged 13.8 points a contest when 71.2% of his offense came from two point jumpers or three pointers. Johnson's attack mentality led him to many poor shots and careless turnovers, but I'll take a determined, fiery player with room to improve over a skilled, less passionate alternative any day.
While no team worth its weight in draft picks would dock a player too far for his NCAA Tournament play, Johnson did struggle in the tournament, including a very quiet 6 point, 2-5 shooting performance in the loss to Wisconsin in the Final Four.
In some ways, revisiting Johnson has convinced me he could be the steal of the class if taken in the late lottery, although I would not draft him over Justise Winslow. Winslow was a more consistent defender and didn't have the same poor decision-making problems Johnson showed. Johnson is a more developed offensive player, but Winslow showed consistency on both ends while contributing to his Championship Duke team in pretty much every area of the game. Both players should become excellent NBA players, but I'd take Winslow over Johnson.
Fit with Sacramento: As with Winslow and Mario Hezonja, Johnson doesn't represent the biggest positional need for Sacramento, but his versatility would add depth and an ability for George Karl to run a variety of lineups. Johnson could serve as a long-term small forward option and allow Rudy Gay to play the power forward full time, and with Johnson's solid rebounding ability and above-average strength for his size the Kings wouldn't lack for muscle.
While still a spotty shooter, Johnson would also provide the Kings with a well-rounded offensive player, assuming he continues to improve his consistency from deep and fix his struggles at the rim. He's also a dangerous threat in the open court, and possesses the attack mentality that the dribble drive system is dependent on, but he needs much more development with his decision making and as a passer before he could be relied upon as the ball handler. He'd also add a potential long-term lockdown defender on the wing that Sacramento lacks. While the Kings might seek that elite defensive prospect for a different position, one only needs to look at the past two Finals MVPs (Kawhi Leonard and Andre Iguadola) to see the value of a top-notch wing defender. I don't mean to overhype Johnson's defensive potential, but that level isn't a completely crazy notion.
And as always, check out the DraftExpress breakdowns;