James Johnson has become the forgotten man.
When the Nets inked Johnson to a one-year deal on August 6, the signing itself produced a variety of reactions. Some loved the deal, others were mixed, many just didn’t know what to expect from Johnson at this stage in his career.
Then, the Nets closed out the summer by bolstering the frontcourt with LaMarcus Aldridge and Paul Millsap, adding to an already solid platoon of bigs with the likes of Nicolas Claxton, Blake Griffin, and Day’Ron Sharpe. Minutes will be hard to come by, and constructing rotations that capably feature all of these talented big men will be threading quite the needle for coach Steve Nash.
I mean this to say, Johnson’s minutes are no longer guaranteed.
And yet, he makes a pretty intriguing case to earn some floor time.
0:28 Defense — Johnson immediately profiles as a defender, thanks to his beefy 6’8,” 240-pound frame. Not to mention, he’s got impeccable form while defending the post, utilizing his burly frame to carrom offensive players out of their rhythm. He doesn’t necessarily knock it out of the park as an off-ball defender nor rebounder, but holistically, he grades out as a plus on defense.
4:20 Offense — There is a LOT to love about James Johnson’s offensive package. He’s got a filthy handle for his size, some seriously stunning passing chops, and he’s an absolute force in transition. With these skills in mind, it’s no surprise that’s he’s a crafty ball-handler in inverted pick-and-rolls and a strong dribble-handoff creator.
7:55 Scoring — While Johnson packs some punch as a scorer at the basket thanks to his dribbling skills, he’s fairly limited outside of 5 feet. His floater remains inconsistent (32.1% in the short midrange), he’s not particularly adept at scoring with his off-hand, and his three-point stroke is woefully underwhelming (career 30.4 percent 3-point shooter). Still, he knows when to pick his spots and doesn’t overextend himself on offense.
At the very least, Johnson will be a fun player to watch on the nights when the veteran players on the roster need a rest day. He’s got pronounced strengths and weaknesses on both sides of the ball, and his limitations as a scorer could limit his options in Brooklyn’s rotations; it’s just easier to insert players that can space the floor into a variety of lineups. That said, Johnson knows his role and won’t step outside of his comfort zone often, if ever. He’s a pretty tremendous third-string forward/big to boast on a roster.