Drafted by: Houston Rockets, No. 42 overall
Height/Weight: 6'3", 198 lbs
Age: 21 years old
Projected NBA Position: Shooting Guard
Pro Comparison: Tyronn Lue meets Shannon Brown
Twitter Handle: @Air_Zona13
After starring on both ends of the floor and leading the Arizona Wildcats to the NCAA Elite Eight, Pac-12 Player of the Year Nick Johnson will look to use his speed and athleticism at the game's highest level.
His alertness, versatility and high-energy style of play make him a great option off the bench to give his squad a huge boost. He had a hand in everything 'Zona did for three years, and he's one of the smartest players from the 2014 draft.
Johnson's perceived NBA role fluctuated a bit during his junior year, but it looks like he'll be a combo guard who will spend a bunch of time as an undersized shooting guard.
What exactly will he bring on a nightly basis?
|Statistics at Arizona|
Johnson is only 6'3" with shoes, so he's a bit small for someone who will play a lot of 2-guard. Physically, he's going to be the underdog in most matchups.
Fortunately, he has a 6'7.25" wingspan to help compensate. And even more importantly, he has top-end speed and leaping ability.
He bounced out of the gym every night in college and proved why when he registered a phenomenal 41.5-inch vertical at the NBA Draft Combine. Johnson can make brilliant plays in the open floor and overwhelm bigger players.
His foot speed and lateral quickness are also superb, so he's the type of elite athlete who can make disruptive plays and put pressure on opponents.
Explosive Open-Floor Playmaking
Few college guards took advantage of transition opportunities or open lanes as brilliantly as Johnson did.
In half-court scenarios, he served as a timely cutter who could elevate to score, and he also did some slashing of his own when opponents gave him daylight. In the NBA, he'll be able to catch passes on the perimeter, pump-fake and then drive explosively to make plays.
When opponents collectively overcommit to stopping his attacks, he'll find the open man and make the right basketball play. He dished out 3.6 assists per 40 minutes during his three years at Arizona, according to Sports-Reference.com.
In transition, he is lethal. Whether he's filling the lane to convert a lob or driving the ball, he's always a threat to finish forcefully.
As a role player, Johnson's greatest asset in the NBA may be his defensive energy.
He frustrated countless backcourts in college, and he'll be a similar pest in the NBA. His quickness, aggressiveness and instincts will help him not only contain playmakers but get them out of their rhythm and create some turnovers.
Johnson doesn't have the size to guard many wings, but his 6'7" wingspan will check some 2-guards and lock down most point guards.
Within a few months, he'll grow comfortable defending NBA-caliber players and operating in a pro defensive scheme. When that happens, his smarts and athleticism could make him a top-tier defender.
Perimeter shooting isn't Johnson's foremost weapon entering the NBA, but he does have the confidence and fundamentals to stretch the floor from NBA range.
Over his sophomore and junior campaigns, he shot 38 percent from three-land. He's a proficient spot-up shooter who displays solid footwork, great elevation and a fluid release.
Many high-energy role players don't last in the league or see significant minutes because they can't regularly connect from deep. Johnson won't have those problems, because he'll drill triples when his team calls upon him.
Johnson isn't quite advanced enough as a ball-handler or passer to play huge minutes at the point, so he'll operate as a 2-guard most of the time. And there are two concerns with his shooting guard outlook.
First, he's not going to be a major threat as a slasher or mid-range creator. Per Hoop-Math.com, Johnson shot just 35.4 percent on two-point jumpers during his junior year, so he's not well-equipped to generate in-between buckets at the next level.
The other issue is his size, which is somewhat linked to the mid-range effectiveness. He is barely 6'3" and will often face 6'5" guards with 6'11" wingspans at the next level. Even if he does improve his handling creativity, it's going to be tough for him to find room to shoot when he's blanketed.
And despite his defensive peskiness, the stronger, rangier guards are going to shoot over him and challenge him with sweeping crossovers and long strides.
Johnson could fill a supplementary role as a reserve, bringing his speed and energy on defense along with the occasional timely jumper. He won't initiate too much offense and will spend most of his time away from the ball, looking to attack the seams or spot up.
His long-term outlook isn't dramatically different than his immediate one. He will still serve as a rotational player off the bench and won't be a featured scorer.
However, he could quickly grow into an elite defender, which would give him important situational duties and extra minutes per night. In addition, he could expand his ball-handling skills and run the pick-and-roll a little more. It would give him more opportunities to pass, slash and shoot.
He might see 20-30 minutes per game and even become a valuable sixth man. He'll do everything in his 6'3" frame to make that possible.