The Indiana Pacers selected Alize Johnson in the 2018 NBA draft with the No. 50 overall pick.
Johnson is a max-effort player who developed a reputation as a workhorse in college. He hits all the right notes for a mid-major prospect. He was a late bloomer who was a 5'11" point guard as a high school freshman. He was 6'5" by the time he graduated high school and continued growing, topping out at 6'8".
He doesn't just rebound; he attacks the glass with a ferocity that shows his hunger to succeed. This is a player who was forced to go the junior college route because of his academic performance. He's been known as a high-character guy at all of his stops, and he impressed last summer at the Adidas Nations camp with his work ethic and motor.
Johnson was an accomplished player at Missouri State, averaging 15.0 points and 11.6 rebounds as a senior, but it was the Adidas camp that really put him on the NBA's map. He averaged 16.0 points and 9.0 rebounds, winning MVP honors ahead of big-time prospects Michael Porter Jr., Mikal Bridges and Robert Williams.
Weight: 216.6 pounds
Pro-player comparison: Thaddeus Young
Johnson was most productive in the open floor as a grab-and-go rebounder who put pressure on defenses every time he grabbed a defensive rebound. He benefits from being undersized as a youth because he developed guard skills that made him a difficult cover as a stretch 4. He averaged 2.8 assists per game his senior year and had a 19.2 assist rate, per KenPom.com, which was one of the top marks among frontcourt players.
While Johnson didn't shoot the ball well as a senior, he was enough of a threat that defenses had to respect his shot, and it was difficult for big men to stay in front of him when he got the ball on the perimeter.
Put a smaller player on Johnson and he can go to work in the post or mid-post, using his strength and quickness to barrel to the basket.
Johnson is a player who will create extra scoring opportunities because of his ability to crash the glass. He has a knack for reading the ball off the rim and has strong hands, allowing him to grab balls in traffic. He's not a big-time leaper, but he has a strong base, and it's hard to knock him off his spot. This helps him finish well around the basket. He made 65.3 percent of his shots at the rim during his two seasons at Missouri State, per Hoop-Math.com.
Johnson worked with a set shot when he got to Missouri State, and the coaches there went to work making him a jump shooter. He showed promise as a junior, knocking down 38.8 percent of his threes. It's hard to know whether to put more stock in that number or his senior-season performance (28.1 percent).
Scouts often try to evaluate the mechanics as well as look at free-throw shooting. He shot 67.7 percent at the line as a junior and 75.9 percent this past season, which offers up the possibility he actually improved as a shooter despite the dip in three-point accuracy. But there are some issues with his mechanics. His right elbow flares out, and he does not have a very smooth release.
Johnson's shooting struggles made him an inefficient scorer. He had a 109.3 offensive rating, per KenPom.com, which is not a terrible number, but you would expect an NBA prospect from the mid-major level to be more efficient, especially consider he wasn't a super high-usage guy—he had a 27.9 usage rate, per KenPom.com.
Johnson's rebounding should translate. Other mid-major star rebounders, such as Kenneth Faried and Alan Williams, have had success rebounding at the NBA level as well. Johnson ranked in the top 10 nationally in defensive rebounding rate in both of his seasons at Missouri State, per KenPom.com.
Johnson also projects as someone who fits the positionless game since he is able to guard multiple positions. But there are some concerns about his size and athleticism. He is a bit undersized to play power forward and does not make up for it with length or bounce. He tied for the worst standing vertical and max vertical leaps at the combine. He also had the second-slowest three-quarter court sprint.
Maybe effort makes up for some of these deficiencies. It's just difficult to really project based off his college performance because he played at the mid-major level, where most players are not elite athletes and are often undersized.
Projected role: Energy guy
Johnson's motor is what got him drafted, and he'll be relied upon to bring energy and rebound when he gets on the floor. His size suggests he might be a better fit on the wing, but is he a good enough shooter and skilled enough to play there? That could determine whether he sticks at the NBA level or is destined to spend most of his time in the G League.
If Johnson shoots like he did his junior season, he'll have a much better chance of hanging around. It's also possible he's a better athlete than his combine numbers suggest. He certainly looks like it on tape, and that's not just against mid-major players. He had no problems hanging last year at the Adidas Nations event or in scrimmages at the combine.
If it turns out he's not able to make shots at the highest level, it could be tough to get minutes in the modern NBA. Faried is proof of that, as his role and value have diminished in recent years. But Johnson does have the ball-handling and passing ability to make plays in space, so maybe he can find a place even without a reliable jumper.