RTC NBA Draft Profiles: JaJuan JohnsonPosted by rtmsf on June 9th, 2011
Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 23, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night. There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.
Player Name: JaJuan Johnson
Height/Weight: 6’10/220 lbs.
NBA Position: Power Forward
Projected Draft Range: Late First/Early Second Round
Overview: Perhaps no other senior in this year’s draft class improved his game in four years as did Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson. Coming out of the prep ranks rated as the 47th best prospect behind such notable other big men as Kosta Koufos, DeAndre Jordan, Herb Pope and Mac Koshwal, Johnson simply put his nose to the grindstone, learning from one of the best in head coach Matt Painter, and developed an all-around game that will ensure he makes a living playing basketball for a very long time. From an awkward 17-year old contributing a few points and boards in limited action to becoming a dominant senior and joining Purdue’s illustrious history as a consensus all-american and one of its all-time greats, Johnson arrived in a big way. His scoring averaged increased by at least two points every season (from 5.3 PPG as a freshman to 20.6 PPG as a senior), and his rebounding average trended likewise (from 3.1 RPG to 8.6 RPG). He was a career 50.1% shooter as a Boilermaker, and don’t let that number fool you — even as the primary post player in Painter’s system, Johnson developed what was already a solid mid-range game out to the three-point line by the time he finished school. In other words, he has a proven ability to not only score in the post through a nice fadeaway and a jump hook shot, but he also can put up points in a more NBA-friendly pick-and-pop situation as well. Possessing a deft touch and range on that shot will allow him to convert favorably to a sweet-shooting face-up four at the next level — Johnson doesn’t necessarily have to spend his career banging around inside to be successful.
Will Translate to the NBA: As discussed in his overview, 6’10 players with the ability to stroke it out to twenty feet are not a dime a dozen. He has a notably high release on his shot, making it even more difficult for defenders to close out on him (assuming they’ve followed him out that far in the first place). He also has shown a willingness to improve each and every year, adding additional facets to his game through hard work and dedication in the offseason. The fact that he comes from a winning program that values defense also doesn’t hurt, although Johnson’s individual defense still needs work.
Needs Work: In the Purdue system, you don’t play unless you defend, but Johnson too often relied on his superior size and athleticism in college to make up for his mistakes. Despite his 6’10 frame, he has a relatively short wingspan for a big man (7’2) but he compensated for it with an exceptional 38-inch vertical leap, often coming from the weak side to erase opponents’ shots to the tune of 2.3 per game last season. This will not be nearly as much an advantage for him at the next level, where he’ll have to learn how to defend the post against players every bit as tall and explosive as him. Furthermore, he’s earned somewhat of an unfair reputation as a bit soft inside, but that is most likely a result of his slighter, 220-lb. frame. He obviously could stand to add another 20-30 pounds to truly be prepared for the wars inside the paint in the NBA.
Comparison Players: Not only does he somewhat resemble Robert Horry in the face and body type, but their games coming out of college are rather similar. Horry was a better outside shooter and post defender, but the former Rockets/Lakers/Spurs clutch bomber couldn’t touch Johnson’s game in the low post at the same age. For a more contemporary comparison, Darrell Arthur seems appropriate — a long, lean power forward who can knock down jumpers out to 18 feet and has developed his game into a solid contributor off the bench by his third year in the NBA.
Best Case Scenario: The best case for Johnson is to land on a team that will use him immediately. This isn’t always the case with young players typically needing an adjustment period before contributing in the NBA. Johnson is ready to contribute off the bench offensively, and he can hold his own on the defensive side until he adds the necessary weight and muscle to go for long stretches on the interior. If he finds a spot in the rotation somewhere next season, we can see him gradually becoming a nice role player for a team in a couple years. His athleticism may wane, but his ball skills will not, which should allow him to play that way for a solid 8-10 years in the league before his career fizzles.
2014 Projection: At this point in his development, Johnson is probably the player he’s going to become. He will have added 20 pounds of muscle so that he can handle the wars inside the paint a little better, while offering a couple of consistent go-to post moves in addition to a reliable jumper out to the three-point line. He is a solid role player — perhaps an eight to ten point, five-rebound kind of guy playing as the first man off the bench for a decent team. It wouldn’t shock us to see him as a starter on a bad team either, but we’d be very surprised if he isn’t contributing somewhere in three years.
Best NBA Fit: NBA teams will pretty much know what they’re getting with Johnson, a good character guy who will perservere to improve his game in the offseasons and will give great effort in the minutes he earns on the floor. But his upside isn’t huge, so the team that takes him will be a more conservative drafter, perhaps a team that needs help immediately but realizes he will not be a savior at the four position. The San Antonio Spurs at #29, the Miami Heat at #31, and the LA Lakers at #41 are a few teams that might have such an interest.
Scout’s Take (Chris Denker from Netscouts Basketball): “he really stepped up when [Robbie] Hummel went down… he’s a thin, defender type, but can he score at the NBA level?… does he become more like Marcus Camby or LaMarcus Aldridge?”