As Mark said, we are going to be looking towards the draft as the Nets head into the All-Star break. With the Nets guaranteed to have the 4th overall pick (at worst). Over the next three days, we are going to have scouting reports on a player who I think the Nets should take given their draft position.
With the fourth pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, the New Jersey Nets select Wesley Johnson, Forward out of Syracuse.
Now, this might look like a reach right now (DraftExpress has him 8th in their current mock draft), but I think as the college basketball season continues, this kid’s stock will just continue to rise (In fact, the more I watch him, the more I like him. I really really like him). He also has the body that makes him very versatile in the pros. His athleticism makes him a tough cover at the small forward position, but he has the size to play the PF spot for teams trying to play small.
Draft Express has his Best Case/Worst Case as Shawn Marion (for the best) and Travis Outlaw (for the worst), but right now, I think his best comparison in the NBA right now is Jeff Green. A guy with both inside/outside skills (though I do think Johnson has a better handle and a better shot than Green).
The Offensive End
Wesley Johnson has great handle for his size. He looks very comfortable putting the ball on the court from anywhere on the floor. This is as fantastic asset for someone to have, because he has the ability to be the ball-handler on a pick and roll.
Teams are going to have a ton of trouble matching up with Johnson, because they are going to need to put a bigger guy on him, and Johnson is just going to be able to take him to the basket.
Johnson is an athlete and he really flaunts it (I don’t blame him one bit). This fits right in line with the type of team New Jersey is building around Brook Lopez.
This month’s complaint about the Nets is that they don’t attack the basket enough late. Johnson is always in attack mode:
Johnson’s Free Throw Rate (courtesy of KenPom’s Pomeroy Rankings) is 34.1. This is pretty high and shows his willingness to attack.
Wesley Johnson’s jump in the mocks is directly related to his improvement shooting the basketball. Going into the season, Johnson was shooting 31.5% from the three point line. This year, he is shooting 41% from the line. Is this a flukey jump? I don’t think so, and here is why:
Johnson’s form is perfect. He jumps straight up on his jumpers, keeping his back straight. His elbow is in perfect position, and he keeps the ball up high. I mean his defender has his hand right in his face, but because he keeps the ball high, it doesn’t effect his shot.
So can this carry over to the pros? Well, I think it can. Johnson is a jump shooter who gets up high on his three pointers. In my opinion, this high jump is what is going to allow him to be able to transition to shooting from the NBA three point line. Set shooters coming out of college are the ones who seem to have the more trouble transitioning from the college to NBA three-point line.
The game I watched real close (Georgetown vs. Syracuse), Johnson had 7 turnovers. He averages just a little over 2.5 turnovers per game. A lot of his turnovers are just because he simply tries too hard. It is like he wants to score 10 points every time he touches the ball:
Here, Johnson tries to drive the ball into a lane that is already cut off by defenders. No reason to attack there, but he is trying to get into a position to the score.
On this turnover, Johnson makes his catch and faces up. He is looking to make the perfect pass, and as he looks to make the perfect pass, a second defender comes over and knocks it away.
The Defensive End
He Boxes Out
Wesley Johnson is a real good defensive rebounder. In fact, according to the numbers, Wesley Johnson is ranked 200th in terms of Defensive Rebounding %. That doesn’t sound good, but they you realize there are 300+ teams with 13-15 players each. What makes him so good is that he uses his fundamentals instead of relying on his athleticism:
Syracuse’s 2-3 Zone
It is pretty well known that Syracuse runs the 2-3 zone…all…the…time. It’s works for Syracuse, but it also makes judging a player’s defensive ability pretty hard. I mean look at this possession:
Now, Johnson is playing good 2-3 zone defense, but all he is really doing here is standing. Sure there are glimpses of him uses his athleticism on the defensive end:
But these are few and far between just because of the 2-3 zone. In the NBA, teams don’t play a lot of zone (unless they play the Nets of course), and defending a pick and roll in the NBA is hard if you spent a good chunk of your college career playing zone defense. There is no doubt Johnson has the tools to be a good defender (size, speed, strength, and athleticism), but does he have the basketball IQ to play and willingness to play good man-to-man defense? We don’t know that, and that might be the only thing that worries me about Johnson as a player (and I can see it scaring off a few GMs as well).