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NBA Draft Profile: James Johnson- F, Wake Forest


I've been waiting to write this because I've been in self-denial that James truly isn't coming back next year. I've gotten so used to his brand of tough, all-around basketball.

The first thing that sticks out about James Johnson is his body type. He's huge. At 6'9", 245, he most resembles Lebron James. Fortunately for him, his game resembles that of Lebron as well. I'm not saying he will be Lebron or anything close, but that is the closest comparison I can make. After watching him play in over 40 games, it makes sense.

James can do just about everything relatively well. He has very good court vision and at times got himself into trouble this year because he was too unselfish. Rather than take it up strong and go to the hole, he would too often try to get his teammates involved. For 6'9", he has very impressive handles and could take it from one end of the court to the other and often created a mismatch for his defender.

He also had a penchant for settling for the long jumper, especially more in his freshman campaign. James had the ability to hit it (as seen in the Cleveland State game where he hit 4-5 threes), but he was just a 32 percent shooter from deep this year (again Lebron-esque, eh?) and he was a 54 percent shooter overall. 

Johnson, a former kickboxer, has the ability to really throw it down, but what is even more impressive was his work around the hoop. He used his strength to finish some tough shots with contact, but again, he too often played around the perimeter. I really would have liked to see him take it to the hole more and play with his back to the basket, but this is something an NBA team can instill in him.

James was the number two option much of the year behind Jeff Teague's emergence, but near the end of the year, he became the most consistent and strong scoring threat. He finished the year with 15 points per game, 8.5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.4 steals per game.

The blocks and steals are what really stick out. He averaged about the same amount last year, but this year he was a much better defender as a whole. It showed much of the season as he was able to shut down players--Rakim Sanders in both games against BC is a perfect example.

James did a much better job of keeping players in front of him and having active hands. He used his size to body up and bother the offensive player and more often than not was able to lock down his guy. He also provided some good weak side help, something the Deacs had trouble with a lot of this year.

The knock on James you will read on a lot of draft sites is that he is "unfocused." Seriously, look it up: DraftExpress says:

Johnson’s biggest issue right now might be the lack of focus he shows at times—making some poor decisions at times with the ball, but also making costly fundamental mistakes as well.

A lot of that is blown out of proportion. So much of James's game comes so easy to him that it is easy to misjudge his play as "lazy" or "unfocused." This isn't to say that James gets a free pass--he does have mental lapses as seen through his inability to chase down the rebound near the end of the first Duke game or his refusal to box out on free throws now and again--but he is not as lacksidasical as people make him out to be. He works hard in practice, hates to lose and plays hard.

He also shows flashed flashes of a complete game often during the year. During a three-game stretch against Georgia Tech, Duke and NC State, James averaged 26 points and 13.3 assists. He may turn it over a bit too much, but for all the big plays he made, you will take the turnovers as a result.

All in all, James deserves to be more hyped than he is. There aren't a lot of players like Prince James in the draft. He is a bit old for the draft at 22 years but his game translates very well to the League. He is already big enough to play SF and he will create mismatches with his size and strength against defenders in the NBA.

Johnson should be picked in the 15-20 range and whoever selects him will get a very good value pick. His upside is tremendous and he could average at or above about 12 points, 6 rebounds and 2.5 assists, a steal and a block in the pros eventually. He's a hard-playing, talented and tough kid and I look forward to watching him suit up for a pro team.