The Wizards could use a player like Jalen Johnson, but will he fall? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The Washington Wizards pick squarely in the middle of the first round of the 2021 NBA Draft. Whether Washington is trading up, down, or staying firm at No.15, here is the latest in our series on draft hopes that the Wizards might consider selecting.
2021 NBA Draft Outlook Snapshot: Jalen johnson
School team: Duke
Statistics 2020/21: 13G, 11.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.2 spg, 1.2 bpg, 52.3 FG% (4.4 / 8.4), 44.4 3PT% (0.6 / 1.4), 63.2 FT%
Player comparison: OG Anunoby, Kevin Knox
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 9th, Sports Illustrated 8th, Ringer 12th, NBADraft.net 11th, Bleacher Report 8th
5 things to know:
-There is a lot to love about Johnson as an NBA prospect. He’s a good size for his stance, is quick and nimble with a rebound. He scored effectively at Duke, while rebounding well and forcing turnovers. He averaged more than one steal and one block per game, which is not easy to do. Johnson is comfortable with the ball in his hands, especially in transition, and has passer potential.
-He is best known at this point for retiring from his first season at Duke to prepare for the NBA Draft. There has been quite a bit of backlash in the media and in the college basketball community. Johnson also quit his high school team in the middle of his senior year. Whether these should be considered real, real red flags for the project is up for debate.
– Part of the reason Johnson stepped down, according to reports, was to play it safe with a foot injury. While that may explain why he left school, it’s something teams will want to have a good read during their assessment process.
-Despite his high 3-point percentage, there are some questions about Johnson’s cap as a shooter. He was a low volume shooter and shot a low percentage from the free throw line. Projecting its ability to shoot could come down to how front office experts perceive its shooting mechanisms.
-Johnson comes from a basketball family. Both of her parents played college basketball at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and her brother plays at UT Chattanooga.
Adapting to wizards:
Johnson would be a pretty good fit for what the Wizards need, especially since he’s playing all three. It’s the No.1 hole in the Wizards’ rotation and Johnson would help fill it, if not immediately, with good size, explosive athleticism and the potential to both shoot and play on defense. Washington needs 3-point shooters and someone to compete with big scoring wings. Johnson probably won’t be able to do these things consistently right away, but could be good both long term.
With the 15th pick, the Wizards may have to go for a long-term hike, anyway. It’s hard to find a player in this lineup who can make an instant impact on a team with playoff aspirations. Johnson’s raw skills, combined with his inexperience at the college level, suggest he may take some time to develop.
Johnson may also not be there at 15. It could be up to six or seven years old, although most fake drafts have it in the back-end of the lottery. Still, as we saw last year with Tyrese Haliburton and Deni Avdija, guys can fall and sometimes a lot further than you expect. The Wizards ended up taking Avdija to ninth in the overall standings as some believed he could make the top four. Haliburton was rated even better by some, but fell to the Kings at 12.
Maybe Johnson will drop out due to concerns about his foot injury, the end of his college career, or something else like his shooting move. If he slipped, the Wizards would be a logical landing point as they aim to add another talented young player to their improving roster.