JAMES JOHNSON...We need some defense.
+ Overaggressive, erratic combo forward with scoring skills. Plays out of control.
+ Quick but turnover prone and a shaky outside shooter. Can overpower 3s inside.
+ High-energy, effective defender. Gambles and fouls a lot, but creates havoc.
Johnson is a high-energy, high-mistake player, but last season he finally began to turn the corner on having the energy to offset the mistakes. Defensively, he has become a real force, leading all small forwards in blocks, ranking eighth in steals and, um, finishing third in fouls. His energy translates to the glass too, where he was 10th at the position in rebound rate.
Johnson played a lot of those minutes as an undersized 4, and while that put him at a bit of a disadvantage defensively, he managed to hold his own on most nights. Meanwhile, it made his offensive shortcomings less of a negative. Johnson can attack opposing bigs off the dribble with less risk of theft given his own shaky handle, and his mediocre outside shot is less of a liability at this spot.
That said, he remains a low-percentage player. Johnson made only 31.6 percent of his shots from beyond 10 feet, but they comprised nearly half his shot attempts. Worse, the vast majority of them were long 2s. While he cut his turnover ratio significantly compared to the ridiculous levels of previous seasons, he still finished 60th out of 67 small forwards in turnover ratio.
Johnson still has a lot of rough edges, but his progress was an encouraging sign. He just needs to become a little more accurate with the jumper to become a fairly valuable bench player, especially in small-ball arrangements.