Purdue big man JaJuan Johnson entered the NBA Draft last season, but decided to withdraw before the deadline and stay in school. It looks to be a sound decision.
Johnson, who would’ve been a second round pick last year if he got drafted at all, has improved his stock and is one of the leading contenders for Big Ten Player of the Year. Johnson’s numbers are up in virtually every category, and with his size, if Purdue has a good tourney run, he could make a leap further up into first round territory.
Measurables: 6-foot-10, 221 pounds, senior center from Purdue
Key stats: 20.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.1 blocks per game while shooting 50 percent
Projected: Late first or early second round
How would he help the Pistons?
As a big man, he’d immediately be an option to get minutes in the Pistons weak frontcourt. He’d also most likely be the best shot blocker on the team, with apologies to Ben Wallace, who isn’t the rim protector he was early in his career.
Johnson’s offensive game is diverse. He plays with his back to the basket, but he’s also extended his range as a senior. After attempting just nine 3-pointers prior to this season at Purdue (and making zero of them), Johnson has attempted 43 this year and is hitting 33 percent of them. That certainly doesn’t project him as a stretch four at the NBA level, but with the pick and roll game such a big part of most NBA offenses, it’s nice to have a big man who is comfortable hitting a 15 or 18 footer. He also has a face-up game and is comfortable putting the ball on the floor some.
Johnson’s offense, because he can play around the basket or on the perimeter, should nicely compliment the passing ability of Greg Monroe and his shot-blocking should make up for the one deficiency in Monroe’s game, he’s not a shot-blocking presence.
How wouldn’t he help the Pistons?
Although Johnson has gotten stronger during his college career, that 221 pounds is still pretty light for a NBA big. Although Monroe has battled this year, he’s a bit on the light side as well, so the Pistons would have to wait for both guys to develop more strength.
Johnson also is used to playing in an offense where he touches the ball a lot. In the NBA, especially if he slips into the second round, no team is going to make him a focal point like that. Hopefully, that would make him focus more on his shot-blocking ability, which is what is going to get him on the court early in his career, not his scoring ability.
What are others saying?
“Defensively, Johnson is long and quick off his feet, allowing him to excel as a weak-side help defender at the college level. He does a fair job defending the pick and roll as well for a collegiate center, although at times he can be caught flat footed and slow to recover to his man.”
“Quick off his feet … Good fluidity. Runs the floor well … Came into Chicago adidas Nations camp in August looking bulked up (possibly in the 225 lbs range). Shoulders appear to be rounding out some … Plays with good energy. High motor … Mature person off the court (senior) who will enter the league with a degree.”
“We’ve been tracking Johnson since his sophomore season, and the scouting report for the past two years had remained virtually unchanged. He was a long, athletic forward that needed to add a lot of strength and improve his offensive abilities. This summer, Johnson got the message. He spent time in Chicago with Michael Jordan’s trainer, Tim Grover, adding strength, a few post moves and a jump shot with range out to the 3-point line to his repertoire. The result? Johnson is having the best season of his career. He’s averaging 20 ppg and more than 8 rpg and 2.5 blocks per game — all career highs. Johnson could still use another 20 pounds, and his slight frame makes us wonder if he can get much bigger. His post moves could use some diversity, too. But he’s improved every year (both body and skills) and is producing in one of the best leagues in college basketball. Put all of that together, and scouts are finally conceding that he’s a likely first-round pick.”