JaJuan Johnson is off to a nice start in the Orlando Summer League, showcasing his athleticism and versatility, and causing all to ponder how Doc Rivers might use the big man this upcoming season. Let’s get the limitations and negatives out of the way first; Johnson, despite reports to the contrary, hasn’t really bulked up. Yeah, he may have added a few pounds, but he’s still bean-pole thin and not really equipped to do battle with the beefier players at his position. And yeah, he’s got just enough athleticism to be tantalizing, yet not enough to cause jaws to drop. If that were the case, he would have been a lottery pick last season and he wouldn’t be playing for our Celtics in the OSL.
Now, the positives. Johnson does have a nice offensive game. It’s continuing to evolve and mature, and right now he’s clearly more comfortable in away from the ball situations. But that’s to be expected. Johnson has nice range for his size, and he’s comfortable taking his shots. What’s more, he appears to have a fairly high basketball IQ. Doc can work with players who don’t make the silly mistakes. And with a player like Johnson, I’m sure Rivers can find ways to integrate him with what the Celtics are trying to do.
That’s why this summer league audition is so important for Johnson. I keep reading where this season should be considered his rookie year, but I don’t buy that – and I know Rivers isn’t buying it, either. Not with a roster dotted with aging veterans and holes everywhere. Rivers will be all about tough love, and he’ll push Johnson to accelerate the learning curve as quickly as possible.
In assessing the first two games, two key pieces of advice would come in handy for Johnson – first, he needs to play with a little more sense of urgency. At times he’s lackadasical and it costs him court position. A little more effort and alertness, and Johnson may collect a few more boards and block a shot or two that he would have otherwise challenged. Second, he needs to keep the rebound high and find his guard quicker when it comes to the outlet pass. That will do wonders for court spacing and flow, and will help lead to easy transition baskets.
Other than that, Johnson has done a nice job in the OSL. So far, so good.
Just make sure you keep it up.