Louisville basketball could have its next high draft pick.
The Louisville Trinity High School product and former four-star recruit was the best player in the state of Kentucky in 2019 and arrived at Louisville capable of competing for a starting spot from day one.
Johnson had a set back in the form of a shoulder injury in the 2019-20 preseason that kept him out of the first four games of the season. Playing behind fifth-year senior Fresh Kimble, Johnson didn’t see double-digit minutes until the eleventh game of the season.
Still, once Louisville basketball got to the meat of conference play, Johnson had developed into the type of player that needed to be on the floor for the Cardinals to perform at their highest level.
Johnson finished the season averaging 6.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.8 assists in 16 minutes per game.
Still, it’s games like Louisville’s road win over Duke where Johnson had 19 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 blocks or at Clemson where he had 12 points, 8 assists, and 3 rebounds, that have NBA recruiting analysts salivating over his potential.
In order to get to a position where he is an NBA lottery pick by next summer, there are a few things Johnson needs to work on.
Perhaps the glaring weakness in Johnson’s game is his inconsistency as a shooter.
He came out in his freshman season and looked comfortable as a spot-up shooter, knocking down a few early threes and drawing the defense in.
However, Johnson’s propensity to take and make good looks fell to the wayside as the season progressed.
Teams took note and began sagging off of Johnson and making sure that he couldn’t penetrate, sacrificing an occasionally made jumper for the sake of halting the flow of Louisville’s offense.
If Johnson is going to take the next step offensively, it starts and ends with a more consistent jumper.
In high school, Johnson proved that he was more than capable in the mid-range, elbow, and foul line areas, but his nagging shoulder injury could play a role in his ability to knock down shots consistently.
His shot-making inefficiencies were a clear difference-maker for the Cardinals last season.
In games that Louisville won, Johnson shot 53 percent from the field and 36 percent from three. In games that the Cards lost, Johnson shot 42 percent from the field and failed to make a three-point shot.
Johnson’s shot-making ability not only stands to round out his game and make his a much more lethal threat, but it serves to open up the floor for teammates, where he already thrives as a passer.
As of now, Johnson’s game is in the mold of a Russell Westbrook, Ben Simmons, or Rajon Rondo. He can get to the basket and use his length to distribute, but his shot is really lacking. Unlike those players, however, Johnson has yet to prove that he can get into the lane on a consistent basis when teams concede outside shots to him. Until he can do that, there is a cap on his ability to grow as a player.
One area where Johnson really thrives in 2019-20 was distributing the basketball.
“He’s our best playmaker,” Chris Mack said after a conference game against Syracuse, where he applauded Johnson’s ability to see over zones and make passes other players can’t.
Johnson truly has the ability to make passes Louisville basketball fans probably have not seen since Terrence Williams was running some point forward for the Cardinals.
Johnson is instinctual in his ability to slice and dice through defenses, and when he is pushed away from the basket, he can make cross-court passes that completely throw off a defense. It’s more than just his ability to rack up assists, but to completely change the dynamic of an offense and wear down opposing defenses.
However, in 2020-21, Johnson has to do a better job of making the right play instead of the most exciting or eye-popping play.
In Louisville basketball’s losses, Johnson averaged 2.6 assists to 2.3 turnovers. However, in wins, Johnson averaged 2,9 assists to only 1.8 turnovers.
Johnson’s increased role as the season progressed saw him turn the ball over far more frequently. In fact, as a starter, he averaged 3.2 turnovers per game in 25 minutes to only 1.7 in 14 minutes off the bench.
Louisville could stand to greatly benefit from Johnson’s increasing presence on the court in 2020-21, but he has to learn to make the right decision more often.
If Johnson can improve his assist to turnover ratio and continue to work on his shot, he has unlimited potential beyond the college level.
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