Elijah Johnson

PG Kansas 6'3" 190 lb

 

Overview: Few players in the NCAA this season have had a more up and down season than Johnson. Earlier in the season, as Kansas was struggling, specifically with its point guard play, Head Coach Bill Self told the media that Johnson needed to "man up". Not long after, Johnson turned in one of the great individual performances of the year, leading Kansas to an overtime win over Iowa State while recording 39 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds. Johnson has size and raw gifts that most point guard prospects would kill for, but he has an unrefined game.

 

Offensively, it is very tough for any guard to stay in front of Johnson; he is incredibly quick as well as a strong guard who can finish well. His explosiveness allows him to finish above the rim with authority if he can get to the hoop. He's actually a very unselfish player, which sometimes draws the ire of Coach Self. Johnson isn't always the most assertive in terms of deciding to drive to the hoop, something he should do more often given his physical gifts. Despite his good court vision, his decision making could use some improvement. He turned the ball over 3.1 times per game, which is high for a point guard who decides to play as unselfishly as he often does. He has a good jump shot with decent range; his three point percentage has stagnated this year, with not much improvement. His pull up jumper could use some work though. with his amazing first step, he could be a force if he could pullup quickly and consistently shoot a jumper. The same is true with his floater; he is working on developing it, but his touch isn't there just yet, although it looks like it could be coming along. His free throw percentage is up to 75% this year which is a nice improvement that could really help if he continues to be assertive on the ball. He isn't much of a factor off the ball; when Ben McLemore handles the ball for Kansas, Johnson is usually a non-threat, hanging in a corner or on the wing, but part of that is due to McLemore's great isolation game. With Johnson's quickness, ballhandling, and unselfish nature, if he developed a reliable jumper, he could be a lethal pick and roll player. He is already very good off the high screen, as he only needs an inch of daylight when he wants to get into the paint. His explosive nature makes him a huge threat in the open court and he loves to run in transition. Some of his turnovers this year have come with him struggling to take the reins offensively and dictate the tempo. Although he is a Senior, spending two years playing very little behind Tyshawn Taylor limited some of his growth and it looks like he's still getting a feel for how to run an offense.

 

Defensively, Johnson is the same in a lot of ways to his offense. His size and strength, as well as his quickness and long wingspan make him a player with the capability of being great and making life very tough for anyone who tries to score on him. That said, his effort has been inconsistent. He too often loses his man, especially when he's off the ball. He doesn't always fight the hardest to get through screens or to make himself a presence in the passing lanes. Additionally, because he loves getting out in transition to get easy buckets, he has a tendency to gamble a bit on the ball. This doesn't always hurt Kansas due to Jeff Withey's shot altering capabilities, but it is definitely an area of focus to improve upon.

 

Johnson certainly has the physical gifts to be a very good player in the NBA but it looks like he is struggling with the nuances of the game that good point guards pick up on. He may be a late second round draft pick for a team that wants to bank on his potential. If not, he'll have no problem catching on with a summer league team where he can get a chance to improve himself as a point guard. Even if he doesn't make an NBA roster right away, he seems to be the type of player that the D-League was made for, a player with lots of physical gifts who needs to learn the subtleties of the game which can only be picked up by playing, rather than watching the game as the last guy on an NBA bench.

 

 

 

Key Strengths:

 

·      He is a big, strong, explosive point guard who can get into the lane and score well for a guard when he decides to be assertive.

 

·      Johnson has the potential for big time performances.

 

·      He has a long wingspan which further makes him a physical freak at the point guard position.

 

·      His jumpshot is pretty nice. It could use a little more work to make him deadly, but he has a good release and solid mechanics as well as range on his shot.

 

·      He has good court vision and is an unselfish point guard by nature.

 

Areas to Improve:

 

·      Johnson needs to be more assertive and try to be a go-to scorer at times due to how tough it is to contain him.

 

·      He has been inconsistent all season, especially on the defensive end where he is prone to lose focus.

 

·      He still has trouble with gaining a true feel for the game. He is unclear when to push the tempo and be assertive and when to play more within a slower, team oriented style.

 

·      He is already 22 years old. Many teams aren't looking to take on older projects. While he could definitely be worth it, his lack of polish at his age hurts him.