Prospect Profiles: Wesley Johnson

05/23/2010 11:56 AM - 

Contributed by Mike Gallagher

The Big East’s best player is one-and-done after transferring from Iowa State and it’s no surprise. Wesley Johnson was an unknown to most hoop fans despite having an impressive freshman season. Unfortunately, Johnson fell off a cliff in his sophomore season which ultimately led to his transfer. He didn’t play in 2008-2009 due to transfer rules, but instantly turned a lot of heads when he dropped 25 points on UNC, the reigning champions, in November. Johnson elevated his game during in-conference play and finished the season as a top-five prospect, so deciding to transfer could have been one of the wisest decisions in the history of college basketball (call the hyperbole police on me!).

What we like:
Syracuse was the cream of the crop essentially from wire-to-wire in the best conference in the nation. The Big East sent eight teams to the tournament with all 16 teams finishing above .500 in their non-conference schedules. Johnson saw his statistics increase significantly from his days in the offensively-friendly Big 12. Most notably his points increased by four, his field goal shooting jumping four percent, and his assist: turnover nearly doubling in his stellar freshman campaign.
Secondly, this guy is one can cover a lot of ground without even moving. Johnson stands at 6-foot-7 and has a wingspan of 7’1”, giving him a standing reach of an astonishing 8’10”. During his last season he upped his blocks to a big man-esque 1.2 BPG. There weren’t many offensive options on the opposition that stood much of a chance taking contested jumpers. Johnson will have an advantage over the vast majority of NBA wingmen the second he steps on the court. The man he was covering was often unable to get around Wes and would struggle from the floor. His measurables make him one of the best on-ball defenders and the best two-way player in this year’s class.
Johnson has the athleticism to match the favorable frame as he’s one of the quickest guys not named John Wall in this year’s class. At Syracuse he played a team-high 35 minutes per game and didn’t miss any action due to injury. Durability, check. He used his speed and endurance to run around screens and take care of his man even away from the ball. W.J. has crazy hops, too. He elevates in a nanosecond much like Shawn Marion and Derrick Rose to help him finish around the basket.
Johnson’s game is as well-rounded as the Orange mascot. He isn’t a phenomenal facilitator, but he can shoot. His field goal shooting finished at an eye-catching 50 percent from the floor with 10 attempts per game. More impressively, Johnson shot 42 percent from far away, so he has legit NBA range.
Some players that attack the rim can’t shoot free throws. Not Wesley Johnson. His free throw percent was 78 percent at a four shots per game clip. That number should hover above the benchmark of 80 percent at the next level.

What we don’t like:
The sophomore season is certainly a cause for concern. His field goal percentage plummeted from a respectable 45 percent in his freshman season, to an abysmal 39 percent in the soph/soft season. Any scout would have to wonder if Johnson was just a Boeheim reclamation project or if he actually improved through hard work and learning how to create from his own experience.
His ball-handling isn’t quite up to par with the rest of his fellow draft prospects. His long body made it easier to make one-dribble drives, but he couldn’t set himself up for an easy shot once he gave up his dribble. We’ve seen Kobe and LeBron take care of the ball from end-to-end, but that’s not Johnson’s game yet. Worse case, he will be like Shawn Marion where he’ll just be able to get the ball in an advantageous position to finish.
Lastly, Johnson doesn’t really have a high ceiling. Since he is already 22 it shortens his prime window and it really prevents him from being a 10-year superstar in the league. On the other hand, he is ready for the league, so he could get out of the gate quickly.

Fantasy prospects:
Wes has a full repertoire of fantasy goodies for his rookie season. Blocks, steals, and threes could all be above the one per game level should he be given a significant role in an NBA rotation (blocks the least likely of the three cats). His size at 6-7 makes him comparable to Joe Johnson without the passing ability. Wes’ situation compares to James Harden’s from last season. Both players came into the draft NBA-ready with a larger sample size than most. Harden finished with 10 PPG in 23 minutes per game. Although Harden was held back by the myriad of talent on Oklahoma City, so Johnson has a much higher likelihood of becoming the second or third scoring option.
Shawn Marion was mentioned a couple times and experienced fantasy players know that Marion was a perennial top-three player for several years in a Phoenix uniform. Dub-J will be able to play extended minutes with his athleticism and be able to fill up stat sheets with points and boards along with the goodies.
Johnson appears to be headed to Minnesota or Golden State. Both situations are more than favorable with a lack of talent on the wings. He should be able to supplant Corey Brewer and/or Ryan Gomes on the wing. The Wolves should give him the highest ceiling in his rookie season as there is a chance he could emerge as the top scoring option.
The entire fantasy basketball world knows drafting a Golden State player should come with a bottle of ibuprofen. However, Wesley Johnson fits very well into their scheme. Corey Maggette is constantly dealing with his perpetually sore hamstrings and the Warriors are pretty thin at the four with just Anthony Randolph and Anthony Tolliver. Johnson’s minutes will be down with Golden State, but he’ll be very efficient and make waves with at least 20 minutes.
Johnson doesn’t have a very high ceiling, so long-term keeper league owners need not spend more than a top-75 pick to acquire his services. Redraft leagues will need him to be Minnesota or Oakland bound for him to be worth drafting at the end of the draft.


  1. Devin Malik says:

    No wesley joshons is gay

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