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Player review: Durand Johnson, who tried to put St. John’s on his back

Johnson earned a reputation as a “volume scorer”, but did his all-around game benefit St. John’s?

Durand Johnson on ground
by Wendell Cruz

Full disclosure: the Durand Johnson player review is the one I have been most dreading.

It's not because I dislike him as a player, hate his game, or anything like that (though his game wasn't hard to predict before the season - he essentially said to the Rumble that his job was to come in and score the ball).

But it's hard to evaluate how well Johnson did in this context - next to players learning the game, in a system that was still being defined and tweaked by the staff, next to lead guards who struggled to create shot opportunities.

He wasn't the most efficient player, but on a team that couldn't create shots, he did - and took some of the pressure off the others, starting 24 of 31 games. Do you evaluate Johnson in terms of his effort, which was often underrated given the circumstances, or do you evaluate Johnson based on the outcomes, which were up and down, with some nights where the J was missing?

Do you look at the fact that he was the team’s leading scorer and contributed on defense, or do you look at middle-of-the-team shooting percentages?

By the numbers

(Team ranks are out of ten scholarship players for all games, and nine in conference games)

Durand Johnson selected stats per game, 2015-16 season [m/g = minutes per game; rpg = rebounds per game]

Player
2p%
3p%
ft%
mp
ast
stl
pts
Durand Johnson
0.417
0.327
0.736
27.7
1.7
1.2
12.0
Team Rank
6
5
3
2
5
1
1

Durand Johnson selected stats, all games, 2015-16 season [glossary of terms]

Player
efg%
3patt%
ftr
ast%
stl%
blk%
tov%
usg%
Durand Johnson
0.453
0.487
0.259
13.5
2.4
1.1
12.8
24.3
Team Rank
7
5
10
5
1
6
1
1

Durand Johnson selected stats, 2015-16 conference season[m/g = minutes per game; rpg = rebounds per game]

Player
2p%
3p%
ft%
mp
ast
stl
pts
Durand Johnson
0.402
0.330
0.733
26.1
1.7
1.2
12.3
Team Rank
6
5
2
2
5
1
1

Durand Johnson selected stats, 2015-16 conference season [glossary of terms]

Player
efg%
3patt%
ftr
ast%
stl%
blk%
tov%
usg%
Durand Johnson
0.448
0.490
0.214
15.5
2.5
1.6
12.8
26.1
Team Rank
6
4
8
3
2
4
1
1

Three things about Durand Johnson

He went for his shots. Johnson took almost 30% of the team's shots in conference play, filling in as his teammates struggled to create looks. This has value - ending a possession with a shot is far better than ending with a shot clock violation or a turnover. Johnson looked for his shots early in the clock, and in the middle of the clock, aggressively going after opportunities when there was a crack of light.

We're not talking all about GOOD looks, obviously - there were long two-pointers and early transition shots that could be avoided on another team. But on this squad? It's a little hard to fault Johnson for not trusting the others in the offense to get a good look, as Mussini struggled, Ellison missed open looks at the rim, and Johnes, Balamou, and Mvouika couldn’t get free for shots.

Johnson had an all-around game. The scoring was the draw, but the rest of Johnson's game a little more involved than one would expect from what looked like a shot-chucker. Johnson assisted on 15% of the team's shots in conference play, rebounded 12% of opponents' missed shots, blocked a few shots, generated some steals (nearly two per game). At times, his defense could be harassing.

Like the rest of the squad, he had some ignominious moments - not getting back on defense, petulant complaints to the referees - but generally, Johnson was a model of effort that the team badly needed as the losing streak ballooned to historic proportions.

Efficiency was not a forte. Johnson, however, did not get to the free throw line often - a function of taking jump shots - and the shooting percentages of 40% inside the arc and 33% in conference (42% from inside and 33% outside in all games) was the essence of a guard who isn't badly hurting a team but also isn't propelling an offense to great heights. Here, we could discuss how shooting long and mid-range twos at a 40% clip without drawing fouls is actually an injury to an offense (.8 points per possession, where shooting threes at a 33% clip is 1 point per possession).

But again - hard to fault Johnson for being St. John's basketball's Clint Dempsey, a guy who tries [stuff].

Looking forward

Johnson has signed with agent Gilad Berkowitz as he continues his basketball career overseas. Good luck to Durand Johnson, a player who tried to put the young, inexperienced St. John's squad on his back.