PHOENIX — It was abundantly clear Tuesday as the Phoenix Suns introduced new wingman Wesley Johnson the team’s front office had done its homework.
Suns general manager Lance Blanks went as far back as Johnson’s high school days as a big man in detailing why the team believes the best is yet to come for the 25-year-old acquired last week from the Minnesota Timberwolves. That feeling is mutual.
“There will be more opportunity for me here,” Johnson said. “It’s like a rebirth, a new beginning for me.”
In joining the overhauled Suns, Johnson escapes the pressure he faced in Minnesota after being drafted fourth overall in 2010.
Over two seasons, Johnson averaged 7.7 points and less than 25 minutes per game, never living up to the expectations that followed him out of Syracuse.
Johnson admitted Wednesday those expectations did affect him in Minnesota, but he’s happy to put that behind him and take on a new opportunity.
“I think with a blank slate and everything it’s neat,” Johnson said. “It’s coming fresh. It’s just (history) repeating itself.”
The “history” Johnson referred to is his college career. He played his freshman and sophomore seasons at Iowa State before deciding a change of scenery was in order.
So it was off to Syracuse, where Johnson earned All-America recognition in 2010. Johnson hopes Phoenix is the new Syracuse.
The Suns believe the change of scenery will allow Johnson an opportunity to emerge as a key piece to a remodeled team. They believe he’s still developing as a perimeter player after spending his high school career in the post.
“Wes is a young man who is emerging as we see it,” Blanks said. “He’s a young perimeter player, and in our analysis you have to factor that in. He’s still learning a position on the perimeter.”
All parties agree that playing in the Suns’ fast-paced transition offense will suit Johnson, who may have been a bit restricted by Minnesota’s system.
Beyond Johnson’s potential, though, the Suns like how his character fits their organization.
“At the young age of 25, Wesley fits right dead center in the type of players that we want to have here, the type of players we want to continue to grow,” Blanks said.
Johnson joins former teammate Michael Beasley in Phoenix. Beasley signed recently as a free agent and is characterized similarly to Johnson — a player who still hasn’t realized his full potential. Johnson said he joked with Beasley that the two “can’t get rid of each other” and called Beasley’s potential “endless.”
Johnson joins Shannon Brown and Jared Dudley in the wing rotation for the Suns.
“He’s still growing, which is something we’re excited about,” Blanks said. “We’ll provide an environment where he can continue to grow.”