Wolves look-ahead profile: James Johnson
With the announcement of the NBA’s 22-team plan to close out the rest of the season, the Minnesota Timberwolves are now in offseason mode. The franchise will have to make plenty of tough decisions in the coming months, including an array of personnel moves.
As Gersson Rosas and Ryan Saunders navigate the NBA offseason, FOX Sports North will analyze each player on the Timberwolves and how they might fit in with the team in the future.
This edition: James Johnson
A first-round pick (16th overall) by Chicago in 2009, Johnson has bounced around with six teams during his 10-year career. The best stretch of Johnson’s career was with Miami from 2016-20, where he played 222 games (79 starts) and averaged 10.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists per contest. Johnson was shipped to the Timberwolves as part of the three-team trade at the 2019-20 deadline that sent Gorgui Dieng to Memphis.
The 2019-20 campaign got off to a strange start for Johnson. He was sent home from Heat training camp for being out of shape. When the team welcomed him back, Johnson spent most of the season on the bench and didn’t find his way into the rotation until January. Traded to the Wolves on Feb. 6, he found a new home with Minnesota. Over 14 games, Johnson averaged 12.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists while playing center, power forward and even point forward for the Timberwolves. He scored in double figures in eight of 14 contests.
STATS (with Wolves only)
GAME TO REMEMBER
During Minnesota’s final win of the 2019-20 campaign — a 115-108 victory over Chicago on March 4 — Johnson tallied eight points, five assists, four rebounds, two steals and two blocks. It wasn’t his most statistically impressive game of his short tenure in Minnesota, but it was the game he looked most like a leader, rebounding and setting up teammates in the second unit. “We know this is a rebuilding season for us. We’re not just building to build,” he told Marney Gellner after the win. “We’re building habits here.”
WHAT TO EXPECT NEXT SEASON
The Timberwolves are a young team. A very young team. Johnson and Jake Layman are the only two players under contract for 2020-21 over the age of 24 (note: provided Johnson, as expected, exercises his player option for next season). With his ability to play three positions and guard all five, Johnson should thrive as a veteran leader in Minnesota. He should prove to be a consistent presence for the Timberwolves’ second unit, just like he was in Miami.