Johnson in position to succeed

Published Oct. 15, 2012 1:11 p.m. ET

The Phoenix Suns are putting Wesley Johnson in a position to
For coach Alvin Gentry, the main
adjustment is mental.
“He’s a good player
... I think with him, the whole thing is about confidence,” Gentry said
of Johnson, who has made a combined 11 off 22 shots from the field and
has cumulatively scored 30 points in the Suns’ first two preseason
games. “He needed confidence, and that’s not unusual for a young player.
So, hopefully, we’re going to try to instill that in
For Johnson, selected by the
Minnesota Timberwolves with the fourth pick in the 2010 draft, another
important Suns tweak is putting him in the position of small forward. A
bouncy 6-foot-7 wing player at Syracuse, Johnson arrived in the Twin
Cities with the mandate to produce at the shooting guard
But two years that produced just
7.7 points per game -- on chilly marksmanship (a tick under 40 percent)
from the field -- convinced the T-wolves to go in another
Shortly after the Suns acquired
Johnson, general manager Lance Blanks suggested that the two-year
struggle may have had something to do with working out of
Although the Suns are installing
some offensive concepts employed by coach Rick Adelman in Minnesota –
with shooting guards and small forwards typically occupying 
similar spots on the floor -- Johnson should be more comfortable playing
against players his own size. Unable to do much damage posting shorter
shooting guards and obliged to chase them around screens on defense,
Johnson has a better chance of succeeding at small
“His overall game is better than
we anticipated,” Gentry said of Johnson. “He puts the ball down, he’s a
long guy, he’s a good defender and he gets out and
While the sample size thus far has
been small, Johnson – teaming with Markieff Morris, Shannon Brown and
Jermaine O’Neal – could be a key component of a potentially solid Suns
Or, depending on the development of
T-wolves castaway Michael Beasley, he could move into an even bigger

A good portion of
Beasley’s allure as a small forward is his seeming ability to punish
smaller defenders on the low block. But through two dress rehearsals,
Beasley’s 17 field-goal attempts have included six 3-pointers (he’s
bagged four), with limited evidence of doing business
The corner offense currently being
tucked into the Suns’ repertoire does provide excellent opportunities to
take advantage of size mismatches -- after a ball reversal to the weak
side -- while limiting defensive help.
one such occasion during Friday’s preseason game against the Portland
Trail Blazers, Beasley chose a fadeaway jumper instead of going strong
against 6-7, 200-pound Nic Batum. Although skilled players such as
Beasley certainly have the chops to make these shots, this one
Beasley, listed at 6-10 and 235
but measured a shade over 6-8 (in sneakers) at the pre-draft camp, is
well aware of his need for additional low-post
“I do like working on my low-post
game,” Beasley said. “Right now, I’m just happy to learn every day from
two or three different positions. But that’s something I want to
improve on this year.”
Beasley, who has
spent a little time at the four spot, as well, has the inside-outside
versatility to become a major

In each of the Suns’ first
two preseason games, the starters have squeezed off 38 shots ... and
made an impressive 20.
For Suns fans,
that’s pretty comforting.
But if they knock
in 20 of 38 on Wednesday against the Mavericks, that’ll be nothing but