Prospect of Interest: Raptors second-round pick David Johnson

Louisville guard David Johnson (13) drives under the Florida State basket in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Tallahassee, Fla., Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. (Mark Wallheiser/AP)

With the No. 47 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, the Toronto Raptors took Louisville sophomore guard David Johnson.

Johnson is a player featuring excellent size for a guard and is solid in a lot of ways, but appears to lack one discernible NBA skill that makes him stand out.

Here’s a little more on the new Raptor.

Age: 20
School: Louisville
Position: Point guard
Height: Six-foot-five | Weight: 210 lbs
2020-21 stats: PPG: 12.6 | RPG: 5.8 | APG: 3.2 | 3P%: 38.6

A big guard with enticing measurables

Johnson’s greatest asset is his size.

At six-foot-five, 210 pounds with a six-foot-10-inch wingspan, to go along with big hands and an already solidly built body, physically Johnson looks to already be prepared for the NBA.

Because he’s played basically his entire life in the backcourt, he’s managed to use his size to his advantage against smaller guards and that is something that he should be able to continue to do at the NBA level.

And strictly speaking from a Raptors perspective, the addition of Johnson will give them a new dimension in their backcourt. With players like Fred VanVleet, Malachi Flynn and, if he returns, Kyle Lowry, the Raptors have talented guards, but they’re also relatively small.

With Johnson, however, suddenly those jumbo lineups that Raptors coach Nick Nurse is fond of at times could actually feature five men who are huge with the addition of Johnson.

Doesn’t seem to have a true, projectable position

As big and tall as Johnson is, however, he unfortunately looks to be a bit of a “tweener.”

That is to say, he’s a player who looks caught in between positions.

Louisville tried to play him at point guard during his career with them, but while he could make quick reads and fire off strong passes, he was also turnover prone, especially as opposing defences would attempt to blitz him and speed him up.

Additionally, while he’s proven himself an adept spot-up and catch-and-shoot shooter from deep, he isn’t very threatening coming off the dribble, and because his handle isn’t as tight as you’d want it to be for a lead guard, he’s also struggled at times to create his own shot, despite seemingly having the size to be able to get to a spot and then shoot over a smaller defender.

Lastly, while his size is, of course, a great tool to have on defence, he lacks the lateral quicks to keep up with guards, meaning he might be limited defensively to just wing players.

For someone as big as Johnson is at the guard position, there’s always mismatches to be found, but that can also be a two-way street, especially in today’s pace-and-space NBA, meaning it might be tougher than people think to find real rotational minutes for Johnson until he, at least, improves his handle.

Solid, but unspectacular

Despite the flaws mentioned above, Johnson does still appear to be a pretty solid prospect.

He does most things that you’d want from an NBA guard well enough, but there isn’t one aspect of his game that really leaps off the page.

Of course, he is a second-round pick and guys with those kinds of ready-made NBA skills are usually lottery picks, but outside of tightening up his handle and becoming a better shot creator for himself, it’s tough to see where, exactly, Johnson might still be able to improve.

This appears to be a problem that the Raptors’ vaunted player development program will have to solve.

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