The Perth Wildcats opted not to re-sign crowd favourite Jermaine Beal for the up coming season, and in essence replaced him with 24-year-old Jaron Johnson. The ‘Cats hierarchy are looking for more consistency from their new man than what they received from “Dolla” Beal – who’d often be brilliant one game, followed by a number of quiet outings.
Johnson spent the past two years plying his trade in the NBA’s Development League – averaging 18 points per game last season. He’s more likely to play small forward, than shooting guard, but either way, he’ll team up with Casey Prather to man the wings.
What kind of player are we getting?
By now I’m sure you’ve seen the highlights package, if not, allow me to summarise: Dunks, dunks and more dunks!
That’s wildly entertaining but it doesn’t tell us exactly what type of player he is or how he fits into the team.
Here’s what we know so far
Don’t expect Johnson to be a like for like replacement for Jermaine Beal. His offensive game is actually more reminiscent to what Casey Prather showed us last season – getting to the rim, and hitting open three’s. He probably won’t dominate too many games but he should still be effective.
At this stage of his career, this is how he scores most of his points
Cutting to the basket
Side note: Great at drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line, as is the case in this clip.
That’s NBA player, Sam Dekker, who Johnson brushes aside with ease. Players with this type of strength and athleticism tend to do very well in he NBL.
The most pleasing aspect to Johnson’s game, besides his ridiculous athleticism, is his shooting. He’s not the second coming of Steph Curry but he did average two made 3pointers per game, at a relatively efficient 36%, in his D-League career – and that’s with a longer 3point line.
He generally doesn’t hit 3pointers off the dribble, alas Kevin Lisch or Chris Goulding, but he can do this from time to time
Side note: love this sequence, shows his defensive versatility, holds his own in the post against a bigger dude, then the 3pointer at the other end
Jaron Johnson is more likely to hit 3pointers spotting up
Johnson’s biggest strength on the defensive end is his versatility. He’s best suited to defending small forwards but has the ability to guard multiple positions.
Although he lacks the quickness to be an elite on-ball wing defender, he should be able to defend most point guards in the league, while also strong enough to guard bigger guys in the paint. You wouldn’t want Johnson matched up against speedier point guards or huge centres for long stretches of the game, however, he won’t embarrass himself if he is caught in cross matches and switches.
Johnson isn’t likely to win defensively player of the year – that honour should be returning to Damian Martin but he’ll be solid and his versatility will be a huge asset to an already impressive Perth Wildcats defence.
With Matty Knight set to miss the early portion of the season, chances are, during that time, the Wildcats will be using a smallish lineup for extended periods; with Jesse Wagstaff and Lucas Walker expected to play vast amounts of time at Power forward.
Swapping a traditional big man like Matt Knight, for a smaller, more mobile, and better shooting player, creates space on offence. It should, in theory, open the floor right up for Jaron Johnson – and Casey Prather for that matter – to use their athleticism and attack the rim.
Knight will be missed, and the Wildcats are clearly better with him on the floor, but with one less big man clogging the paint, Johnson will have more room and freedom to operate. Might just work in getting him some early season confidence in a new and foreign league.
That’s what we call a blessing in disguise.
Jaron Johnson possesses all the tools needed to be successful in the NBL – he’s super athletic, can shoot and plays defence. The Wildcats will be hoping he can expand his pick n roll game and become more of a creator to take some of the burden off Damian Martin.
If he can do that, Jaron Johnson can go from being a good pickup to a great one. Either way there’ll be plenty of high-flying action this season.