He’s taking 18 percent fewer shots at the rim, with almost all of those shots redistributed as less-efficient floaters and runners. To be fair, San Antonio’s spacing doesn’t make matters easier (30th in 3-point attempts and 16th in accuracy, insert *not great Bob!* gif), but getting to the rim and drawing fouls are vital parts of his game; this transformation is akin to training a knockout puncher to strictly box and avoid wholesale power shots. Developing counters on the way to the rim is a must for top-tier drivers; to be a top-tier driver, though, you have to get to the rim in the first place!
As such, Johnson’s utility could be maximized by using him more as a screener and roller, deploying him as a forward or big rather than a wing. Operating as a screener on dribble handoffs and short roller in pick and roll could give Johnson easier reads to make as a decision-maker while getting the most out of his rim gravity.
This isn’t an indictment of Johnson; rather, it’s the frustration of wanting more from him. He’s an incredibly talented player with a great deal of potential, yet there’s so much low-hanging fruit that would allow him to take another step simply by altering his approach. Simply changing his shot diet isn’t a panacea, yet it would create an easier basis for him to build upon his game.
Much of this Spurs season has been a process of “no yes no” in watching. Progress has been made, but it’s been halting and disjointed. Devin Vassell has been the exception.
Vassell is a burgeoning creator who succeeds through non-traditional means; he doesn’t possess the burst or handle to be a consistent downhill rim threat and only takes about one shot per game at the rim as a result. Much like I wrote about with Cole Anthony, shooting has started to warp the court in Vassell’s favor.