Just let me apologize ahead of time: Sorry, I'm not convinced that Chris Johnson will be on the Boston Celtics' roster next season. I mean, I enjoy feel good stories, I like pictures of cute baby animals, and I certainly begin and end each day with a smile, but at heart, I will always be a realist.
Sometimes being a realist means that I'll be the only person in the room that thinks something differently than everyone else; that might be the case here. I'm used to it, which is why I'm writing about it.
When I watch and play basketball, I appreciate nothing more than someone who goes out and hustles, and plays every game like it's their last. Chris Johnson is that player, which is why it's especially hard for me to believe the things that I do about him.
Johnson's a solid player but I'm not convinced that he'll ever be anything more than just that: "solid." He hustles as hard as anyone else in the NBA; in fact, he tied for fourth in the league with an average speed of 4.6 miles per hour, according to SportVU. But let's be honest: what else does he consistently bring besides hustle?
"Well, Chris Johnson lit it up from three-point range." At least, that's the way most people remember it, but he only caught fire for spurts. Consistency has been a problem for Johnson going back to his college years at Dayton, where he'd go for long droughts with his shot.
That was exactly this case this season with Boston. Johnson shot 45.9 percent in his first ten games with the Celtics and won over the hearts of fans, and that love remained unconditional considering the hustle never stopped -- but the scoring did.
Johnson then shot 29.6 percent from three over his next ten games, before getting hot again and shooting 37 percent over games 31 through 40. Of course, he continued the trend and capped off his season shooting 22.2 percent in his final ten games.
There are plenty of streaky shooters in the NBA, but my concern is in the fact that I don't think that he brings enough to other aspects of the game if he's not scoring the ball. Johnson does play hard, but he's a below average defender. Often times he'd get beat, especially when put into the pick-and-roll or run through screens -- his lean frame is simply too lanky to handle the abuse of NBA bigs.
If Johnson wants to stick in the pros, he'll have to increase his overall production as a three-point shooter. Some of the league's great "3-and-D" players like Wesley Matthews and Danny Green are both consistent, and even if they aren't hitting shots, they make an impact on the defensive end of the floor.
At this point, Johnson doesn't do that. Maybe he'll come back next season as stronger player, but we can only go off from what we saw this past season. And at this point in the 24-year-old's life, I look at his body and don't see that much room for additional muscle.
And it's funny, because Jeff Green gets ragged on all the time for being inconsistent, yet Chris Johnson is glorified and some even think he could start someday. Perhaps, it's because he has a smaller role than Green, but calling him a "potential starter" is quite simply unfair to him. Those expectations are far too high for a player that will likely never even reach "3-and-D" status.
Chris Johnson is a role player, and a solid one at that, but if the Boston Celtics are competing for a championship, it's difficult to see him as anything more than the 10th or 11th man off the bench. He could come to training camp better than ever next season, but even he doesn't, at least he'll be remembered for providing fans with smiles during a bleak 2013 season.