Steve Bulpett talked with a well established scout who had some glowing words to say about JaJuan Johnson. He even went so far as to call him a "great replacement for Kendrick Perkins."
Now of course that is a loaded statement, so let us review all of what he says before we rush to judgement.
"Don’t let the skinny (part) fool you," the scout said of Johnson. "He’s wiry and he’s tough. All they do in the Big Ten is go out every night and beat the hell out of each other, and this kid was right in the middle of it taking the hits and blocking shots. He’ll surprise you with his low-post defense."
Then Bulpett pressed the scout on the Perkins comparison, making note of the big fella's ability to defend the post.
"Yeah, Perkins can hold position under the basket, but how many really good post-up centers are there in the game anymore?" the scout replied. "I’m telling you, this kid can move a lot better, and he’s still tough. He’s going to be able to get out and guard guys, and he’s not going to back down from anyone. And he’s much better with the ball. He’s a straight-up, no-nonsense good kid.
He makes some interesting points. There aren't many good post up centers in the league and even the best defenders aren't going to do much to slow down Dwight Howard. I'm also happy to hear that his toughness is deeper than his wiry frame would suggest. Still, I don't get how he's supposed to be anything related to Perkins. He seems a lot like a Kevin Garnett understudy than anything.
The game does seem to be evolving away from the post and there are a lot more combo forwards (previously called "tweeners" in the league these days. The Karl Malones of the world have been replaced with Jeff Green, Rashard Lewis, and Andrea Bargnani. Just look at the draft to see guys like Derrick Williams and Jan Vesely drafted in the first 6 picks. The center spot used to have goliaths like Ewing, Mourning, and Olajuwan. Now, beyond Dwight there's only a handful of back-to-the-basket offensive threats. They've been replaced by guys like Tyson Chandler, Joel Anthony, and Joakim Noah.
Still, I don't think any of those guys serves as a good comparison either. Which is why I keep coming back to Kevin Garnett and perhaps Chris Bosh (hopefully without the weepy disposition). Of course he's not going to necessarily be a future Hall of Famer or even a perennial All Star. But he could do worse to model his game after those two guys and not worry about trying to become the next Shaq.
Maybe he isn't going to be able to lock down Andrew Bogut or Chris Kaman, but he'll be able to rotate and cover from the weak side to block shots like a young Jermaine O'Neal. With coaching he'll be able to blitz the pick and roll and (hopefully) get back in time to cover the checkdown assignment. On the offensive side of the ball, he's not going to be Kendrick Perkins either, ...and of course that's a good thing. He's much more likely to knock down a fadeaway jumper than he is to throw his shoulder into a defender and look for the dunk. He's also not likely going to be doing a slow gather and 3 pump fakes from the knees, so there's always that.
I think the scout was trying to pay the kid a compliment but simply used the wrong comparison. In the months and years to come, we'll see what JaJuan Johnson is all about. He doesn't need the ghosts of Celtics past to remind him what he's not.